A new FBI manual makes it easier for agents to check databases, send out surveillance teams, and rifle through people's trash—often as part of a kind of investigation that gives agents the OK to look into people without having solid evidence that they are involved in terrorist or criminal activity. Among the changes to the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide: FBI agents will be allowed to probe law enforcement and commercial databases without opening a formal inquiry first, as they must do now. They’ll be able to run lie-detector tests and search trash without initiating a “preliminary investigation”—a move that requires suspicion grounded in facts—if they're evaluating a target as a possible informant.
Surveillance squads can now be used multiple times in an "assessment," the kind of investigation that allows agents to look into people without firm evidence; as it stands, they can be used just once, reports the New York Times. The FBI’s general counsel says the adjusted rules are “more like fine-tuning than major changes.” But a former agent who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union says that “claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse.” (Read more FBI stories.)