Via The Light of Reason and Newsweek: On June 16, Porter Goss introduced a bill that gives the Director of Central Intelligence a variety of new powers to coordinate intelligence activities. It also contains one truly scary provision, which Newsweek describes as follows:
"The Goss bill tracks current law by stating that the DCI shall “collect, coordinate and direct” the collection of intelligence by the U.S. government—except that the CIA “may not exercise police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers within the United States.”
The bill then adds new language after that clause, however, saying that the ban on domestic law-enforcement operations applies “except as otherwise permitted by law or as directed by the president.”
In effect, one former top U.S. intelligence community official told NEWSWEEK, the language in the Goss bill would enable the president to issue secret findings allowing the CIA to conduct covert operations inside the United States—without even any notification to Congress."
(snip) (order of passages reversed, so that a description of the actual change comes first; comments on it second)
"The language contained in the Goss bill has alarmed civil-liberties advocates. It also today prompted one former top CIA official to describe it as a potentially “dramatic” change in the guidelines that have governed U.S. intelligence operations for more than a half century.
“This language on its face would have allowed President Nixon to authorize the CIA to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters,” Jeffrey H. Smith, who served as general counsel of the CIA between 1995 and 1996, told NEWSWEEK. “I can’t imagine what Porter had in mind.”
So let me see if I have this straight: if Goss's bill passes, the CIA will be able to operate within the United States, and in particular to exercise police and subpoena powers, when "otherwise permitted by law". This overturns a ban that has been in place for decades, and that was put in place precisely because the CIA is not bound by the same legal rules as domestic law enforcement agencies, rules that were put in place to protect our civil liberties, and that are generally thought to be required by the Constitution. Moreover, even when operations within the US are not "otherwise permitted by law", they can be carried out "at the direction of the President". The relevant section of the bill (Sec. 102.c.1) does not go on to say anything about the grounds on which the President can give such a direction, procedural checks, or notification of relevant Congressional Committees; in fact, having created this new Presidential power, it does not go on to qualify it in any way at all, nor can I find any limits on it elsewhere in the bill. (If I've missed something, please tell me: I'm not a lawyer.) So as far as I can tell, this law would allow the President to direct the CIA to exercise police powers, including arrests, wiretaps, searches, and so forth; it would allow the President to issue these directives even when they are not "otherwise permitted by law", and it neither places any limits on its exercise nor requires any sort of oversight. There is a name for systems of government in which the executive has this sort of unchecked power, and it is 'tyranny'.