Frank Askin, who is a professor of law and director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers Law School-Newark, writes:
Twenty-five years ago, Congress passed and President Gerald Ford signed the Federal Privacy Act. In an effort to end the abuses committed by the FBI against anti-war and civil rights activists that director J. Edgar Hoover disliked, Section (e)(7) of that Act prohibited any agency of the federal government from “maintaining records describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment . . . unless pursuant to and within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity.”
The FBI and the federal courts have spent the last 25 years honoring that statute in the breach; and Congress seems perfectly satisfied to let them do so. And as reported in the New York Times on June 13, the FBI is again about to amend its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide to further thumb its nose at the privacy act.
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