Offices of the American Civil Liberties Union in 29 states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia, filed Freedom of Information Act requests on July 27 to have access to records compiled by the FBI in accordance with its Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide issued to agents. The ACLU says the collection of race and ethnicity data such as “ethnic-oriented” businesses, cultural traditions, lifestyle characteristics and behaviors of concentrated ethnic populations “invites unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement.”

“The FOI requests is designed to shed some light on a program that is very little understood at the moment and that raises very troubling questions about racial, ethnic, and religious profiling,” David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland told the AFRO. “This deserves full public airing and scrutiny.”

Rocah notes that since the terrorists attacks on 9/11 there has been a change in culture in regards to racial profiling, noting that extremists on the “right” use the attacks to justify illegal law enforcement practices and overt discrimination in protesting or banning where mosques or Muslim community centers can be built.

“It’s impossible to not see links between that and official government policies that seem to encourage law enforcement agencies to judge and evaluate and collect data about communities as a whole. Which I think is really profoundly dangerous,” Rocah said. Generalizations rather than specific criminal suspicion are the problem, he added.

Muslim Advocates, a non-profit entity of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, fears that the information collected by the FBI without any suspicion of wrong doing, can and will be used to discriminate against American citizens in ethnic communities. Such practices are ineffective and breed fear and mistrust said Farhana Khera, executive director of the organization in a statement.

The revised DIOG has been in effect for more than a year and a half but information regarding how the data collected will be used has not been released to the public.

In the unclassified released portion of the DIOG, the FBI instructs its agents that all investigative activity should be conducted for authorized purposes only, such as national security, criminal or foreign intelligence. The purpose of the investigation cannot be or appear to be arbitrary or contrived, it continues, and should be “well-founded” and “well-documented” in compliance with constitutional rights and should not be based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin or religion.

The FBI has 30 days to respond to the request. “They never do,” said Rocah. “We’ll see if we have to file a lawsuit to compel a timely response.”

Melissa Jones

Special to the AFRO