New Justice Department guidelines direct the FBI to share more information gathered in national security investigations with state and local law enforcement officials. The Washington Post reports that the introduction to the guidelines, to be issued today by Attorney General John Ashcroft, says they will allow the FBI to make full use of “all authorities and investigative techniques” permitted by court rulings and law changes made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The rules permit the FBI to provide information gathered in national security investigations to state and local officials “for the purpose of preventing or responding to a threat to national security or public safety.” Local officials have complained that they often can do little with the vague threat information provided by FBI.
Classified information still could be shared only with those with security clearances, but a Justice official said the FBI may be able to inform local officials about suspect individuals and groups without disclosing classified material.
Agents in national security investigations will be able to conduct “proactive collection” of publicly available information about groups and people of investigative interest. Previously, FBI agents were barred from gathering such information without specific grounds to open an investigation. The change would allow agents to gather material on extremist Web sites.
The guidelines “move the investigative capabilities into the 21st century but keep the safeguards,” said M.E. “Spike” Bowman, FBI deputy general counsel.
The main Justice Department is to be informed not only of all national security investigations approved by FBI headquarters but also of requests for investigations from the field turned down by FBI headquarters.