Senate Judiciary Committee calls for delay of new FBI guidelines

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee leaders Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official websites] sent a letter [PDF text; press release] to Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Monday, calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to postpone implementation of new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official websites] guidelines until Congress has had a chance to review the changes. Opponents of the controversial guidelines argue [ACLU release] that the changes, if adopted, could allow for inappropriate profiling and would allow agents to open terror investigations without evidence of any crime being committed. The senators wrote that Congress should be consulted because of the change in protocol regarding racial profiling [guidelines] in FBI investigations [PDF backgrounder]:

The guidelines... reflect a laudatory effort to ensure that front-line agents are given clear rules to follow in pursuit of their investigations. Nevertheless, efforts to harmonize the rules governing criminal and national security matters also raise potential civil liberties concerns, given the broader latitude currently given to investigators to consider race and ethnicity in national security matters...

The important aims of the guidelines, and their potential implications for civil liberties, require a meaningful dialogue between Congress and DOJ. Notwithstanding the work of our staff, Congressional consultation is difficult during the recess period. Moreover, these issues are sufficiently important to merit a public hearing. After all, although prior consultation on such guidelines is not mandatory, the level of public and Congressional confidence in the guidelines will inform later legislation and oversight activities.
The letter stressed that the guidelines should not be adopted until after FBI Director Mueller testifies before the committee in September. AP has more.

Mukasey defended the proposed guidelines [JURIST report] before the committee in July, saying they would take into account not only race or religion but also factors such as travel to foreign terror "hot spots." Earlier that month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] spoke out against the plan, calling it "unconstitutional and un-American" [press release; JURIST report] and saying that it could allow security agents to target Muslims and Arab-Americans for harassment.

 

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