American Muslim community is alarmed at the proposed Justice Department policy change that would allow the FBI to investigate Americans without evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims and Arabs.
Under the new guidelines, which are expected to be implemented later this summer, the FBI would be permitted to consider race and ethnicity when opening an investigation, according to an Associated Press report.
Agents would also be allowed to ask open-ended questions about the activities of American Muslims and Arab-Americans, and could initiate an investigation if a person's employment or background is labeled as "suspect" by government analysts looking at public records and other information.
Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons — like evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials said, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.
The policy changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect.
Among the factors that could make someone subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person's race or ethnicity.
American Muslim organizations and civil right groups have expressed deep concern over the proposed policy changes.
American Muslim Voice (AMV) founding Executive Director, Samina Faheem Sundas, while expressing concern over the proposed policy, said that the seven-million strong American Muslim community has seen erosion of its civil rights in the post-9/11 America and profiling of Muslims has now become institutionalized.
“Official profiling of Muslims and Arabs began with the Attorney General Ashcroft’s announcement in November 2001 to target about 5,000 young men of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritage who entered the country in the last two years on non-immigrant visas but who were not suspected of any criminal activity for questioning by the federal government,” she said.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) National Executive Director Kareem Shora urged Americans not tolerate in any way profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin. “We will continue to address this issue until we can confirm that these new guidelines do not violate our constitutional principles of justice, freedom, due process, and equality under the rule of law,” he added.
The Arab American Institute (AAI) President Dr. James Zogby said that millions of Americans who, under the reported new parameters, could become subject to arbitrary and subjective ethnic and religious profiling.
“This will compromise basic civil liberties and constitutional protections, having a negative impact not only on the affected communities, but on the United States' overall effort to combat terrorism.”
The National Legislative Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Corey Saylor, said "Initiating criminal investigations based on racial or religious profiling is both unconstitutional and un-American." He said any new Justice Department guidelines must preserve the presumption of innocence that is the basis of our entire legal system.
“These guidelines seem to be emanating from the DOJ’s criminal division, which has failed to meet with our groups,” said Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). “If implemented as described in media reports, these new guidelines will make suspects out of our communities and strike a blow to more than seven years of constructive engagement with law enforcement officials.”
The FBI will be allowed to begin investigations simply "by assuming that everyone's a suspect, and then you weed out the innocent," said Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Arab, Muslim and other civil rights organizations contacted John Miller, FBI Assistant Director for Public Affairs, to raise alarm and opposition to any form of racial or religious profiling which violate Constitutional principles of equal protection under the law.