Civil Rights Advocates Call on Congress to Investigate FBI’s New Intelligence Rules

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Erik Opsal, erik.opsal@nyu.edu, 646-292-8356

Civil Rights Advocates Call on Congress to Investigate FBI’s New Intelligence Rules

New Guidelines for Domestic Investigations Raise Privacy Concerns

NEW YORK - Civil rights advocates called on Congress today to investigate the reported changes to the FBI’s guidelines for domestic investigations. The proposed changes to the Domestic Investigations Operations Guide (DIOG) are the latest in a series of new policies that have radically expanded the FBI’s power to investigate and collect intelligence information — often without any indication of wrongdoing — about Americans. 

According to news reports, the new version of the DIOG would permit FBI agents to search private and government databases on targets even when no official investigation has been opened; to search a person’s trash for material that might pressure him or her into becoming a government informant; and to participate “under cover” in multiple meetings of a group, such as a religious congregation or gathering of political activists, without restriction. The new rules would also cut back on the oversight that is currently required for investigations involving sensitive targets, such as religious or political leaders.

This expansion of the FBI’s authorities follows in the footsteps of major changes implemented in 2008 through the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. The 2008 Guidelines allowed the FBI to use highly intrusive investigative techniques without any objective basis for suspicion.  They were adopted in haste and in the face of objections from several members of Congress who sought the opportunity to analyze the Guidelines, ask questions, and provide input.  

“Congress should not allow the FBI to once again undermine Congress’s ability to conduct meaningful oversight of FBI activities,” said Emily Berman, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “Instead, the Senate Judiciary Committee must examine these new authorities before they go into effect to ensure the FBI is granted investigative powers that are necessary, are consistent with existing FBI policy and regulations, and respect American’s constitutional rights.” 

The letter was sent by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the Defending Dissent Foundation.

In addition to the letter, the Brennan Center also released “FBI: Fact or Fiction?”, a document analyzing the accuracy of several FBI and Justice Department statements on the 2008 Guidelines, the proposed changes to the DIOG, and the investigative powers granted to the FBI. The analysis reveals false or misleading information in all of them.

Also see the Brennan Center’s recent report on the FBI’s 2008 guidelines, Domestic Intelligence: New Powers, New Risks.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Erik Opsal at erik.opsal@nyu.edu or 646-292-8356.

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The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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