The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is charging that field offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are engaged in "unconstitutional and widespread" ethnic and racial profiling, stereotyping certain types of crimes to entire minority communities.
As revealed in documents the ACLU has obtained so far through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), targeted communities include:
- Arab Americans in Michigan;
- African-Americans in Georgia;
- Chinese and Russian-Americans in California;
- Broad swaths of Latino-American communities in multiple states.
The FBI has also engaged in religious profiling of Muslim American communities in Michigan. "Based on false stereotypes ascribing criminal propensity to minority communities, the FBI is collecting demographic data to map where people from these communities live," the ACLU said.
The group added, "Nationwide, the FBI is gathering reports on innocent Americans' so-called "suspicious activity" and sharing it with unknown numbers of federal, state and local government agencies."
In response, the ACLU said its "Mapping the FBI" initiative seeks to expose misconduct, abuse of authority, and unconstitutional profiling and other violations of Americans' rights and liberties across the country.
"As our nation's predominant law enforcement agency, the FBI should be tracking true threats, not wasting resources and inappropriately mapping American communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Law enforcement programs based on evidence and facts are more effective than a system based on racial stereotypes or mass suspicion," the ACLU said.
It explained that, in the decade since 9/11, "long-standing safeguards on the FBI's investigative and intelligence collection activities have been erased, allowing it to engage in racial and profiling and to initiate intrusive investigations with little or no suspicion of wrongdoing. Taken together, the changes in the FBI's authority have vastly expanding its ability to engage in unlawful and abusive surveillance of innocent Americans."
The ACLU said it is working in the courts, in Congress and in communities to "expose the ways in which the FBI's expanded authority threatens civil rights and civil liberties."
The group's activities include:
Eye on the FBI: Consolidating information obtained through ACLU records requests, lawsuits and reports, the ACLU's "Eye on the FBI" alerts provide regular and detailed analysis of FBI activities that pose a threat to civil liberties. These activities include the use of factually incorrect and bigoted biased counterterrorism materials and FBI racial profiling.
Racial and Ethnic Mapping : 34 ACLU affiliates have filed public records requests to uncover how the FBI is using racial and ethnic demographic information and data about "ethnic-oriented" business and facilities to "map" and investigate local communities. ACLU affiliates in Michigan, New Jersey and Northern California are in federal court to enforce their records requests and secure information for the public.
eGuardian : The ACLU has sued the FBI and the Justice Department to learn more about an FBI monitoring and information-sharing program known as "eGuardian," through which the bureau collects so-called "Suspicious Activities Reports" (SARs) from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide.