The expansion of the federal government into a surveillance state involves more than technology. It requires vast teams of agents pretending to be ordinary citizens and infiltrating private organizations to spy on American citizens:
WASHINGTON — The federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing, records and interviews show….
Within the Treasury Department, undercover agents at the I.R.S., for example, appear to have far more latitude than do those at many other agencies. I.R.S. rules say that, with prior approval, “an undercover employee or cooperating private individual may pose as an attorney, physician, clergyman or member of the news media.”
An I.R.S. spokesman acknowledged that undercover investigators are allowed to pose in such roles with approval from senior officials. But the agency said in a statement that senior officials “are not aware of any investigations where special agents have ever posed as attorneys, physicians, members of the clergy or members of the press specifically to gain information from a privileged relationship.”
The agency declined to say whether I.R.S. undercover agents have posed in these roles in an effort to get information that was not considered “privileged,” meaning the type of confidential information someone shares with a lawyer or doctor.
José Marrero, a former I.R.S. supervisor in Miami, said he knew of situations in which tax investigators needed to assume the identity of doctors to gain the trust of a medical professional and develop evidence that is tightly held.
“It’s very rare that you do that, but it does happen,” Mr. Marrero, who has a consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and continues to work with federal agents on undercover investigations, said in an interview.