House Democrats call for hold on new FBI investigation rules

House Democrats are calling on the Bush administration to hold off implementing new rules that broaden the FBI’s investigative authorities until a new administration can approve them next year.

[Update 10/12: The Justice Department, in a nod to concerns that Americans could be investigated in terrorism cases without evidence of wrongdoing, said Tuesday it will tweak still-tentative rules governing FBI national security cases before they are issued. See full article: DOJ tweaking terror probe rules]

“It is not appropriate for the current administration to make such sweeping changes to FBI procedures at this late date, only a month before the election,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a statement. He said they should be provided “as suggestions (for) the new administration to consider early next year.”


One Response

    One of the more important statutory restrictions which secures and reinforces Congress’ authority is at 4 U.S.C. §§ 71 & 72. The first of these sections establishes territory within the current borders of the District of Columbia as the seat of government for the United States; the second prohibits any government department from operating outside the District of Columbia save as Congress authorizes by statute:
    Sec. 72. Public offices; at seat of Government
    All offices attached to the seat of government shall be exercised in the District of Columbia, and not elsewhere, except as otherwise expressly provided by law.
    In this context, we see what should be lawful constraint on the Federal Bureau of Investigation by examining origins and statutory authority of the FBI: Read notes following 28 U.S.C. § 531 to find that Congress didn’t create the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI simply appeared in the Department of Justice — it is an administratively-created entity, so cannot exceed authority originally vested in the Attorney General or the Department of Justice. Statutory authority vested in the FBI and the Attorney General is found at 28 U.S.C. § 535:
    The Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation may investigate any violation of title 18 involving Government officers and employees…
    Administrative creation of the FBI is confirmed in The United States Government Manual, 1996/97 edition, page 349:
    “The Federal Bureau of Investigation was established in 1908 by the Attorney General, who directed that Department of Justice investigations be handled by its own staff…”
    What authority does the FBI have to investigate and otherwise bother people in the several States other than Government officers and employees? De facto authority — “I can, therefore I will.” The FBI has no statutory authority to disturb anyone in the Union of several States other than government officers and employees. Therefore, 4 U.S.C. § 72, in addition to constitutional limitations, constrains FBI investigations in the Union of several States to subject matter prescribed by statute, that being 28 U.S.C. § 535, cited above.

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