The FBI sought Monday to downplay its expanded surveillance powers for agents as civil liberty groups sounded an alarm that the new rules not only make it easier for agents to investigate suspects but give them startling leeway to spy on ordinary Americans.
The changes are expected to be outlined in a new edition of the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, a lengthy 2008 document detailing how far agents can go in tracking suspects. They will expand the use of techniques ranging from dispatching surveillance teams to digging through trash cans.
Civil liberties groups were briefed on the policy changes in May, and came out of the meeting worried the changes would allow agents to investigate innocent people, with less oversight than before.
"It's the government saying we can know all about your private life, but you can't know what the government is doing," Michael German, a former FBI agent now working with the American Civil Liberties Union, told FoxNews.com.
For instance, the new rules would allow agents to look up people on various databases without opening up a low-level inquiry known as an "assessment." Currently, agents have to take that formal step before looking into someone's background and provide some semblance of justification.
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