FBI 'Secret Rules' Revealed: Massive Trove of Documents Unmask Agency's Shady Tactics
A new report published by the Intercept reveals the FBI’s wide-ranging powers from the surveillance of journalists to the treatment of informants after the investigative news site acquired a trove of confidential FBI documents.
The 11-part series led by Intercept reporter Cora Currier sheds light on the bureau’s vast secret powers, following a months-long study of confidential documents.
The papers include the FBI’s governing rulebook, known as the DIOG, and classified policy guides for counterterrorism cases and handling confidential informants.
The investigation exposes the FBI’s spying on journalists, its deportation of immigrant informants when they are no longer of use, and other instances of invasive surveillance on targets without need to show suspicion of wrongdoing.
Spying on journalists
The Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide reveals the alarming powers the FBI has to spy on journalists. Classified rules dated from 2013, show that agents need approval from only two internal officials to gain access to a journalist’s phone records with a National Security Letter.
The FBI’s general counsel and the executive assistant director of the bureau’s National Security Branch are required to sign off on the NSL, according to the document. This allows the agency to bypass the normal procedure of going to the courts for a subpoena or search warrant before accessing the information.
If the FBI is trying to uncover a confidential media source by targeting the journalist, it requires additional approval from the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. However, if they are trying to identify a leaker by targeting the records of the potential source, and not the journalist, the Department doesn’t need to be involved.