The FBI's disclosure of its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide manual has opened the widest window yet onto how agents have been given greater power in the post-Sept. 11 era, the New York Times reports. The bureau says it needs greater flexibility to hunt for would-be terrorists inside the U.S., but the manual's details have alarmed privacy advocates.
It lays out a low threshold to start investigating a person or group as a potential security threat. It also allows agents to use ethnicity or religion as a factor – as long as it is not the only one – when selecting subjects for scrutiny. “It raises fundamental questions about whether a domestic intelligence agency can protect civil liberties if they feel they have a right to collect broad personal information about people they don't even suspect of wrongdoing,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent now at the American Civil Liberties Union. FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni says the bureau has adequate safeguards to protect civil liberties. “Those who say the F.B.I. should not collect information on a person or group unless there is a specific reason to suspect that the target is up to no good seriously miss the mark,” she said. “The F.B.I. has been told that we need to determine who poses a threat to the national security – not simply to investigate persons who have come onto our radar screen.”