DOCUMENT RESUME 03i99o - rb3194438] Fedeial bureau OL investigation's Conduct of Domestic !ntelllqence perations under the Attcrney GeneLal's Guidelines. Novncer 9, 1977. 9 pp. f5stimony Lbtore tne House Committee on the Judiciary: Civil and censtitutional Riqhts Subccmmittre; y Victor . L, Director, Gn ra Government Div. isue ,rea; Law nforcement and Crime Preventicn 1500). Lortact: Gereral Government Div. uddqet Function: Law Enforcement and Justice (750). :qDanizaticn Concerned: Department of Justice; Federal ureau of Investia tion. oCnqressional Relevance: House Committee cn the Judiciary: Civil and constitutional ights Subcommittee. The Federal ureau ot Investigation's (FBI's) domestic intelliqeice operations have changed significantly 1*vli o in scope, General's eort, and investigative controls under the Attorney domestic security uidelines which went into effect on Apri. 5, 1970. the quidlines and the acco:[anying review oversight and t Department of Justice have played a vital rdirectlnq dnd narrowing the scope rle ir cf the FI's domestic inelliqence op.-LIations. The number o b=inq investiqasd and the extent of FIgroup and individuals agent and informant J--ources beinq uevoted to domestic intelligence nave declined suLstantially. Te Department of Justice control over intelligence ctivities ani the FE! have better tcause current olicies wor= cleariy distinquish preliminary from full piiase-rs in inveEtigative terms or permissible techniques and duration and scope of invc-stiqation and require regular repocrting tc fui nadquarters nd the Department. by field offices -evenrt erosionr of the resent contrcls, However, in order to the Congress shculd c.eally imandate what the objectives and scope i.ntellqence ac.ivities should be and what ct domestic controls siculd exsAl. oupled with diligent cngressicnal oversight, ccntrois ny the Justice Department and management the FBI, and cicizens' CCC-L Tco records, suc a mandate would go a long way tcward prevnt !.q a recurrenc; cf ast abuses. (SC) United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 CO 0on FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY CYS Expected at 9:30 AM EDT Wednesday, November 9, 1977 SUMMARY STATEMENT OF VICTOR L. LOWE, DIRECTOR, GENERAL GOVERNMENT DIVISION BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY ON THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION'S CONDUCT OF D^MESTIC INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS UNDER THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S GUIDELINES Mr. Cairman and Members of the Subcommittee: Our testimony today deals with the results of our review of the FBI's domestic intelligence operations. As you know, this review is essentially a followup of the report we issued to the Committee on February 24, 1976, entitled "FBI Domestic Intelligence Operations--Their Purpose and Scope: Issues That Need to Be Resolved' (GGD-76-50). Also, this is the third time we have testified before the Subcommi.ttee on this important and controversial subject. We will now summarize the results of our completed review work. Our review focused on the conduct of the FBI's domestic intelligence operations under the Attorney General's domestic security guidelines which went into effect on April 5, 1976. The detailed re- sults of our review are contained in a more comprehensive statement which we are submitting separately for the record. (See p. 8.) Our observations and con.lusions today are based primar- ily on an analysis of 319 domestic intelligence cases random- ly selected fr'm 2,431 investigative matters acted on between April and November 1976 in five FBI field offices--Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco. The Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco field r' ices were included in our first review. (See p. 9 and app. II.) As was true of our first review, we did not have full access to the FBI's investigative files; once again we used summaries of the case files prepared by FBI agents in accord- ance with our prescribed format, and we conducted followup interviews with the agents. For this latter review, however, to supplement the detailed summaries we obtained copies of selected documents in which sensitive data, such as names of informants, was excised. Also, unlike in our first re- view, we were able to randomly verify the accuracy and com- pleteness of the FBI-prepared case summaries by using copies of selected file documents but not the original files. Thus, we believe the observations and conclusions we have today are valid. However, we would have greater knowledge of investigative activities, and thus the Con- gress would be better served, if we had been provided full access to the investigatJve files. Such access would be - 2 - necessary for us to fully evaluate the impact of intel- ligence investigations on the individual rights of the sub- jects. SYNOPSIS OF PRIOR REPORT Our 1976 report concluded: -- The FBI's