- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

"I get very, very queasy when federal law enforcement is effectively going back to the bad old days when the FBI was spying on people like Martin Luther King," Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin said yesterday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields.
"The Levi guidelines were designed to prevent that from happening again," he added. "And nothing has told me that adherence to the Levi guidelines were what caused 9/11."
Mr. Sensenbrenner, a conservative, pointed out that the surveillance guidelines were "originally promulgated by a Republican administration" in 1976 and have "worked so well."
The chairman said he was disturbed to learn Thursday that Attorney General John Ashcroft had "tossed them in the wastebasket" as part of a reorganization of the FBI, prompted by that agency's intelligence failures prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Implemented by Ed Levi, attorney general under President Ford, the guidelines required the FBI to show evidence of a crime before engaging in domestic spying. The restrictions grew out of the FBI's civil rights abuses under Director J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr. Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III have said surveillance guidelines announced last week will allow the FBI to monitor Internet sites, libraries, churches, rallies and political organizations to help prevent acts of domestic terrorism. Mr. Ashcroft says that the changes are necessary, and that there won't be the abuses Mr. Sensenbrenner is worried about.
"I don't think we need to throw respect for civil liberties into the trash heap in order to get rid of the problems the FBI has had systematically," said Mr. Sensenbrenner, whose committee will seek testimony about the changes from Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Mueller.
The Judiciary Committee has oversight responsibility over the Justice Department and the FBI.
Robert Novak and Al Hunt, co-hosts of yesterday's edition of "Novak, Hunt & Shields," expressed surprise that the Judiciary chairman attacked a major tenet of the new FBI surveillance guidelines. "That changes the whole dynamics of this issue," Mr. Hunt said.
Mr. Novak said he was also surprised to hear the congressman say Mr. Ashcroft gave him only two hours' advance notice that he had killed the Levi guidelines. "I think that may be the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy, but I also think they're running a little scared on the criticism of the FBI," Mr. Novak said.
Mr. Ashcroft defended the surveillance changes in multiple network television interviews Friday. On CNN's "Larry King Live," he said, referring to the former guidelines, that "the premise was that there could be no activity by the FBI without a specific lead or a preliminary investigation being opened or a full-blown investigation being opened."
Mr. Ashcroft said the old guidelines barred FBI agents from attending open meetings or rallies in public parks, where people were railing against the United States "if there hadn't been any lead or evidence that a crime had been committed or was being committed."
But he said FBI agents need more flexibility because their focus will be on preventing crimes.
"This doesn't authorize people to go into private places, to eavesdrop, to tape record, to otherwise surveil private settings," Mr. Ashcroft said on Friday on ABC's "Good Morning, America."

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