EFF Demands Release of FBI Surveillance Rules

WASHINGTON— The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit last week against the Justice Department, demanding the public release of surveillance guidelines that govern probes by the FBI.

The FBI's Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines went into effect in December but have yet to been revealed publicly despite a Freedom of Information Act request by the EFF.

"The attorney general's guidelines are troubling, allowing for open investigative 'assessments' of any American without factual basis or reasonable suspicion," EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel said. "The withholding of the Operational Guidelines compounds our concerns. Americans have the right to know the basic surveillance policies used by federal investigators and how their privacy is — or is not — being protected."

The FBI's general counsel has acknowledged that "the expansion of techniques available [to the agency] has raised privacy and civil liberties concerns," Sobel said.

Investigations can include the electronic collection of information from online sources and computer databases, as well as the use of grand jury subpoenas to obtain telephone and email subscriber information, he said. Other recent policy changes allow the FBI to engage in free-ranging investigation of Internet sites, libraries and religious institutions. The EFF’s suit demands the immediate release of the guidelines.