1979 July 31

President Carter Releases Proposed Charter for the F.B.I.


President Jimmy Carter on this day released and sent to Congress of propose charter for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). The charter, which never became law, would have been the first-ever governing document for the Bureau. The proposed charter was an outgrowth of the Senate Church Committee investigation of abuses by the F.B.I. and the other intelligence agencies in 1975-1976.

The proposed Charter spelled out regulations to govern F.B.I. use of informants, undercover agents, and the investigation of covert criminal activity. The Church Committee investigations had exposed F.B.I. harassment of citizens, unauthorized wiretapping, and burglaries by F.B.I. agents, among other abuses. The proposed Charter permitted wiretapping, but only with a court order.

In the absence of a Charter, the F.B.I. has been operating since March 10, 1976  under Guidelines issued by then-Attorney General Edward H. Levi, which provided regulations for investigative activities by Bureau agents.

The most notorious abuse of power by the F.B.I. was its COINTELPRO program, which engaged in burlaries, wiretapping, the forging of documents, and more. See the creation of COINTELPRO on March 8, 1956.

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

Learn more: Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (1991)

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