The Department of Justice is about to issue new Attorney General Guidelines that govern FBI criminal and intelligence investigations.
The new Guidelines would reportedly weaken the standards in existing Guidelines
for use of some intrusive investigative techniques. Currently, the FBI has to have "reasonable suspicion" of criminality to open a full criminal investigation and it has to have some kind of a lead to start a preliminary inquiry -- sort of a mini-investigation to run down the lead and decide whether to open a full criminal investigation. According to recent reports, the new Guidelines would permit the FBI to conduct an "assessment" of possible criminal activity or a threat to national security without having any lead at all. While doing that "assessment," FBI agents would be empowered to use investigative techniques that had previously been reserved for full investigations and preliminary inquiries when there was evidence of crime: the agents could follow a person around, question friends and business colleagues about the person (and misrepresent themselves as persons other than FBI agents while conducting those interviews), and recruit secret informants to provide information about the person and his or her activities.
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