Loose FBI Rules Raise Privacy Fears

People are unfairly targeted, complain Muslim groups
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2009 2:16 AM CDT
An FBI agent escorts an unidentified man from the apartment of terror suspect Najibullah Zazi in Aurora, Colo., last month.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

(Newser) – The FBI has been given far too much leeway to gather information on individuals and groups, charge Muslim and civil liberties organizations. Guidelines in a newly disclosed FBI manual allow the bureau to probe people or organizations without any factual evidence against them. Agents are given broad powers to proactively seek information and to use race and religion as factors in choosing whom to monitor, reports the New York Times.

"The FBI should be focused on following actual leads rather than putting entire communities under the microscope,” said a lawyer from a Muslim group which sued for release of the manual. She complains that the FBI has singled out Muslim-Americans as agents provocateurs and infiltrated mosques. The FBI's general counsel counters that the guidelines give agents the necessary flexibility to investigate potential threats, and are in line with the bureau's drive to become a more intelligence-driven agency.