New Broad FBI Surveillance Rules Are Unconstitutional

September 29, 2009 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or

WASHINGTON – The FBI has released its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), an internal policy document that explains how FBI agents would implement the unconstitutionally broad surveillance powers of the 2008 Mukasey Attorney General Guidelines (AGGs). One particularly bizarre provision allows the FBI to violate the AGGs without approval from, or notice to, the Attorney General. The DIOG, written on December 16, 2008, was released with heavy redactions late Friday as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Muslim Advocates.

The original Attorney General Guidelines were adopted in the mid-1970’s to limit the FBI’s investigative authority after it was discovered that the agency was engaged in widespread abuses and violations of constitutional rights – including politically-motivated spying on figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. Mukasey’s 2008 AGGs are much broader and allow FBI agents to use paid informants, spy on a person’s activities or engage in other types of intrusive surveillance without “factual predication” – that is, without probable cause or any evidence of wrongdoing.

The American Civil Liberties Union is urging Congress to create a legislative charter that prohibits the FBI from spying on innocent Americans.

The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“It sets an extremely confusing and dangerous precedent to create an ambiguous set of guidelines for invasive surveillance of Americans and then grant the FBI the authority to violate those guidelines unilaterally. We remain concerned that the Mukasey Guidelines were written so broadly that they imposed essentially no restrictions at all on FBI investigations, and now we see the FBI has interpreted them in exactly the same way. Congress needs to create a statutory framework that limits the FBI’s authority to conduct investigations without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing as soon as possible. The FBI has considerable authority – and a noted history of abusing that authority. Its investigative powers must have nothing less than clear, bright and easily understood boundaries.”

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release