Rules would bolster FBIїs effort to assess threats

The Bush administration proposed guidelines Friday that would give the FBI more tools to assess national security and foreign intelligence threats, reported Associate Press.

Agents would be permitted to use tactics allowed only in criminal cases: physical surveillance, recruitment of sources and їpretext interviewsї ї in which the real purpose would not be revealed.

Justice Department and FBI senior officials briefed reporters on the draft guidelines, but would not be quoted because they were discussing proposals that were likely to be changed.

Some Democratic senators and civil liberties groups have said the proposals would allow Americans to be targets in part because of race, ethnicity or religion ї and to be spied on without any other basis for suspicion.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which was briefed by the FBI and Justice Department, quickly criticized the new guidelines. The rewritten rules would їgive the FBI the ability to begin surveillance without factual evidence, stating that a generalized `threatї is enough to use certain techniques,ї the group said.

їAlso under the new guidelines, a personїs race or ethnic background could be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes will institute racial profiling as a matter of policy.ї

The administration officials acknowledged those factors could play a role in national security and foreign intelligence cases. But they said they could already be considered under 2003 rules that were not changing.

According to the officials, the surveillance, recruitment and interview rules are too restrictive in allowing the FBI to become a post-Sept. 11 intelligence agency that can stop terrorists before they strike.

Commenting on the decision to leave the 2003 guidelines on race, religion and ethnicity unchanged, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that, apart from the briefing, їit is simply not responsible to say that race may never be taken into account when conducting an investigation. The reality is that a number of criminal and terror groups have very strong ethnic associations.ї

He said the bureau cannot ignore La Cosa Nostraїs Italian membership or that Hezbollah is largely Lebanese, їany more than it could ignore the identification of a bank robber as a short, white male.ї

Existing guidelines do not allow an investigation based on factors like race alone. There must be some other evidence of a threat or crime, the senior officials said at the briefing.

The officials said they want the guidelines to take effect Oct. 1.

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