Juan Cole on New FBI Racial Profiling

Juan Cole has a good Salon piece on the FBI’s proposed guidelines that could well lead to racial profiling:

The U.S. Justice Department is considering a change in the grounds on which the FBI can investigate citizens and legal residents of the United States. Till now, DOJ guidelines have required the FBI to have some evidence of wrongdoing before it opens an investigation. The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask “open-ended questions” concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person’s travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.

There are many problems with this, including that it is a violation of the law for police agencies to use racial identifiers to screen Americans:

In contrast, using race and ethnicity as the — or even a — primary factor in deciding whom to stop and search, despite being widespread among police forces, is illegal. Just this spring, the Maryland State Police settled out of court with the ACLU and an African-American man after having been sued for the practice of stopping black and Latino men and searching them for drugs. New Jersey police also got into trouble over stopping people on the grounds of race.

It seems like every day there are attempts to make this country more like a police state, one in which security concerns as defined by those at the top (almost all white men) trump our civil rights and civil liberties as American citizens. And the white racial frame in their heads makes them comfortable in focusing on Americans of color.

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