The FBI's Secret Rules
President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers.

Currier, Cora; McLaughlin, Jenna; Aaronson, Trevor; Speri, Alice
Date Written:  2017-01-31
Publisher:  The Intercept
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22189

A collection of articles exploring the contents and implications of a cache of internal FBI manuals, offering a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.



President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.

After the famous Church Committee hearings in the 1970s exposed the FBI's wild overreach, reforms were enacted to protect civil liberties. But in recent years, the bureau has substantially revised those rules with very little public scrutiny. That's why The Intercept is publishing this special package of articles based on three internal FBI manuals that we exclusively obtained.

These stories illuminate how the FBI views its authority to assess terrorism suspects, recruit informants, spy on university organizations, infiltrate online chat rooms, peer through the walls of private homes, and more.

In addition to the articles collected here — which include nine new pieces and two that we previously published based on the same source material — we have annotated the manuals to highlight what we found most newsworthy in them. We redacted the sections that could be used to identify individuals or systems for the purpose of causing harm. We’re presenting the stories alongside the manuals because we believe the public has a right to know how the U.S. government’s leading domestic law enforcement agency understands and wields its enormous power.


Original Document:
Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide

Hidden Loopholes Allow FBI Agents to Infiltrate Political and Religious Groups
Jan 31st 2017

National Security Letters Demand Data Companies Aren't Obligated to Provide
Jan 31st 2017

Despite Anti-Profiling Rules, the FBI Uses Race and Religion When Deciding Who to Target
Jan 31st 2017

In Secret Battle, Surveillance Court Reined in FBI Use of Information Obtained From Phone Calls
July 27th 2016

Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy for the FBI to Spy on Journalists
June 30th 2016

Annotation Sets:

Bureau Hid Doubts About Reliability of Stingray Evidence Behind Redaction Marks

CIA and NSA Dossiers Are Available to the FBI in the Absence of Any Crime, Raising Privacy Questions

FBI Spy Planes must Abide Rules When Looking into People's Homes

On Campus, the FBI Sometimes Operates Outside Restrictions

To Probe the Digital Defences of Targets, FBI Turns to a Special Program

Original Document:
Confidential Human Source Policy Guide
Detailed rules for how the FBI handles informants. Classified secret. This unreleased September 2015 document is a major expansion and update of a manual from 2007 on the same topic.


The FBI Gives Itself Lots of Rope to Pull in Informants
Jan 31st 2017

When Informants Are No Longer Useful, the FBI Can Help Deport Them
Jan 31st 2017

How the FBI Conceals Its Payments to Confidential Sources
Jan 31st 2017

Annotation Set:
How the FBI Recruits and Handles its Army of Informants

Original Documents:
Counterterrorism Policy Guide
Excerpts from a guide for agents working on counterterrorism cases, which functions as a supplement to the FBI's main rulebook, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. Classified secret. Not previously released. Dates to April 2015.

Undercover FBI Agents Swarm the Internet Seeking Contact With Terrorists
Jan 31st 2017

Based on a Vague Tip, the Feds Can Surveil Anyone
Jan 31st 2017

The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supermacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement
Jan 31st 2017

Annotation Set:
Disruptions: How the FBI Handles People Without Bringing Them To Court
Jan 31st 2017

Original Document:

Confidential Human Source Assessing Aid
A document bearing the seal of the FBI’s Anchorage field office that gives tips for agents cultivating informants. It is classified secret, and dates from 2011.

DIOG Profiling Rules 2016
A 2016 update to the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide's policy on profiling by race, gender, and other factors.

Guidance on Guardian Assessments 2013
A 2013 unclassified communique from the FBI’s counterterrorism division explaining the database checks and other steps to be taken as part of low-level investigations.

National Security Letters Redacted
An unclassified internal FBI document explaining the rules for national security letters, orders that the bureau uses to obtain certain information without a warrant. The document is undated but contains references to another document from November 2015.

Editor-in-Chief: Betsy Reed. Series Editor: Ryan Tate. Associate Editor: Andrea Jones. Reporters: Trevor Aaronson, Cora Currier, Jenna McLaughlin, Alice Speri. Research: Alleen Brown, Talya Cooper, Danielle Mackey, Eseosa Olumhense, Miriam Pensack, John Thomason. Art Direction: Stephane Elbaz, Philipp Hubert, Nick Simmons. Additional Photo Editing: Soohee Cho, Shaun Lucas, Chelsea Matiash. Development: Tom Conroy, Andy Gillette, Carl Licata, Cacie Prins, Raby Yuson.

Subject Headings

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