Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Analysis: New FBI investigative guidelines

The new rules are consolidated guidelines from the attorney general on the bureau's domestic operations, merging three previous sets of guidance and providing for the first time a single set of rules governing the full gamut of FBI activities, from criminal investigations to counterintelligence operations and intelligence gathering about and assessment of national security threats.
by Shaun Waterman
Washington (UPI) Oct 6, 2008
Congressional Democrats are calling on the Bush administration to hold off implementing new rules that broaden the FBI's investigative authorities until a new administration can approve them next year.

"It is not appropriate for the current administration to make such sweeping changes to FBI procedures at this late date, only a month before the election," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a statement. He said they should be provided "as suggestions (for) the new administration to consider early next year."

The new rules, currently scheduled to come into force on Dec. 1, were published Friday after a contentious process during which the Justice Department engaged in what officials say was an unprecedented consultation effort to hear concerns from lawmakers as well as advocates for privacy and civil liberties.

Officials said Monday the consultation had pushed back the schedule for implementation two months already and that since the rewrite had been initiated at the request of career FBI officials and not political appointees, no further delay would be appropriate.

"The implementation date has been set," department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told UPI. "It's Dec. 1."

The new rules are consolidated guidelines from the attorney general on the bureau's domestic operations, merging three previous sets of guidance and providing for the first time a single set of rules governing the full gamut of FBI activities, from criminal investigations to counterintelligence operations and intelligence gathering about and assessment of national security threats.

Bureau Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Michael Mukasey said in a joint statement that the new guidelines "provide more uniform, clearer and simpler rules" designed to help "the FBI to become, among other things, a more flexible and adept collector of intelligence," as recommended by the Sept. 11 Commission and the president's Weapons of Mass Destruction Intelligence Commission.

The guidelines govern the circumstances under which FBI agents are allowed to initiative certain activities -- surveillance, for example, or public records searches -- potentially bringing the bureau's extensive panoply of information-gathering capabilities to bear on an individual or group.

The guidelines redefine a category of FBI activity called "assessment" -- introduced in 2003 as a proactive effort by agents to identify potential terrorist threats or other dangers to national security.

The new guidelines say assessments designed to lead to a criminal investigation can be undertaken without a factual predicate -- evidence that a crime has been committed or is being planned -- or approval from FBI supervisors, except under certain conditions that the FBI will spell out.

According to the guidelines, "The methods authorized in assessments are generally those of relatively low intrusiveness, such as obtaining publicly available information, checking government records, and requesting information from members of the public."

The guidelines give as an example of assessment activities "proactively surfing the Internet to find publicly accessible Web sites and services through which recruitment by terrorist organizations and promotion of terrorist crimes is openly taking place."

But the list of "authorized methods" that can be used by agents conducting assessments includes "observation or surveillance not requiring a court order," the "use and recruit(ment of) human sources" or informants, and "grand jury subpoenas for telephone or electronic mail subscriber information."

Critics said the new rules lowered the bar for agents to target Americans too far. The chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said they gave the bureau "broad new powers to conduct surveillance and use other intrusive investigative techniques on Americans without requiring any indication of wrongdoing or any approval even from FBI supervisors."

Leahy said the rules "continue the pattern of this administration of expanding authority to gather and use Americans' private information without protections for privacy or checks to prevent abuse and misuse."

ACLU Legislative Counsel Michael German, himself a former FBI agent, added, "Not since J. Edgar Hoover ran the place has the FBI claimed the right to investigate American citizens without a factual predicate," calling it "extraordinarily dangerous."

"Any FBI agent can launch one of these assessments against anyone, so long as it is for (what the guidelines call) an 'authorized purpose.' There is no requirement for any factual connection between the target and that purpose."

He said the absence of a requirement for approval from FBI supervisors was "stunning żż even from a management point of view," given the bureau's record of mismanaging other authorities it had been granted, such as National Security Letters.

He warned that the new rules could give rise to a series of open-ended investigations based on hunches or grudges that would be "a tremendous waste of resources, aside for the potential for abuse" of civil liberties and constitutional rights.

At a briefing about an earlier draft of the guidelines last month, a senior FBI official described the way that the proactive assessment process would work, citing the hypothetical example of a university that had defense research contracts in an area that was known was the target of foreign efforts at intelligence collection and technology theft.

With the cooperation of the university authorities and the State Department, the local FBI chief finds that there are a large number of students from a country that "has a history of stealing technology from the United States."

Under existing guidelines, the official said, agents would be limited to operating overtly and tapping current informants about what they already know. "You can't recruit a new source or task him, or task any of your existing sources against any of these students, because recruiting and tasking sources under the (old) guidelines is prohibited unless you've got a preliminary investigation open," and "to open an investigation, you have to have information or an allegation that the person is or may be a terrorist or a spy or a criminal. We don't have that. All we know is they're from a foreign country."

German said the way the guidelines were written continued to raise concerns about the potential for race and religion to be used as factors in deciding whom to investigate.

"It would have been very simple to include żż a clear ban" on the use of race or religion, he said, noting instead that the guidelines refer to earlier rules on racial profiling, which themselves have exclusions for national security investigations. "This convoluted language żż leaves the impression that (the rules) are designed to create a loophole."

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
The Long War - Doctrine and Application

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Compound May Aid Detection Of Chemical And Biological Weapons
Argonne IL (SPX) Oct 01, 2008
A light-transmitting compound that could one day be used in high-efficiency fiber optics and in sensors to detect biological and chemical weapons at long distance almost went undiscovered by scientists because its structure was too difficult to examine.

  • Outside View: Seoul's Russian partnership
  • Commentary: U.S. leadership challenged
  • Analysis: NATO's troubled renaissance
  • Military Matters: One war, two fronts

  • Analysis: New nuclear research is the bomb
  • Iran could spark Mideast nuclear arms race: British FM
  • 'Displeased' China still engaged in Iran, NKorea nuclear talks: US
  • Iran sends nuclear protest to EU foreign policy chief

  • NKorea fires short-range missiles: Yonhap
  • Boeing Receives Contract For Third Mach 6 Hypersonic Missile Test
  • Russia, India To Develop New BrahMos Cruise Missile
  • Raytheon AIM-9X Block II Missile Completes First Captive Carry Flight

  • BMD Watch: BrahMos ALCM planned
  • Russia Eyes New Customers For Iskander E Missile
  • Swords and Shields: Iran's missile allies
  • US missile defenses in Europe in US interest: Obama advisor

  • Researchers Scientists Perform High Altitude Experiments
  • Airbus expecting 'large' China order by early 2009: CEO
  • Airbus globalises production with China plant
  • Safer Skies For The Flying Public

  • Pterodactyl-Inspired Robot To Master Air, Ground, And Sea
  • Raytheon KillerBee Demonstrates Capabilities In Simulated Combat Environment
  • AAI And Aeronautics Defense Systems Team To Provide Orbiter UAV
  • Joint Unmanned Aircraft System Mission Crosses Atlantic

  • US Army releases manual on 'stability operations'
  • Dogs of War: The last contractor
  • US close to security deal with Iraq: Negroponte
  • Pentagon announces troop rotations to reduce Iraq forces

  • Army Orders EQ-36 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radars
  • US Army Facing Cost Crunch Part Three
  • Israel army buys self-destruct cluster bombs: radio
  • India, Russia To Develop Two Versions Of 5th-Generation Fighter

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement