Response to ACLU Report on FBI’s Community Outreach Program
|Washington, D.C. December 01, 2011|
The following is in response to details released in a recent ACLU report:
The FBI strongly supports community outreach and therefore takes seriously any allegation of improper conduct in this regard. To be clear, FBI policy requires that an appropriate separation be maintained between outreach and operational activities and includes several provisions to ensure this is the case:
- A special agent or intelligence analyst assigned to an operational squad should not engage in community outreach directed toward an individual or group associated with an investigation or assessment that the agent or analyst supports.
- The FBI’s community outreach program coordinator cannot be assigned to the Field Intelligence Group or to an operational squad or task force.
- The community outreach program cannot be used to conduct domain assessments.
- It is important to maintain an appropriate separation between outreach activities conducted to build trust and confidence and those conducted with a specific operational or intelligence purpose.
- Field offices may maintain a database of their outreach contacts, but in keeping with applicable privacy laws and guidelines, this data should be kept separate from operational and intelligence databases. The policy expressly requires full compliance with the Privacy Act.
The FBI’s community outreach program is designed to enhance public trust in the FBI in order to enlist the cooperation of the public to fight criminal activity, not for intelligence-gathering purposes. The community outreach program also provides information to the public in support of crime prevention efforts and opens lines of communication to help make the FBI more responsive to community concerns. In turn, the outreach program makes FBI subject matter experts, including special agents and intelligence analysts, accessible to communities to provide information about the FBI and about threats that may impact them.
Community outreach coordinators in the field are encouraged to speak regularly with the investigative program managers in their office for general awareness and to prevent community partners from being contacted by multiple FBI components in an uncoordinated fashion, but there is no other linkage between the community outreach program and outreach efforts overseen by operational divisions. Similarly, community outreach coordinators are encouraged to coordinate with their outreach counterparts in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, local police departments, and other local, state, and federal agencies.
Internal reporting requirements ensure that personnel time and resources are being used effectively and in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and program requirements. However, FBI policy requires the data regarding outreach contacts should be kept separate from other databases where liaison contact information is stored.