John Ashcroft is seeking to lift the restrictions that prevent the FBI from spying on political and religious organizations without probable cause. The restrictions were imposed in the 1970s on the heels of the FBI’s Cointelpro debacle. I think that the rules are now outmoded. All of the anti-abortion terrorists are religiously motivated, and it’s no surprise that Islamist groups recruit, meet, and raise funds at mosques. In fact, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the organizer of the group that bombed the WTC in 1993 preached at a mosque in New Jersey. Attempting to prevent misconduct by barring the FBI from spying on certain types of organizations seems foolish to me. The FBI needs to be monitored for compliance with the law regardless of the sort of group that they’re spying on, and they should be free to spy on any sort of group regardless of its purpose, if such spying is deemed necessary. (To put it another way, if it’s permissable for the FBI to spy on a Linux user’s group, it ought to be permissible for them to spy on the World Church of the Creator.)
Of course, a reasonable person might ask why the FBI is spying on anyone if they don’t have probable cause to do so.