Beginning this week, the FBI got increased power to investigate suspected terrorists under revised administrative guidelines that some Muslim Americans and civil rights advocates are concerned may target innocent people, reports the Detroit Free Press. New Justice Department guidelines allow FBI agents, for the first time in terrorism-related cases, to use undercover sources to gather information in preliminary probes, interview people without identifying who they are, and spy on suspects without first getting clear evidence of wrongdoing.
FBI officials say they need the changes because they are hamstrung by outdated rules that limit their ability to investigate people in national security cases. FBI agents have met with Arab-American representatives in the Detroit area twice to assure them that the new guidelines won’t target them, pointing out that the rules state they must be applied in a “reasonable manner that respects liberty and privacy.” Critics say the plan will allow for abuses by agents, including more racial and religious profiling and intrusive investigations into political and religious groups. Those concerns are amplified in Michigan, a major center of Islam and home to the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States. Some worry there will be more undercover agents and informants infiltrating mosques, attending events like Palestinian conferences, and snooping into the lives of ordinary residents.