The official return of COINTELPRO
- New York Times, 1 Dec 2001
Ashcroft Seeking to Free F.B.I. to Spy on Groups
By DAVID JOHNSTON and DON VAN NATTA Jr.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 Attorney General John Ashcroft is considering a plan
to relax restrictions on the F.B.I.'s spying on religious and political
organizations in the United States, senior government officials said today.
The proposal would loosen one of the most fundamental restrictions on the
conduct of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and would be another step by
the Bush administration to modify civil-liberties protections as a means of
defending the country against terrorists, the senior officials said.
The attorney general's surveillance guidelines were imposed on the F.B.I.
in the 1970's after the death of J. Edgar Hoover and the disclosures that
the F.B.I. had run a widespread domestic surveillance program, called
Cointelpro, to monitor antiwar militants, the Ku Klux Klan, the Black
Panthers and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, while Mr.
Hoover was director.
Since then, the guidelines have defined the F.B.I.'s operational conduct in
investigations of domestic and overseas groups that operate in the United
Some officials who oppose the change said the rules had largely kept the
F.B.I. out of politically motivated investigations, protecting the bureau
from embarrassment and lawsuits. But others, including senior Justice
Department officials, said the rules were outmoded and geared to obsolete
investigative methods and had at times hobbled F.B.I. counterterrorism
Mr. Ashcroft and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, favor the
change, the officials said. Most of the opposition comes from career
officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said today that no final decision had been
reached on the revised guidelines.
"As part of the attorney general's reorganization," said Susan Dryden, the
spokeswoman, "we are conducting a comprehensive review of all guidelines,
policies and procedures. All of these are still under review."
full article is at <www.nytimes.com/2001/12/01/national/01BURE.html>