General Principles

Preliminary inquiries and investigations governed by these Guidelines are conducted for the purpose of preventing, detecting, or prosecuting violations of federal law. The FBI shall fully utilize the methods authorized by these Guidelines to maximize the realization of these objectives.

The conduct of preliminary inquiries and investigations may present choices between the use of investigative methods which are more or less intrusive, considering such factors as the effect on the privacy of individuals and potential damage to reputation. Inquiries and investigations shall be conducted with as little intrusion as the needs of the situation permit. It is recognized, however, that the choice of techniques is a matter of judgment. The FBI shall not hesitate to use any lawful techniques consistent with these Guidelines, even if intrusive, where the intrusiveness is warranted in light of the seriousness of a crime or the strength of the information indicating its commission or potential future commission. This point is to be particularly observed in the investigation of terrorist crimes and in the investigation of enterprises that engage in terrorism.

All preliminary inquiries shall be conducted pursuant to the General Crimes Guidelines (i.e., Part II of these Guidelines). There is no separate provision for preliminary inquiries under the Criminal Intelligence Guidelines (i.e., Part III of these Guidelines) because preliminary inquiries under Part II may be carried out not only to determine whether the grounds exist to commence a general crimes investigation under Part II, but alternatively or in addition to determine whether the grounds exist to commence a racketeering enterprise investigation or terrorism enterprise investigation under Part III. A preliminary inquiry shall be promptly terminated when it becomes apparent that a full investigation is not warranted. If, on the basis of information discovered in the course of a preliminary inquiry, an investigation is warranted, it may be conducted as a general crimes investigation, or a criminal intelligence investigation, or both. All such investigations, however, shall be based on a reasonable factual predicate and shall have a valid law enforcement purpose.

In its efforts to anticipate or prevent crime, the FBI must at times initiate investigations in advance of criminal conduct. It is important that such investigations not be based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment or on the lawful exercise of any other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. When, however, statements advocate criminal activity or indicate an apparent intent to engage in crime, particularly crimes of violence, an investigation under these Guidelines may be warranted unless it is apparent, from the circumstances or the context in which the statements are made, that there is no prospect of harm.

General crimes investigations and criminal intelligence investigations shall be terminated when all logical leads have been exhausted and no legitimate law enforcement interest justifies their continuance.

Nothing in these Guidelines prohibits the FBI from ascertaining the general scope and nature of criminal activity in a particular location or sector of the economy, or from collecting and maintaining publicly available information consistent with the Privacy Act.