Monday, June 15, 2009

FBI Secret Surveillance and Secret Policies

If history is any guide, lax oversight and secrecy are a recipe for abusive political intelligence gathering by the FBI. Pervasive official secrecy continues to threaten our national values under the Obama administration, in spite of a declared willingness to increase transparency. In a recent article by the new director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Shahid Buttar discusses the struggle to shed sunlight on electronic surveillance and the FBI's official policies on domestic spying.

The FBI is deterring oversight and public scrutiny of its Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines (DIOGs) issued last December.  Even though the FBI briefed Congressional leaders on these guidelines, they remain unknown to the world and Congress hasn't had the opportunity to conduct full oversight.  Congress faced the same roadblocks in trying to oversee and amend the Justice Department's "Mukasey Guidelines" on domestic investigations issued last fall.  Now, the FBI is dragging its feet on public demands to see the DIOGs, which are internal policies that interpret those guidelines.

Congressional oversight is key to ensuring public debate and subjecting domestic intelligence to the rule of law. Through its People's Campaign for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee is also collecting signatures to demand accountability for torture - another area in which the Rule of Law should be paramount.