ACLU Asks Inspector General to Investigate Abuses of FBI Guidelines

For Immediate Release

ACLU
Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org

ACLU Asks Inspector General to Investigate Abuses of FBI Guidelines

Concerned the FBI is already following proposed guidelines

WASHINGTON - The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hear testimony today on proposed changes to the attorney general guidelines.  The
guidelines govern FBI investigations and were adopted in the mid-1970's
after it was discovered that the agency was engaged in widespread
abuses and violations of constitutional rights - including
politically-motivated spying on figures like Martin Luther King, Jr.  FBI
Director Robert Mueller also answered questions about the guidelines
last week during hearings before both the House and Senate Judiciary
Committees.  The American Civil Liberties Union is asking
the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to
investigate whether the FBI violated previous guidelines before the new
guidelines are put into place. 

"These
guidelines were originally implemented because the FBI abused its
investigative authorities and, frankly, it's audacious that the bureau
would demand more power after so recently being caught abusing its
Patriot Act authorities," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the
ACLU Washington Legislative Office.  "The internal oversight at the bureau is notoriously poor.  Though
the FBI continues its PR campaign to build public trust, given its
history of malfeasance and abuse, it cannot possibly believe that the
Congress will take the agency at its word."

Under
the revised guidelines, FBI agents no longer need "factual predication"
to use paid informers, spy on a person's activities or engage in other
types of intrusive surveillance; all that will be necessary is a
hypothetical "threat" that does not need to be connected by any facts
to the people or organization under surveillance.  The
ACLU remains gravely concerned that this controversial change opens the
door to racial profiling as someone's race, religion or ethnic
background could be used as a factor in opening an investigation. 

The ACLU is formally requesting the OIG investigate current abuses of the attorney general guidelines.  During
testimony last week, Director Mueller insinuated that
the FBI interpreted its authorities under the current guidelines to
allow the use of intrusive investigative techniques even without any
factual "predication."  A plain reading of the guidelines would not support this interpretation.  The
OIG investigation should examine whether the FBI has used prohibited
investigative techniques to infiltrate groups engaged in non-violent
protest activities or political demonstrations without a factual
predicate indicating a possible violation of federal law.  The
investigation should particularly examine the manner in which the FBI
uses race, religion, national origin or First Amendment protected
activities in determining whether to initiate, expand or continue an
investigation. 

"What's
the point of revising the guidelines if the FBI isn't even following
the current ones? Since that very well may be the case, we're asking
the Inspector General to investigate what exactly has been going on at
the bureau," continued Fredrickson.  "The FBI already has
far too much authority - and far too grave a history of abusing that
authority - for its investigative powers to have anything but clear,
bright and easily understood boundaries."

 

To read the ACLU's letter to DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine, go to:

http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/36884leg20080922.html

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