The Justice Department was dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on Friday on a new set of rules designed to help FBI agents zero in on potential national security threats within the U.S., allowing them to gather information in public places — and even conduct interviews — without identifying themselves.

Los Angeles Times:

The officials said the new rules would also make it easier for the FBI to collect intelligence on the activities of foreign governments in the United States.

In assessing possible terrorist threats, agents now are limited to conducting interviews and gathering data through public sources, such as the Internet. The changes would allow them to conduct physical surveillance in a public location, recruit and deploy informants, and conduct interviews without identifying themselves.

The officials said those methods are already permitted in criminal cases. They said agents would be unable to use methods such as physical searches or wiretaps, which are limited by statute or require court approval.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates, who were briefed on the rules Friday by Justice Department officials, said they feared that agents would use such factors as ethnicity or religion as the basis for a threat assessment.

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