Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations

09.17.08 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

As the Justice Department prepares to issue new guidelines for FBI national security investigations, a more complete version of the current guidelines that were issued in 2003 has recently surfaced (pdf).

Although the redacted guidelines released in 2003 are still posted on the Justice Department web site (pdf), some of the redactions in that document were rescinded in August 2007 on the authority of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. A copy of those less-censored guidelines was obtained this week by Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

See “The Attorney General’s Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection,” October 31, 2003, classification modified on August 2, 2007. For comparison, the previously released version is posted here (pdf).

Among the previously redacted language that has now been disclosed is the statement that “Preliminary investigations are authorized, generally speaking, when there is information or an allegation indicating that a threat to the national security may exist.” (Bottom of p. 3).

The newly disclosed version of the guidelines also addresses the legal standard for opening a full national security investigation; the investigative techniques that may be used in preliminary and full investigations; and more.

On September 12, Justice Department officials held a background briefing describing the contents of the proposed new guidelines that would replace the 2003 FBI national security investigative guidelines.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the proposed new guidelines went too far in lowering the threshold for initiating an investigation and threatened to infringe on protected first amendment activities.