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'Frankly Terrifying': Alarm Sounded as ICE Pushes for Increased Spy Powers

"Civil liberties advocates warned during the FISA debate three weeks ago that ICE could potentially use NSA data to go after immigrants. Sadly they were ignored by the majority of Congress, including many Democrats."

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers, in search of 32-year-old Hugo Medina, question his mother Magdalena Medina, 69, about his whereabout in a morning raid on his residence in Riverside. (Photo: Irfan Khan/LA Times via Getty Images)

As Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to enjoy free reign in the Trump era to collect license plate information and rip families apart, a new report indicates that the agency is looking to expand its capacities by joining the intelligence community—a prospect civil libertarians called "frankly terrifying."

"This article is really fucking nuts because ICE often deports people without a hearing in front of a judge, meaning they could regularly use classified spy agency material to deport people."
—Zack Kopplin, Government Accountability Project

"If ICE joins the intelligence community, then its officials will have increased access to raw intelligence, unfiltered by analysts," notes the Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff, who first reported on the agency's efforts on Wednesday.

"This could prove useful to both of the agency's components: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which investigates transnational crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering, cybercrimes, and arms trafficking; and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), which arrests and detains undocumented immigrants," Woodruff adds.

While the agency's push to join the intelligence community is not new—Woodruff notes that it "has been underway since the Obama administration"—it is likely to gain more currency under President Donald Trump, who has loosened restrictions on the agency and effusively praised ICE officials as "great, great people."

Civil liberties groups expressed alarm at ICE's revitalized effort to become even more powerful than it already is.

"The idea that ICE could potentially get access to warrantless surveillance is frankly terrifying," Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said in an interview with the Daily Beast.


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Laperruque's concerns were echoed by other civil liberties groups and commentators on social media, who noted that Congress's recent decision to expand NSA spying powers—backed by both Republicans and Democrats—could provide ICE with a larger pool of data if it does ultimately succeed in joining the intelligence community.

"The prospect of ICE joining the intelligence community, if true, should sound alarm bells," Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, told the Daily Beast. "Such a move threatens to give an agency responsible for domestic immigration enforcement access to a vast pool of sensitive information collected by our spy agencies for foreign intelligence purposes. Those spying tools do not belong in the hands of ICE agents."

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