authority to carry out domestic intelligence operations was unclear, and legislation providing such authority was needed. -- Without clear criteria for initiating investigations, the FBI's domestic intelligence activities were likely to remain too broad in scope and lacking in tangible results. -- A clear distinction between preliminary and full investigations was needed to effectively control the scope and conduct of domestic intelligence activities. -- The FBI needed to improve its practices in maintaining and disseminating intelligence information. -- Regular review by the Justice Department and the Con- gress was necessary. (See app. III.) CHANGES AND EVENTS AFFECTING DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS Since February 1976 many changes and events have oc- curred which have had an effect on the FBI's domestic in- telligence operations. Many of the issues and problems raised in our first report have been at least partially addressed. I will now summarize these changes. -- On April 5, 1976, the Attorney General's guidelines for domestic security investigations became the FBI's principal policy and procedures in the domestic intel- ligence area. (See p. 10 and app. IV.) - 3- -- Simultaneously, the Attorney General established an Investigations Review Unit (IRU) to monitor and review the FBI's domestic intelligence operations. (See p. 11.) -- On August 30, 1976, the FBI adopted its own investiga- tive policy, which was more restrictive than the Attorney General's guidelines. (See p. 11 and app. VI.) -- In September 1976 the FBI's domestic intelligence operations were transferred to the then General In- vestigative Division, and a review was conducted of all pending domestic intelligence cases with a view toward making the operations more criminal oriented. (See pp. 11 and 12.) -- There has been regular congressional oversight of the FBI's domestic intelligence operations since February 1976 by this Subcomrittee and other congressional committees. (See p. 12.) Although legislation concerning domestic intelligence has not yet been enacted, the Congress and the Department of Justice are at work drafting legislation. ome legis- lation which has been introduced would restrict the FBI to only the investigation of criminal violations. DECLINE IN DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS Under the Attorney General's domestic security guide- lines, the FBI's domestic intelligence operations have changed significantly in scope, level of effort, and investi- gative controls. We cannot measure exactly just how much of the change is directly attributable to the guidelines. However, we believe that the guidelines and the accompany- ing oversight and review by the Department of Justice have played a vital role in redirecting and narrowing the scope of the FBI's domestic I'telligence operations. - 4 - Under the Attorney General's guidelines, domestic intelligence investigations are now directed at groups and individuals who pose a credible threat--as evidenced not just by their words but by their actions--of resorting to force or violence in violation of Federal law to overthrow or substantially impair Government operations, or to deprive persons of their civil rights. The number of groups and individuals being investigated and the extent of FBI agent and informant resources bing devoted to domestic intelli- gence have declined substantially. (See p. 15.) The number of ending investigative matters decreased from 9,814 as of June 30, 1975, to 642 as of June 30, 1977. The number of matters initiated decreased from 1,454 in Juie 1975 to 95 in June 1977. (See pp. 17 and 18.) While the FBI had investigated 157 organizations and groups and an undeterminable number of individuals during calendar year 1974, only 17 organizations and groups and about 130 individuals were under full investigation during early October 1977. During July 1977 an estimated 143 special agents were involved in domestic intelligence and related investigations, compared to an estimated 788 s ial agents during March 1975. As of October 18, 1977, + I reported it was operating about 100 domestic int .. 4%fnce informants, com- pared to about 1,100 such informants in November 1975. 5 The decline in domestic intelligence activities, particularly in the last 2 fiscal years, is attributable to -- the lack of militant activity by protest groups; -- the FBI's implementation of the "quality over quantity" management approach in August 1975; -- the implementation of the Attorney General's domestic security guidelines on April 5, 1976, and subsequent Department of Justice review and approval of full investigations; -- the FBI's adoption, on August 30, 1976, of a more restrictive investigative policy than the Attorney General's guidelines, and a related FBI-wide review of all domestic intelligence cases with a view toward keeping only "quality" cases; -- the transfer of some investigations from the domestic intelligence program; and -- outside inquiries into the FBI's domestic intelligence operations. CONTROLS OVER DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS The Department of Justice and the FBI have better con- trol over intelligence activities because current poli- cies (1) more clearly distinguish preliminary from full investigative phases in terms of permissible techniques and duration and scope of investigation and (2) require regular reporting by field offices to FBI headquarters and the Department. (See pp. 34 to 36.) During our first review, when field offices were not required to report the initiation of preliminary investiga- tions to FBI headquarters, we found that 73 percent of the preliminary investigations in our sample lasted more than the -6- 90-day time limit and that FBI headquarters was not aware of about 65 percent of the extended cases. This time, only 7 of the 58 preliminary investigations within our sample, or about 12 percent, were not reported to FBI headquarters; and 5 of these were not reported because they were closed shortly after they were opened. Also, only 20 e the 58 sample preliminary invest 4 ga- tions lasted more than 90 days, and extensions were requested in 13 of these. Extensions were not requested in only 7 cases. While the guidelines have gone a long way toward pro- viding direction and control, they are subject to change over time as personnel within the Department of Justice and the FBI change. In addition, certain aspects of the guidelines are subject to differing interpretations, in- cluding those dealing with (1) the basis for initiating preliminary and full investigations, (2) what constitutes a preliminary investigation, and (3) the use of informants during preliminary investigations. (See pp. 25 to 31.) Also, the extent and nature of the controls themselves could change, since they are not specifically mandated by statute. This is witnessed by the fact that the Justice Department's Investigations Review Unit, which is responsible for providing policy guidance on the BI's domestic intelli- gence operations, is currently without staff and its future undecided. -7- RESULTS OF DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS Despite the improvements in the direction and control of domestic intelligence, there are still few visible results. Only 10 of the 319 sample cases produced advance information of planned violent activities or information useful in solv- ing related criminal investigations, or led to the discovery of items apparently intended for criminal purposes. Realis- tically this may be the best that can be expected, particu- larly in view of the greater investigative restrictions now placed on the FBI and its past record when there were fewer restrictions and less control. (See pp. 41 to 44.) As pointed out in our earlier report, who is to say that the FBI's continuous coverage of "subversive" or "extremist" groups and their key leaders has not prevented them from achieving their goals? The problem is one of adequately assessing the value and effectiveness of an operation which by its nature is preventive and by its mere existence may be accomplishing its purpose. CONCLUSIONS The Department of Justice and the FBI have made the ef- fort to bring domestic intelligence under control. The ac- tions they have taken are generally consistent with the con- clusions and recommendations in our first report. However, our principal concern is to insure that the present policies, procedures, and controls do not erode. Due to the many sub- jective judgments involved in intelligence wcrk and the - - potential for abuse, we do not believe reliance should be based olely on the judgments of the responsible agencies or on guidelines and controls which are subject to change and varying interpretations over time. Thus, we believe now as we did before that it is incum- bent upon the Congress to clearly mandate what the objectives and scope of the domestic intelligence activities should be and what controls should exist. Coupled with (1) diligent con- gressional oversight, (2) management controls by the Justice Department and FBI, including periodic reviews by their inter- nal audit groups, and (3) citizens' access to records through the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, such a mandate would go a long way toward giving the FBI's domestic intel- ligence operations positive direction and control, and pre- venting a recurrence of patc abuses. A decision whether, or to what extent, to authorize domestic intelligence gathering involves a substantial policy judgment. We hope that our testimony today, together with our first report, has provided insight into the problems which need to be considered in making this judgment. 9
Federal Bureau of Investigation's Conduct of Domestic Intelligence Operations under the Attorney General's Guidelines
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-11-09.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)