Over the years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) had been using Census data to “map” out American communities and territories based on racial, religious, ethnic, and national-origin characteristics. Before 2003, racial and ethnic profiling is prohibited unless if it is a national security or border integrity investigation. However, since the attacks of September 11 in 2001, many efforts were done including stricter securities and enforcement programs to prevent terrorism attacks. In 2008, Michael B. Mukasey, the attorney general of F.B.I. issued a manual called the “Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide”. It restricts agents from racial profiling but they are able to use religion or ethnicity as factors for scrutinization as long as it is not the only factor.
Since 2008, agents began low-level investigations called assessments where they are authorized to investigate any individual or group without having any sort of evidence for suspicion. The F.B.I. implement some changes in the policy around 2010; they began the “Domain Management” program, where they would map out the racial and ethnic communities. However, investigations are no longer limited to national security or border integrity investigations. Based on the mapping result, the F.B.I. agents would also address types of crimes that certain groups are likely to commit.
Agents were able to use intrusive techniques such as having physical surveillance, looking into individuals’ law enforcement data base searches, collecting job information or even uncovering their oversea travel history. In response to the investigative method, the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) criticized the F.B.I. of using their authority powers inappropriately. The program itself is not lawful because these agents are actually racial profiling and violating the fundamental principles of American rights. Rather than basing on evidence of any wrongdoings, the mapping method is actually crude stereotyping. (To mention again: that investigations or assessments can be done without any evidence for suspicion.) Due to the significant increase of hate crimes against the Muslims and South Asians since the September 11 attacks, unsurprisingly, these particular groups were also targeted as the potential terrorists and threats.
Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who now works for A.C.L.U. asserted that the mapping documents all showed a common “theme of mass suspicion of an entire group based on racial characteristics or religion.” Instead of finding any potential individual threat based on evidence, agents are “predisposed” and tend to treat everyone from a particular group as suspects. In the article ACLU Says Documents Obtained From FBI Show Unconstitutional Racial Profiling, Mr. German states the following:
“The use of profiling as a tool to address crime and national security threats is not only unconstitutional, it is ineffective and counterproductive,” said Michael German, ACLU senior policy counsel and a former FBI agent. “Targeting entire communities for investigation based on erroneous stereotypes produces flawed intelligence. Experience shows that terrorists and criminals do not fit into neat racial or religious stereotypes – law enforcement programs based on evidence and facts are effective, and a system of bias and mass suspicion is not.”
As stated in the New York Times article F.B.I. Scrutinized for Amassing Data on American Communities, aside from the Muslim groups, other minority groups were also being identified:
“The documents show that in recent years, agents identified Arab-American and Muslim communities in Michigan as a potential terrorist recruitment ground; noted an increase in the African-American population of Georgia when analyzing “Black Separatist” groups; identified Chinese and Russian communities in San Francisco as a place to look for organized crime syndicates; and highlighted Latino communities as potentially harboring the Central American gang MS-13.”
Although F.B.I. states that identifying factors -race, religion, or ethnicity- may help identifying potential threats, however, it seems that this method will only attribute certain types of crimes to groups and create stereotypes. Rather than being effective, the A.C.L.U. called the program “counterproductive, ineffective, and unlawful.” Hina Shamsi, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s National Security Project, criticized the bureau’s loosening power as being “extremely pernicious” because it ascribes and pertain certain crimes to people based on their ethnicity or religion. She also states the following:
“It’s counterproductive because it alienates local communities from their government, and it also sends the message that the government views prejudice as acceptable,” she said.
To protect the Americans’ fundamental rights and freedom, A.C.L.U. is determined and began their new initiative called “Mapping the F.B.I.” to expose any misconduct, abuse of authority, and unconstitutional profiling from the F.B.I. The civil liberty union believe the Domain Management program violated the basic constitutional right. In return, they had sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to address the problem. According to the article ACLU Says Documents Obtained From FBI Show Unconstitutional Racial Profiling, there were also documents which disclose that the F.B.I. view the Arab and Muslim communities in the United States as the “primitive, violent and supporters of terrorism.”
After reading this article, I can’t help but side with the A.C.L.U on this issue. National security is undoubtedly important but the Justice Department loosened way too much power in the F.B.I. authority. (Targeting individual/group without any basis of wrongdoings is wrong to begin with!) The method seem to be a misguided approach and a contradiction to the American fundamental principles. Besides, targeting the entire community is not going to secure everyone’s safety. Rather, it will only alienate the communities. If we look into the articles, only the minority groups are being targeted. This itself is seemingly racist already and only portrays that the government is indeed racist and prejudiced. The program’s has a good starting point as it intends to secure the nation and people but there are many loopholes which makes it very problematic and controversial. Thus, rather than securing everyone’s safety, it is actually dividing, segregating and indeed racial profiling. Especially with the September 11 attacks, the Muslim and South Asian particular groups will continuously be stereotyped and targeted. Now, it seems more to me that the government and the F.B.I. are actually scapegoating the Muslim and South Asian communities in the United States for the previous terrorism attacks.
For more information, please refer to the following links:
- F.B.I. Scrutinized for Amassing Data on American Communities: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/us/aclu-releases-fbi-documents-on-american-communities.html
- ACLU Says Documents Obtained From FBI Show Unconstitutional Racial Profiling: http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/index.php?mod=article&cat=Community&article=4869