By Matthew Rothschild on August 04, 2008

With these Bush guys, you’ve got to read the fine print.

On July 31, they published in the Federal Register a proposed change to Title 28, Section 23, of the Code of Federal Regulations.

This is the section that governs domestic spying.

The existing language said that information gathered in an intelligence case could be disseminated only “where there is a need to know and a right to know the information in the performance of a law enforcement activity.”

This limitation was designed to protect “the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals,” the statute behind this section states.

Well, that limitation would be null and void.

The new regulations would allow dissemination “when the information falls within the law enforcement, counterterrorism, or national security responsibility of the receiving agency or may assist in preventing crime or the use of violence or any conduct dangerous to human life or property.”

Boy, you can’t get much broader than that.

Wait, you can.

Because the existing language said you could share this intelligence info with “a government official or any other individual, when necessary to avoid imminent danger to life or liberty.”

Now, the Bushies have deleted the word “imminent.”

In these subtle ways, the Bush Administration keeps chiseling away at our freedoms.

This isn’t just an idle exercise.

The ACLU cited Title 28, Section 23, when it raised hell about the Maryland State Troopers who were spying on peace activists.

The troopers were sharing information about nonviolent protesters with at least seven federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the National Security Agency.

Under the old regulations, this appears to have been blatantly illegal.

Under the new ones, it would be fine and dandy.

The Maryland snooping was part of a fusion center effort, and the ACLU has been drawing attention to the problems of these fusion centers.

But the changes in these regulations are explicitly aimed at facilitating fusion center snooping.

“The intent of the propose revisions to part 23 is to . . . not create unreasonable impediments to information sharing,” the notice says, citing the work of fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

The ACLU condemns the proposed revisions.

They represent “another incremental shift away from law enforcement acting within the law,” says Mike German, the ACLU’s policy counsel for national security. Since local law enforcement would now be obliged to share information all the way up the NSA and CIA, German says they would be “acting as intelligence agents instead of law enforcement agents.”

This concerns him, as does the way this radical change is coming about.

“If we want them to be spies,” he says, “we should have that debate in public rather than make the change in incremental adjustments to the law.”

The public can send written comments about these proposed revisions to the Office of Justice Programs until September 2.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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