According to Cogswell, there is usually a "memorandum of understanding" between the FBI and each agency in a JTTF. "That's generally worked out on a case by case level, on the field office level," he said.
Cogswell said he had never heard of such a conflict arising.
Wizner said the ACLU was particularly concerned about JTTFs because in 2002 then-Attorney General John Ashcroft loosened internal guidelines that govern the FBI. The changes expanded the bureau's authority to monitor political and religious groups and the Internet in order to fight terrorism.
When the changes were announced, the ACLU said in a press release that the changes would "trash a central protection against government fishing expeditions."
"They should not be investigating thought, they should be investigating action," Wizner said.
Cogswell stressed that "in order for there to be an investigation, there has to be some predication of illegal activity" and "protected speech" is not illegal activity.
The original form of the guidelines Ashcroft changed was instituted in the 1970s after a congressional investigation uncovered information about the FBI's Cointelpro, a domestic spying program, which targeted Martin Luther King Jr., among others.
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