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Broad New Domestic Spying Measures Are Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

In a series of quiet but sweeping measures, the Bush Administration is codifying the government's capacity to spy on its citizens.
 
 
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Arriving at a bar in Manhattan on Friday night, I presented my passport to the man at the door. (I lost my driver's license some time ago, so this has become my ID until I can get myself to the DMV.) The bouncer -- a large, humorless man in all black -- examined it, and then, on a piece of lined paper, slowly started writing down my name, date of birth, and nationality.

"Excuse me," I asked. "Is there a reason you are taking down my information?"

"NYPD," he answered, without looking up.

"Can I refuse to have this information recorded?" I asked, not really asking a question.

"Yes," he said, still not looking up. "But I can refuse to let you in."

I squabbled a bit with the bouncer as a line formed behind me. He told me that the bar had had some trouble with underage drinking. "So this isn't some sort of homeland security thing," I asked, feeling more than a little paranoid. He said it was, actually (though I got the sense he didn't know exactly what I was talking about), but assured me that the list of names would not be shared with the authorities. Then he added, "this is to keep you safe."

***

On Saturday morning, I had an article from my boss in my inbox. From the Washington Post :

U.S. May Ease Police Spy Rules
More Federal Intelligence Changes Planned

The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.

Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet's Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.