EARLY DEADLINES Preliminary inquiries to determine whether full investigations were called for could be pursued for only 90 days. Agents needing more time had to get approval from headquarters; extensions were granted for 30 days.
EVIDENCE TO GO Information gathered during a preliminary inquiry could be used to investigate a person or group only in connection with a specific crime; it could not be used as a basis for a broader investigation of a suspected terrorism enterprise.
LAUNCHING AN INVESTIGATION An agent with suspicions that a group of people might be contemplating terrorist acts had to get approval from headquarters before opening an investigation of the group. It was a hurdle that could slow or stall the process.
RELIGIOUS SURVEILLANCE FBI leadership, interpreting guidelines strictly, ordered agents to stop at the door when it came to mosques and other houses of worship. The bureau also frowned on casing speakers, speeches and audiences at political rallies.
WEB WATCH Unless it was in connection with a specific investigation, FBI agents could not launch broad Internet or database fishing expeditions to look for suspicious links or information that might attract or implicate potential terrorists.
[EARLY DEADLINES] Field chiefs at 56 offices can now authorize a preliminary inquiry for 180 days and can okay two 90-day extensions. Most important, says an Ashcroft aide, "you don't have to have a crime to initiate a preliminary investigation."
[EVIDENCE TO GO] Intelligence gathered in the course of a preliminary inquiry can now be more readily used to open a full field investigation of a group suspected of terrorist activity. When it comes to information, waste not, want not.
[LAUNCHING AN INVESTIGATION] Commanders at 56 field offices can now approve the launching of investigations of groups. For field agents, this decentralization of the decision-making power in opening cases may be Ashcroft's most important change.
[RELIGIOUS SURVEILLANCE] Agents can enter any public place for the purpose of gathering information about the possibility of criminal activity, as long as they don't inhibit or suppress free speech or compile unnecessary files on First Amendment activities.
[WEB WATCH] Agents can use the Internet and data-mining services to evaluate potential threats and seek out sites and forums in which terrorist-friendly information is openly disseminated. --By David Bjerklie. Reported by Elaine Shannon/Washington