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Privacy and Intelligence Information

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1981
This paper reviews major issues involved in the development of policy governing police intelligence information management and introduces two operational policy models.

The need for specific legislation on the collection and use of intelligence information is a result of the Watergate scandal and other publicized examples of abusive information-gathering practices by Federal intelligence agencies. In addition, publicity surrounding covert police intelligence and surveillance activities against dissident groups has heightened public awareness of the potential threat to individual privacy. The main policy issues that must be addressed regarding intelligence information management include the types of information that may be collected and the circumstances that permit collection of information, security of sensitive information, and access to it. Such issues as ensuring relevancy and validity of retained information and the means of enforcing adherence to the policy also should be considered. The policy guidelines issued by LEAA and amended by the Office of Justice Assistance, Research and Statistics (OJARS) ensure that all criminal intelligence systems supported under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act are operated in conformance with the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals. The guidelines apply to both discretionary grants by OJARS and to formula grants to the States which are subgranted to State and local governments. While the guidelines are not comprehensive, they set limits on the collection and dissemination of intelligence information by covered law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the Seattle City Ordinance of 1980 is the first legislative attempt to deal comprehensively with all aspects of police intelligence operations. It provides protections of individual privacy in areas where patterns of abuse historically have occurred. This includes constitutionally protected political, religious, and social activities and private sexual activities. Special attention is given to police techniques that have been overly intrusive, such as the use of infiltrators. No references are cited.

Date Published: March 1, 1981