1976 March 10

Attorney General Levi Issues FBI Domestic Security Investigation Guidelines


Attorney General Edward Levi on this day issued the FBI Domestic Security Investigation Guidelines. The guidelines were a landmark in oversight of the FBI because, since being appointed FBI Director in 1924, J. Edgar Hoover operated with little if any oversight of FBI operations. In the process, he conducted many secret and illegal actions (see, for example, COINTELPRO, created on March 8, 1956), many of which he did not disclose to either the attorney general or the president of the United States.

Levi’s guidelines were an outgrowth of the Senate Church Committee investigations (begun on January 27, 1975), which exposed massive violations of individual rights by the FBI and other intelligence agencies. As ordered by the attorney general, the guidelines did not have the same force of law as an act of Congress or a presidential executive order. They were also not as restrictive as recommended by the ACLU and other civil liberties experts. Nonetheless, in the context of the history of the FBI, they represented a major step forward in terms of accountability for the Bureau. The guidelines have since been revised a number of times (see the history, below).

Read: John T. Elliff, The Reform of FBI Intelligence Operations (1979)

Learn more; the 2012 version of the Guidelines: http://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/email-content-foia/FBI%20docs/June%202012%20FBI%20DIOG.pdf

Read the Senate Church Committee report on the violations of Americans’ rights by the FBI: http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Read a history of the Levi Guidelines and subsequent revisions: http://www.justice.gov/oig/special/0509/chapter2.htm

Read Edward Levi’s official Justice Department biography (with links to his speeches): http://www.justice.gov/ag/aghistpage.php?id=70

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