Tags: Ashcroft | Says | FBI | Won't | Return | Domestic | Spying

Ashcroft Says FBI Won't Return to Domestic Spying

Thursday, 30 May 2002 12:00 AM

The guidelines remove some of the explicit or implied restrictions that kept FBI agents out of public places, such as mosques, and from surfing the Internet in search of information on terrorism and other criminal activities unless they had "probable cause" to believe a crime had been committed.

Ashcroft insisted the changes would not return the FBI to the days when it spied on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other dissidents.

In the main, the attorney general said, the guidelines are to be used "for the purpose of preventing and detecting terrorism activities." They do not permit the FBI to collect files on innocent citizens, he said. Field agents still must get FBI headquarters permission before applying for search warrants.

"In many cases, the [old] FBI guidelines had prevented FBI agents from taking the initiative" when going after terrorists, Ashcroft said.

One of the main changes in the new guidelines allows special agents in charge at FBI field offices to approve and engage in "terrorism enterprise investigations."

Under the old guidelines, such enterprise investigations, begun on an agent's initiative, had to be approved by the FBI director or an assistant director at headquarters.

The new guidelines allow special agents in charge, or SACs, to authorize preliminary inquiries for up to a year. Preliminary inquiries are generally non-intrusive collections of facts to see if there is enough evidence to conduct a full-fledged investigation.

The old guidelines let SACs authorize 90-day preliminary inquiries, which could be extended in 30-day chunks with permission from FBI headquarters.

Significantly, the new guidelines let FBI agents use databases compiled by marketing research companies, material that is generally not available to the public, even if the use is not tied to a particular investigation.

FBI specialists will also be allowed to use counterterrorism computer systems and collect and compile data from any public source, as long as agents can justify the collection for law enforcement.

In addition, the new guidelines allow FBI agents to investigate terrorism suspects connected to religious or political groups with the same investigative techniques they would use on any other suspect.

The guidelines stress, however, that to conduct such an investigation there must be evidence of a crime, and that such investigations cannot be used to suppress constitutionally protected activity.

Earlier, President Bush said the new guidelines would not endanger the Constitution.

"We intend to honor our Constitution and respect the freedoms that we hold so dear," he said. "We want to make sure that we do everything we can to prevent a further attack, to protect America."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The guidelines remove some of the explicit or implied restrictions that kept FBI agents out of public places, such as mosques, and from surfing the Internet in search of information on terrorism and other criminal activities unless they had probable cause to believe a...
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2002-00-30
Thursday, 30 May 2002 12:00 AM
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