Washington, Sept 14 : The Bush administration has reportedly proposed new guidelines that would give its investigating agency the FBI more tools to assess national security and foreign intelligence threats.
FBI Director Robert Mueller will testify about the guidelines before the Congress next week, while it is learnt that the officials want these guidelines to be implemented as early as Oct. 1, reported cbs.com.
The existing guidelines do not allow an investigation based on factors like race alone; there must be some other evidence of a threat or crime, senior US officials said, and added that a threat assessment as an information-gathering tool - usually based on a tip or a news story - to determine whether a problem exists. An example would be learning whether Iranian agents are operating in a US location to obtain technology secrets, added the paper.
As per the guidelines, agents would be permitted to use tactics only allowed in criminal cases like physical surveillance, recruitment of sources and "pretext interviews" - where the real purpose would not be revealed.
Justice Department and FBI senior officials briefed reporters on the draft guidelines, but on the condition of anonymity.
Some Democratic senators and civil liberties groups have said that the proposals would allow Americans to be targeted in part by their race, ethnicity or religion - and be spied on without any other basis for suspicion.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union, which was briefed by the FBI and Justice Department, criticized the new guidelines. "The rewritten rules would give the FBI the ability to begin surveillance without factual evidence, stating that a generalized 'threat' is enough to use certain techniques. Also under the new guidelines, a person's 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," the group said.
The US administration officials acknowledged those factors could play a role in national security and foreign intelligence cases. But, they said they can already be considered under 2003 rules that are 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.