The FBI Loosens Up
Some years ago, I was photographing a constitutional law professor for a magazine article on his book, and while I composed my shots I employed the usual half-minded topical banter to keep things on course. The professor was pretty progressive and knew I was a veteran antiwar activist. I was muttering something about constitutional rights.
In the lens, I noticed him chuckling at something, so I pulled my eye away from the camera and looked at him. He was grinning now.
“John, you know they abrogated the Constitution long ago,” he said, his tone a bit patronizing but also mixed with camaraderie and humor.
“Oh, yeh!” I said. “I forgot about that.” We both laughed, and I went on with the shoot.
I couldn’t help thinking about that conversation as I read the story in The New York Times about the new powers being given to individual FBI agents to snoop on citizens they subjectively deem dangerous.
As a veteran anti-war activist and blogster critical of my government, I took this news somewhat personally, since, according to the Times report, without getting permission or making a report, FBI agents could sneak around the back of my house at night and fish through my garbage cans. They could do this if they thought there might be information in those cans useful to intimidate me to snitch on someone. (For the record, I’m not uncomfortable with an FBI agent going through the rancid chicken parts and feces from our cat’s litter box. I have nothing to hide.)
Apparently, individual FBI agents are also now empowered to meddle with me and other writers on this blog in ways I can only imagine — if they deem that necessary. It has to do with the blogosphere and the First Amendment. According to the Times, the new rules clarify for agents just who is a “legitimate member of the news media” on the internet and who is not. The Times reports that “prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs.” I presume “count” means that a blog is deemed to have First Amendment rights.
While we writers here at This Can't Be Happening are quite serious and ambitious, we are not (yet) The Huffington Post. So I imagine the average FBI agent would relegate us to the realm of “low-profile blog” and, thus, to the list of fair game blogs for whatever harassment or intimidation said agent might deem necessary.