The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, demanding the public release of the surveillance guidelines that govern investigations of Americans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The FBI’s Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines went into effect in December of 2008 and detail the Bureau’s procedures and standards for implementing the Attorney General’s Guidelines on approved surveillance strategies.
“The Attorney General’s Guidelines are troubling, allowing for open investigative ‘assessments’ of any American without factual basis or reasonable suspicion,” said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. “The withholding of the Operational Guidelines compounds our concerns. Americans have the right to know the basic surveillance policies used by federal investigators and how their privacy is — or is not — being protected.”
EFF’s lawsuit comes after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a complete copy of the Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines. The suit demands the immediate release of the guidelines, as they are being withheld in violation of federal law.
The full press release is available here.
The complaint, which is available here (pdf), states that on December 5, 2008, EFF filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for ““a complete copy of the FBI’s Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines (“DIOG”), which became effective on December 1, 2008, and which implement the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations.”
In response, the government replied on May 29, 2009, in part:
The document you requested is currently undergoing a review by the FBI’s Corporate Policy Office to determine which portions of the DIOG can be released to the public. Upon the completion of this review, the FBI will make those portions available on the FBI’s public website. The information that will be posted on the website would be the same information released in response to this request. Accordingly, the FBI is closing your request.
To date, EFF claims, “the FBI has not disclosed agency records responsive to plaintiff’s FOIA request.”