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FBI implements new surveillance rules

By Associated Press
Published December 14, 2003

WASHINGTON - From Albany, N.Y., to Albuquerque, N.M., FBI field offices are working under new guidelines for terrorism cases that allow criminal and intelligence agents to work together and share information.

The strategy, which has been in the works for about a year, was completed over the summer, and a directive was sent to the agency's field offices in October, the Associated Press reported Saturday, citing an unidentified senior law enforcement official.

The FBI also will be able to conduct more surveillance under the auspices of a secret intelligence tribunal, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which comprises judges selected by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The judges sit on a rotating basis to review applications for electronic surveillance.

The changes are substantial for the agency, which prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was bound by a legal wall separating intelligence and criminal investigations that prevented agents from discussing information they gathered separately.

Previously, the agency would have opened an investigation of someone it believed had tried to buy explosives and indicted that person for that one violation. Now, the FBI is empowered to explore how a suspect planned to use the explosives and whether he was a part of a terrorist organization.

Civil liberties groups said the change raises serious questions, specifically as it relates to Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

"The problem is that the government has very broad powers in foreign intelligence investigations that don't comply with the Fourth Amendment's usual requirements," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The new strategy is an outgrowth of the USA Patriot Act, which was passed after Sept. 11. Provision of the law removed legal barriers between intelligence and criminal investigators. The broader surveillance powers were affirmed in a federal court ruling in Nov. 2002.
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