Center for Constitutional Rights 7/16/08

Recent news reports have revealed that the FBI is planning to release new Department of Justice guidelines, slated for implementation later in the year. These proposed guidelines apparently make racial profiling not only an unwritten practice, but an avowed policy of the FBI. The proposed guidelines would give the domestic intelligence agency authority to investigate American citizens and residents without any evidence of criminal acts, relying instead on a “terrorist profile” that would include race, ethnicity and “travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity” to spark an initial “national security investigation.”

These proposed guidelines would also allow, according to the reports, for FBI agents to ask “open-ended questions” about the activities of Muslim or Arab Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match other criteria considered to be “suspect.” Once this initial investigation stage was completed, a full investigation could be opened – allowing for wiretapping of phone calls or deep investigation of personal data – all guided merely by a “terrorist profile” that openly relies on race, ethnicity, religion and community connections.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is deeply concerned about these proposed guidelines, or any such guidelines that seek to institutionalize racial profiling. There is a long history of the use of racial profiling not only by the FBI, but by police departments and security agencies throughout the United States. From the mass detention of Japanese Americans during World War II in internment camps, to the creation of COINTELPRO, a domestic intelligence, surveillance and infiltration program that targeted, particularly, Black, Latino, Native American and other oppressed communities and communities of color for spying and disruption, to the mass roundups of Arab, Muslim and South Asian men following September 11, 2001, the FBI’s use of racial profiling has devastated communities and damaged lives. On a daily basis, the use of racial profiling by police agencies has taken numerous lives and wreaked havoc on communities of color.

It is critical that no such policies officially permitting racial profiling – a violation of Constitutional rights – be implemented. Furthermore, full investigations into the use of racial profiling at the national, state and local levels should be opened, and those who practice racial profiling, or encourage or order the use of such practices, should be fired and prosecuted.

These latest reports of proposed guidelines fall directly in line with the ongoing behavior of the Bush Administration’s attempted destruction of the Constitution and attacks on civil and individual rights and liberties. It is critical that the next President immediately repudiate the policy and the practice of racial profiling in his first 100 days in office, and ensure that there is no tolerance for racial profiling within the new administration’s Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

Write to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and let him know today that racial profiling – in practice and in policy – is unacceptable.