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Take a stand against FBI abuses

Posted by on Dec. 9, 2010 at 5:44 PM
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Stand with BORDC to challenge FBI abuses

Sign this letter and join BORDC in calling for the FBI to respect First Amendment rights and stop conducting investigations of law-abiding Americans.

Dear Attorney General Holder,

We write to request that you address expanding abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the 2008 Attorney General's Guidelines issued by your predecessor. Despite our diverse political affiliations and interests, we agree that federal law enforcement agencies should require (at least) individualized suspicion of criminal activity before initiating investigatory activities.

In addition to a thorough analysis of the Bureau's current operations and their impacts on civil rights and civil liberties, we also ask that you promulgate revised Attorney General's Guidelines to restore rights and liberties eroded by Attorneys General Mukasey in 2008 and Ashcroft in 2003. Beyond its governing policies, the Bureau also remains in desperate need of institutional reform, including new leadership and new internal checks and balances to end the problems that have long undermined the Bureau's legitimacy.

The FBI has emerged as a recidivist institution, repeatedly violating the rights of law-abiding Americans en masse. As you know, the COINTELPRO era spanned decades and reflected an aggressive campaign by the FBI until the 1970s to undermine civil rights organizations, like the NAACP, pursuing peaceful political activities protected by the First Amendment. Nor was the Bureau's assault on the civil rights movement its first foray into criminalizing conduct that our Constitution protects: the program began by targeting labor organizers and political dissidents, and followed the previous Palmer Raids, which similarly vilified legions of Americans on the basis of their political views.

In September 2010, a series of FBI raids targeting peace activists throughout the Midwest suggested that the Bureau is once again operating under unconstitutional policies. Their recurrence under your leadership could leave an enduring stain on your tenure, as well as that of the Obama administration, and offends fundamental American values shared across the political spectrum.

The 2008 Mukasey Guidelines were the latest of several revisions to the original Guidelines issued in 1976 to end the abuses of COINTELPRO. The 2008 revisions allow individual agents discretion to use intrusive investigatory methods without any evidence suggesting that a crime has been committed, and even permit race, religion, or political speech to serve as factors justifying intrusive investigation.

The Bureau's ongoing "undisclosed participation" activities recall COINTELPRO's abuses and even expand upon them. FBI agents, informants, and state and local law enforcement agents cooperating with them through Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) have infiltrated faith institutions and activist groups advocating for causes as varied as pro-life or pro-choice stances on reproductive rights, environmental causes, opposition to racial bias pervading the criminal justice system, and foreign policy objectives.

Even some of the legal standards governing these activities remain secret, despite repeated requests from the public and Members of Congress seeking greater transparency. FBI Director Robert Mueller delivered inaccurate testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this summer, admitting after the hearing-in writing-that the Bureau's surveillance activities are limited neither by evidence, nor even by suspicion. Mueller's admission confirms that agents are currently monitoring law-abiding Americans arbitrarily and potentially on the basis of constitutionally protected association, political speech, religion, national origin, or race.

Inadequate transparency unfortunately pervades the Bureau's operations. In at least three reports over the last four years (in 2007, 2008, and 2010), the Justice Department's Inspector General has documented rampant abuse of investigatory powers expanded by the PATRIOT Act-as well as further abuses of new powers invented by the FBI without congressional authorization.

At a minimum, we request that you rescind the 2008 Mukasey Guidelines and issue new Guidelines to better respect constitutional rights. While considering the scope of reforms needed to protect civil rights and civil liberties, you should not grant the existing Guidelines artificial legitimacy, nor should the Bureau be afforded credibility that it has not only failed to earn, but also actively undermined. In the interim, new powers demanded by the FBI should be denied and its leadership should be replaced.

Respectfully submitted,

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Ash-hadu alla ilaaha illal-laahu wahadoo laa shareeka lah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasooluh

by on Dec. 9, 2010 at 5:44 PM
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