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)

                                 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
  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
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
0on                                      FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY
  CYS                                    Expected at 9:30 AM EDT
                                         Wednesday, November 9, 1977

                             SUMMARY STATEMENT OF


                                  BEFORE THE



                                    ON THE




        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-

     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.)

     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.


     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.

      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

     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

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


     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



      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.


     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
 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.