ACLU Calls on Congress to Investigate FBI’s Reported Racial and Ethnic Profiling Plan

July 8, 2008 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Mukasey must explain how draft guidelines do not conflict with President Bush’s rejection of racial profiling

Contact: (202) 675-2312 or

Washington, DC – In light of tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the U.S. Department of Justice, the ACLU urges Congress to investigate the FBI’s reported racial and ethnic profiling plan. Although the guidelines do not require congressional approval, Congress has the authority to stop the Justice Department from finalizing guidelines that will open the door to racial and ethnic profiling of American citizens and legal residents during national security investigations. The Associated Press reported last week that among the factors that could make someone the subject of an investigation are travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity; access to weapons or military training; and a person’s racial or ethnic background.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said, “We urge Congress to require Attorney General Mukasey to disclose details about the draft FBI guidelines when he testifies this week. Are the Department of Justice and the FBI planning to open investigations of American citizens and legal residents based on their racial or ethnic background without any evidence of wrongdoing? If so, how then do they plan to earn the trust of those same racial and ethnic communities in intelligence gathering efforts?

“In 2001, former Attorney General John Ashcroft called the practice of racial profiling an ‘unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under our Constitution.’ President Bush condemned profiling individuals based purely on their race or ethnicity, calling it ‘wrong in America.’ These proposed changes to the attorney general guidelines do not seem to live up to and honor the commitments against racial and ethnic profiling previously pledged by this administration.

“We cannot let the Department of Justice selectively apply the presumption of innocence. Treating all Arabs and Muslims as suspects is not just illegal, it is also an ineffective and counterproductive way to conduct terrorism investigations.

“These changes to the attorney general guidelines seem suspiciously like FBI Director J Edgar Hoover’s domestic spying program known as COINTELPRO. Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s and before it was shutdown in 1971, the program wasted law enforcement resources targeting people like the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like Hoover’s racial profiling program, the draft guidelines seem more like a baseless fishing expedition than smart law enforcement.”

Law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels must be able to work in partnership with local communities. These guidelines could hinder the ability of the FBI and other federal agencies to work in cooperation with the Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities.

The ACLU also renews its call for Attorney General Mukasey to appoint an independent special prosecutor to fully examine any possible criminal wrongdoing or obstruction of justice that occurred in the authorization and use of torture against detainees held by the United States. This is the first time the attorney general has gone before Congress since the release of the Department of Justice Inspector General report on FBI involvement in interrogations, which revealed that there was knowledge of the use of torture and abuse at the highest levels of government. Congress should continue to press the Department of Justice for an unbiased and transparent process to get to the bottom of the illegal use of torture.

The ACLU letter to Judiciary Leadership urging inquiry into the use of racial profiling by the FBI can be seen at:

To see the USA Today’s article on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that quotes the ACLU, go to:

# # #

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release