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FBI orders new agents to see Martin Luther King memorial

Tourists visit the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington August 28, 2011. REUTERS/Benjamin Myers
Tourists visit the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington August 28, 2011. REUTERS/Benjamin Myers

By David Ingram

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new FBI chief on Monday ordered all new agents and analysts to visit the national memorial to late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as a reminder not to repeat the abuses of the U.S. investigative bureau's past.

In a similar gesture in 2000, the FBI added a stop at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to its required training for new agents. Both sites, along with FBI headquarters, are in Washington.

FBI Director James Comey said in a speech to FBI employees that he wanted to add a similar reminder from the bureau's own history.

"It will serve as a different kind of lesson - one more personal to the bureau - of the dangers of becoming untethered to oversight and accountability," Comey said.

The FBI kept files on King as a potential security threat in the 1950s and 1960s - even wiretapping his phones - because of what the bureau said were suspected ties to communism. Comey called the King investigation an example of "abuse and overreach" in the FBI's history.

A memorial to King, with a 30-foot statue and quotations inscribed in stone, opened on the National Mall in 2011. The civil rights leader, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

Sworn in last month, Comey, 52, made headlines in 2004 for demanding changes to a domestic spying program he considered an infringement of civil liberties. At the time, he was the No. 2 official in President George W. Bush's Justice Department.

President Barack Obama named Comey to succeed Robert Mueller, whose 12 years as FBI director made him the second longest-serving director after J. Edgar Hoover.

(Editing by Howard Goller and Doina Chiacu)

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