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Checks and Balances on the FBI

Responding to Your Concerns
Checks and Balances on the FBI

10/04/04

respondingh.jpgQuestion: It’s the FBI job—among other things—to protect the civil rights of the American people.

But what safeguards are in place to prevent us from stepping on civil liberties and privacy rights in the course of our investigations and intelligence operations?

Answer: A host of them. Here’s a brief run down.

1. Regular, vigorous Congressional oversight of all aspects of FBI operations by eight primary committees of the U.S. Congress:

  • The House/Senate Judiciary Committees
  • The House/Senate Intelligence Committees
  • The House/Senate Appropriations Committees
  • The House Government Reform Committee
  • The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
2. Intelligence oversight (beyond the role played by the U.S. Congress):
3. Key federal laws that apply to FBI investigations and operations:
  • The U.S. Constitution (e.g., First and Fourth Amendments)
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978
  • The 1968 Federal Wiretap Statute (Title III), as amended
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1967
  • The Privacy Act of 1974
  • The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, and various government and FBI provisions and regulations
  • The Freedom of Information Act of 1966
4. Regulation and enforcement within the Department of Justice:
  • The Attorney General’s Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection
  • The Attorney General’s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations
  • Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General
  • FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility
  • The Criminal Undercover Operations Review Committee and the Criminal Informant Review Committee, both composed of senior FBI and DOJ officials.
  • Mandatory ethics training for new agents, including a trip to the Holocaust Museum that makes clear the horrible consequences of government oppression.
Want more detail? See pages 70-73 of the Report to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States: The FBI’s Counterterrorism Program Since September 2001.