FBI Off the Leash
Oh, just lovely:
The Justice Department will unveil changes to FBI ground rules today that would put much more power into the hands of line agents pursuing leads on national security, foreign intelligence and even ordinary criminal cases.Yeah, like they are going to tighten things up for agents infiltrating groups that the govt considers a threat (which seems to be anyone who doesn't support war). Basically, it looks like we are back to the pre-Watergate days when the FBI was truly out-of-control.
The overhaul, the most substantial revision to FBI operating instructions in years, also would ease some reporting requirements between agents, their supervisors and federal prosecutors in what authorities call a critical effort to improve information gathering and detect terrorist threats.
The changes would give the FBI's more than 12,000 agents the ability at a much earlier stage to conduct physical surveillance, solicit informants and interview friends of people they are investigating without the approval of a bureau supervisor. Such techniques are currently available only after FBI agents have opened an investigation and developed a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or that a threat to national security is developing.
"It is an extraordinarily broad grant of power to an agency that has not proven it uses its power in an appropriate manner," said Michael German, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.
The revised rules largely eliminate the requirement that FBI agents file reports to their supervisors on early-stage investigations, in favor of audits at bureau field offices by lawyers in the Justice Department's National Security Division.
One of the areas still under discussion, according to a senior Justice Department official, is the standard for the FBI's rare involvement in responding to civil disorder. Under the current standards, FBI involvement requires the approval of the attorney general and can last for only 30 days.
The new approach would relax some of those requirements and would expand the investigative techniques that agents could use to include deploying informants. FBI agents monitoring large-scale demonstrations that they believe could turn dangerous also would have new power to use those techniques.
Policy guidance for FBI agents and informants who work as "undisclosed participants" in organizations is still being written, the officials said yesterday.