Leahy, Specter Push For Postponement Of Finalized Guidelines For FBI

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to postpone approval of proposed new guidelines for Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conduct in national security investigations, and to allow for more time to consult with Congress and other interested parties on the planned changes.

In a letter sent Monday, Leahy and Specter urged Mukasey to delay taking any additional action on the guidelines until the after FBI Director Robert Muller testifies before the Committee at a September 17 oversight hearing.  The delay would provide Congress time to examine the guidelines and assess the impact of the proposed changes on civil liberties.  The Attorney General has indicated that he is poised to sign off on new guidelines as early as this week.  The guidelines aim to improve the FBI’s ability to gather intelligence and respond to national security matters, but would also provide additional authorities not currently in law, allowing the FBI to employ more expansive investigative practices with limited oversight.  If approved by the Attorney General, the proposed changes to existing regulations would go into effect on October 1.

“Efforts to harmonize the rules governing criminal and national security matters also raise potential civil liberties concerns, given the broader latitude currently given to investigators to consider race and ethnicity in national security matters,” Leahy and Specter wrote.  “The important aims of the guidelines, and their potential implications for civil liberties, require a meaningful dialogue between Congress and [the Department of Justice].”

The full text of the letter sent by Leahy and Specter follows.  A PDF is also available here.

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