Next Tuesday, James Comey will have his first job interview for succeeding Robert Mueller as director of the FBI.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will not only have the chance to determine whether Comey is qualified for the job—and we have our concerns—but an opportunity to examine what the FBI has become since 9/11 and whether it needs to change course over the next decade.
Over the past 12 years, the FBI has become a domestic intelligence agency with unprecedented power to peer into the lives of ordinary Americans and secretly amass data about people not suspected of any wrongdoing. The recent revelation about the FBI using the Patriot Act’s “business records provision” to track all U.S. telephone calls is only the latest in a long line of abuse stemming from the expanded powers granted to the bureau since September 2001.
These abuses and bad policies, however, do not get the attention they deserve, despite serious violations of people’s civil rights and liberties. Since 9/11, the ACLU has learned of persistent FBI abuses, including domestic spying, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, politically motivated investigations, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No-Fly List to recruit informants.
In the interest of highlighting the worst abuses that have occurred over the last 12 years, the ACLU has put together a factsheet, “The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11.” (Find a printable PDF version here.)
We hope Congress and the new FBI director, whoever it is, will use the information provided as a starting point to conduct a thorough evaluation of the FBI’s post-9/11 authorities, policies, and practices to identify and curb any and all activities that are illegal, ineffective, or prone to misuse.
The choice between our civil liberties and our security is a false one: we can be both safe and free.