The Bush administration wants Congress to give the CIA and the Defense Department the authority to obtain Americans' personal records without court approval. The FBI already can use "administrative subpoenas" to force libraries, credit card companies, Internet service providers, and other organizations to open their files. It just has to assert that the information is needed as part of a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation. Organizations that receive the subpoenas have to keep them secret. The White House thinks the CIA and the Pentagon should have the same power, because going through the FBI is a nuisance. The New York Times reports that critics
were alarmed by the idea that the C.I.A. and the military could begin prying into Americans' personal and financial records.
They said that while the F.B.I. was subject to guidelines controlling what agents are allowed to do in the course of an investigation, the C.I.A. and the military appeared to have much freer reign. The F.B.I. also faces additional scrutiny if it tries to use such records in court, but officials said the proposal could give the C.I.A. and the military the power to gather such material without ever being subject to judicial oversight.
Timothy Edgar, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the proposal "dangerous and un-American."
Mr. Edgar said that "even in the most frigid periods of the Cold War, we never gave the C.I.A. such sweeping and secret policing powers over American citizens."