It's even worse than it appears, according to email correspondent Stephen Dulaney (quoted with permission):

Its actually much worse than you think. The FBI just now has permission to surf the web from work. My source is John Ashcroft on FOX TV interview. It was easy to miss because we all assume that the FBI would be able to browse at work. Apparently not, and I don't know the history of this restriction. Ashcroft also clearly stated that the rule change would allow the agents for the first time to surf the web at work as part of their research, then he continued to say "I'm talking about our agents now being allowed to go to the same web sites any other person currently goes to as if it was a public place like a shopping mall is a public place."

I never thought I would say this but...oy. Stephen also provides a link to an article in Reason that says in part:

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) analyzed the new guidelines and government claims about them. CDT noted that the FBI already can and does make abundant use of private information sources, the Internet, and keyword searches (such as "anthrax," the example CDT gave). The change is that it will no longer only do so after it has a "reasonable indication" that a crime has or may be committed, a standard that, by its own claims, is much lower than "probable cause." It’ll be able to use searches and data mining to generate the "reasonable indication." [ Reason ]

I hope the blog borg-mind can triangulate on this. I find it hard to believe that an FBI agent would have refrained from Googling for vitally needed information, no matter what the rules, but I'd sure like to know more about this. If that were once true, are they fully up to speed now?

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2002/06/13.html#a299