Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Attorney General ordered a broader review of Justice Department guidelines concerning national security and criminal matters. The purposes of that review were to:

The NSI Guidelines reflect these purposes. The NSI Guidelines replace the previous version of the guidelines for national-security related activities by the FBI, which was called the Attorney General Guidelines for FBI Foreign Intelligence Collection and Foreign Counterintelligence Investigations ("FCI Guidelines"). The changes from the FCI Guidelines to the NSI Guidelines are similar to revisions to the general guidelines for FBI criminal investigations, which the Attorney General reissued on May 30, 2002, as part of the broader review of Department guidelines.


What is the purpose of the NSI guidelines, and what activities do they authorize?

The general objective of the NSI Guidelines "is the full utilization of all authorities and investigative techniques, consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, so as to protect the United States and its people from terrorism and other threats to the national security." That is, the guidelines are intended to allow the FBI to use all lawful investigative techniques to protect the American people from international terrorism and espionage. The activities in which the FBI may engage under the Guidelines include:

What is information obtained through investigations under the NSI guidelines used for?

When the FBI obtains information through activities authorized by the NSI Guidelines, the information may be used to support all lawful measures to combat international terrorism and other national security threats. These measures include, for example:

What levels of investigative activity do the NSI Guidelines authorize?

Do the NSI guidelines improve cooperation among federal agencies in the war on terrorism?

The NSI Guidelines will increase interagency information sharing and coordination in national security investigations to better combat terrorism. More specifically, the guidelines require information sharing and consultation by the FBI with other Department of Justice components - including the Criminal Division, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and the United States Attorneys' offices - in national security investigations and require information sharing with other federal intelligence agencies and with the Department of Homeland Security.

The NSI Guidelines also will strengthen cooperation with state and local agencies. The revised guidelines now expressly authorize the FBI to assist state and local governments in investigating threats to the national security. The revised guidelines also allow the FBI to disseminate information to state and local authorities for the purpose of "preventing or responding to a threat to the national security, or to public safety, including a threat to the life, health, or safety of any individual or community."

Do the NSI Guidelines protect citizens' constitutional rights and privacy interests?

The NSI Guidelines include provisions to ensure that investigative activities under the guidelines respect legal rights and minimize intrusions on privacy and protected expression:

Why are the NSI Guidelines classified?

Parts of the NSI Guidelines are classified because they relate to "intelligence activities" or "intelligence sources or methods." Classification protects these activities and methods from being compromised. The unclassified portions of the NSI Guidelines generally provide information about the guidelines' purposes and the range of activities they authorize. The classification of the Guidelines does not mean that the classified portions are exempt from external scrutiny; the Guidelines are provided in full to the Intelligence Committees in Congress.