Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, demanding the public release of the surveillance guidelines that govern investigations of Americans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The FBI's Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines went into effect in December of 2008 and detail the Bureau's procedures and standards for implementing the Attorney General's Guidelines on approved surveillance strategies.
"The Attorney General's Guidelines are troubling, allowing for open investigative 'assessments' of any American without factual basis or reasonable suspicion," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "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 Bureau] has raised privacy and civil liberties concerns." 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. Other recent policy changes allow the FBI to engage in free-ranging investigation of Internet sites, libraries, and religious institutions.
EFF's lawsuit comes after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a complete copy of the Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines. The suit demands the immediate release of the guidelines, as they are being withheld in violation of federal law.
"These policies have been in effect for more than six months and could have great impact on ordinary Americans' lives," said Sobel. "The FBI must follow the law and release these guidelines to the public."
For the full complaint:
Electronic Frontier Foundation