FBI director defends proposed investigation guidelines

[JURIST] FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] on Wednesday defended proposed investigation guidelines [JURIST report] before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] as a "necessary step" in fighting terrorism. Opponents have argued [JURIST report] that the changes could allow inappropriate racial and ethnic profiling and would permit agents to open terror investigations without evidence of any crime having been committed. Appearing at a committee hearing [materials] on FBI oversight, Mueller testified in a prepared statement [text] that

[t]he new guidelines will replace five separate sets of guidelines with a single set of rules to govern the domestic activities of our employees. The new guidelines set consistent rules that apply across all operational programs, whether criminal or national security. They will give us the ability to be more proactive and the flexibility to address complex threats that do not fall solely under one program. They will eliminate inconsistencies that have the potential to cause confusion and create compliance traps for our employees.

The new guidelines are not designed to give, and do not give, the FBI any broad new authorities. The vast majority of the authorities outlined in the guidelines are not new, but techniques that were permissible under certain circumstances for criminal matters will now also be available for national security matters, and vice versa.
Judiciary Committee members expressed concern that the new guidelines, which could take effect by October 1, have not yet been made public. In a statement [text], Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] argued:
Allowing the FBI authority to use a vast array of intrusive investigative techniques with little or no predicate facts or evidence raises concerns and may potentially lead to the kinds of abuses we have seen with national security letters and with other vast grants of authority with minimal checks in the past.
UPI has more.

Leahy and the committee's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter (R-PA), wrote [letter, PDF; press release] to Attorney General Michael Mukasey last month, calling on him to postpone implementation of the guidelines pending Congressional review. In his own testimony [JURIST report] before the committee in July, Mukasey said the guidelines would take into account not only race or religion but also factors such as travel to foreign terror "hot spots." Wednesday's Senate hearing followed another oversight hearing [materials] Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, where Mueller said the federal government would commission an independent review [JURIST report] of the FBI's use of scientific evidence in its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks.


 

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