ACLU Voices Concerns About New New FBI Guidelines To Prevent Terror

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on September 13, 2008

  • New York Times: “The Justice Department made public on Friday a plan to expand the tools the Federal Bureau of Investigation can use to investigate suspicions of terrorism inside the United States, even without any direct evidence of wrongdoing. Justice Department officials said the plan, which is likely to be completed by the end of the month despite criticism from civil rights advocates, is intended to allow F.B.I. agents to be more aggressive and pre-emptive in assessing possible threats to national security.”

  • Transcript of Background Briefing with Department of Justice Officials on Consolidated Attorney General Guidelines
  • ACLU: “Following a briefing today at the Department of Justice (DOJ), the American Civil Liberties Union reiterated its deep concern over new guidelines that would govern FBI investigations. The new guidelines would lower standards for beginning “assessments” (precursors to investigations), conducting surveillance and gathering evidence, and would replace existing guidelines for five types of existing guidelines: general criminal, national security, foreign intelligence, civil disorders and demonstrations.

    The rewritten guidelines have been drafted in a way to give the FBI the ability to begin surveillance without factual evidence, stating that a generalized “threat” is enough to use certain techniques. Also under the new guidelines, a person’s race or ethnic background could be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes will institute racial profiling as a matter of policy. The guidelines would also give the FBI the ability to use intrusive investigative techniques in advance of public demonstrations. These techniques would allow agents to conduct pre-textual (undercover) interviews, use informants and conduct physical surveillance in connection with First Amendment protected activities.

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