Last week, Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reported on a FBI document released through an ACLU document request that the agency uses to train new recruits on best practices for “successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the M.E. [Middle East].” As Ackerman concludes, the training document “presents much information that has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with constitutionally-protected religious practice and social behavior.”
The document was released to the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Law Caucus as part of a nationwide ACLU initiative to uncover information about a new FBI “racial mapping” program. The program, which is authorized by a 2008 FBI manual, raises serious concerns about the FBI unfairly and unlawfully targeting American communities for investigation and surveillance based on race and ethnicity. We are concerned because biased FBI training can only lead to biased enforcement. And biased policing based on misinformation about race and religion violates American values and makes us less safe by drawing the focus away from credible threats.
To learn more, local ACLU affiliates filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with FBI field offices in 33 states and Washington, D.C. for information about how FBI agents around the county have been collecting and mapping racial and ethnic demographic information, the locations of ethnic-oriented businesses and facilities, and even track certain racial and ethnic “behaviors.” The FBI training document is among the hundreds of pages of documents that are beginning to be revealed through the information requests.
Unfortunately, rather than trim the overbroad authorities that allow the FBI to target intelligence collection efforts on nothing more than race, ethnicity and national origin, the FBI is trying to expand them. The FBI should refrain from monitoring people unless there is reasonable suspicion that they have committed a criminal act or are taking preparatory actions to do so.