Are you a cop?
Forget (for the moment) federal government spying on your emails, text messages, phone calls, internet">Internet searches, postal mail, banking activity, driving habits and more. One of the biggest growth areas for the surveillance state is in old-fashioned undercover work:
Undercover work, inherently invasive and sometimes dangerous, was once largely the domain of the F.B.I. and a few other law enforcement agencies at the federal level. But outside public view, changes in policies and tactics over the last decade have resulted in undercover teams run by agencies in virtually every corner of the federal government, according to officials, former agents and documents.
Which agencies are going undercover these days? The IRS, of course -- and with very little oversight. The FBI. The Department of education">Education. The Supreme Court. NASA. It seems just about every federal agency and Department that has a police force of some sort is doing undercover work. Some of it is legitimate -- they are looking for welfare cheats and chislers, or bad guys who sell technology and secrets to our enemies. We expect this sort of thing...from the FBI. But with so many government undercover agents out there, problems are bound to arise:
Across the federal government, undercover work has become common enough that undercover agents sometimes find themselves investigating a supposed criminal who turns out to be someone from a different agency, law enforcement officials said. In a few situations, agents have even drawn their weapons on each other before realizing that both worked for the federal government.
So it's not only wasteful behavior, it's dangerous, too. Good grief.
As government undercover works expands, eventually, the first question people will ask when meeting someone for the first time will be: "Are you a cop?"