Preliminary Inquiries

(1) On some occasions the FBI may receive information or an allegation not warranting a full investigation - because there is not yet a "reasonable indication" of criminal activities - but whose responsible handling requires some further scrutiny beyond the prompt and extremely limited checking out of initial leads. In such circumstances, though the factual predicate for an investigation has not been met, the FBI may initiate an "inquiry" in response to the allegation or information indicating the possibility of criminal activity.

This authority to conduct inquiries short of a full investigation allows the government to respond in a measured way to ambiguous or incomplete information, with as little intrusion as the needs of the situation permit. This is especially important in such areas as white-collar crime where no complainant is involved or when an allegation or information is received from a source of unknown reliability. Such inquiries are subject to the limitations on duration under paragraph (3) below and are carried out to obtain the information necessary to make an informed judgment as to whether a full investigation is warranted.

A preliminary inquiry is not a required step when facts or circumstances reasonably indicating criminal activity are already available; in such cases, a full investigation can be immediately opened.

(2) The FBI supervisor authorizing an inquiry shall assure that the allegation or other information which warranted the inquiry has been recorded in writing. In sensitive criminal matters, the United States Attorney or an appropriate Department of Justice official shall be notified of the basis for an inquiry as soon as practicable after the opening of the inquiry, and the fact of notification shall be recorded in writing.

(3) Inquiries shall be completed within 180 days after initiation of the first investigative step. The date of the first investigative step is not necessarily the same date on which the first incoming information or allegation was received. An extension of time in an inquiry for succeeding 90-day periods may be granted. A SAC may grant up to two extensions based on a statement of the reasons why further investigative steps are warranted when there is no "reasonable indication" of criminal activity. All extensions following the second extension may only be granted by FBI Headquarters upon receipt of a written request and such a statement of reasons.

(4) The choice of investigative techniques in an inquiry is a matter of judgment, which should take account of: (i) the objectives of the inquiry and available investigative resources, (ii) the intrusiveness of a technique, considering such factors as the effect on the privacy of individuals and potential damage to reputation, (iii) the seriousness of the possible crime, and (iv) the strength of the information indicating its existence or future commission. Where the conduct of an inquiry presents a choice between the use of more or less intrusive methods, the FBI should consider whether the information could be obtained in a timely and effective way by the less intrusive means. The FBI should not hesitate to use any lawful techniques consistent with these Guidelines in an inquiry, even if intrusive, where the intrusiveness is warranted in light of the seriousness of the possible crime or the strength of the information indicating its existence or future commission. This point is to be particularly observed in inquiries relating to possible terrorist activities.

(5) All lawful investigative techniques may be used in an inquiry except:

(a) Mail openings; and

(b) Nonconsensual electronic surveillance or any other investigative technique covered by chapter 119 of title 18, United States Code (18 U.S.C. 2510-2522).

(6) The following investigative techniques may be used in an inquiry without any prior authorization from a supervisory agent:

(a) Examination of FBI indices and files;

(b) Examination of records available to the public and other public sources of information;

(c) Examination of available federal, state, and local government records;

(d) Interview of the complainant, previously established informants, and other sources of information;

(e) Interview of the potential subject;

(f) Interview of persons who should readily be able to corroborate or deny the truth of the allegation, except this does not include pretext interviews or interviews of a potential subject's employer or coworkers unless the interviewee was the complainant; and

(g) Physical or photographic surveillance of any person.

The use of any other lawful investigative technique that is permitted in an inquiry shall meet the requirements and limitations of Part IV and, except in exigent circumstances, requires prior approval by a supervisory agent.

(7) Where a preliminary inquiry fails to disclose sufficient information to justify an investigation, the FBI shall terminate the inquiry and make a record of the closing. In a sensitive criminal matter, the FBI shall notify the United States Attorney of the closing and record the fact of notification in writing. Information on an inquiry which has been closed shall be available on request to a United States Attorney or his or her designee or an appropriate Department of Justice official.

(8) All requirements regarding inquiries shall apply to reopened inquiries. In sensitive criminal matters, the United States Attorney or the appropriate Department of Justice official shall be notified as soon as practicable after the reopening of an inquiry.