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Home About Us Intelligence Branch Our Responsibility to Protect Civil Liberties

Our Responsibility to Protect Civil Liberties

Our Responsibility to Protect Civil Liberties

Intelligence activities conducted within the U.S. require special consideration because they directly affect privacy rights and civil liberties protected by the Constitution and other laws.

The FBI’s authority to collect information is very clearly laid out in law and is directed by the attorney general. Intelligence collection is done only in accordance with the intelligence priorities set by the president, and is guided at every step by procedures mandated by the attorney general. The FBI is subject to and follows the attorney general’s guidelines and procedures for FBI national security investigations and foreign intelligence collection.

The FBI’s collection authorities are also controlled by the federal courts. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, a federal judge must still approve search warrants and wiretaps for counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations. Agents must still prove probable cause in order to obtain a warrant authorizing searches and wiretaps. The FBI only collects and disseminates intelligence under guidelines designed specifically to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens, and the Bureau is committed to using its authorities and resources responsibly.

The FBI is dedicated to carrying out its mission in accordance with the protections provided by the Constitution. FBI agents are trained to understand and appreciate that the responsibility to respect and protect the law is the basis for their authority to enforce it.

The FBI puts a premium on thoroughly training its special agents about their responsibility to respect the rights and dignity of individuals. In addition to extensive instruction on Constitutional law, criminal procedure, and sensitivity to other cultures, every new FBI agent visits to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to see for themselves what can happen when law enforcement becomes a tool of oppression.