LOS ANGELES – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today asked the FBI to turn over records related to the agency's collection and use of race and ethnicity data in Southern California communities.
The request is one of 30 coordinated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by ACLU affiliates in states and the District of Columbia seeking to uncover records from the FBI field offices related to the “mapping” of ethnic communities in the U.S.
FBI guidelines on domestic intelligence, issued in 2008 but released only this year, authorize agents to collect information about and map so-called “ethnic-oriented” businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with concentrated ethnic populations.
"This is a clear example of 'Muslim mapping,'" said Peter Bibring, staff attorney at the ACLU/SC. “Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data- gathering based solely on their religion or ethnicity is profiling, pure and simple. It's disturbing that federal resources may be used on such an unconstitutional and ineffective approach. "
The ACLU of Southern California helped defeat a similar example of religious and racial profiling in 2007, when the Los Angeles Police Department launched a program to “map” the location of local Muslim communities in an effort to pinpoint places where they thought that potential terrorist cells were likely to be located. The program was quickly scrapped after it provoked widespread community outrage and objections from the ACLU/SC and Muslim community and advocacy groups.
The FBI's power to collect, use, and map racial and ethnic data to assist the FBI's “domain awareness” and “intelligence analysis” activities is described in the 2008 FBI Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide (DIOG). The FBI released the DIOG in heavily redacted form in September 2009, but a less-censored version was not made public until January of this year, in response to a lawsuit filed by Muslim Advocates. Although the DIOG has been in effect for more than a year and a half, very little information is available to the public about how the FBI has implemented this authority.
“The FBI's mapping of local communities and businesses based on race and ethnicity, as well as its ability to target communities for investigation based on supposed racial and ethnic behaviors, raises serious civil liberties concerns,” said Michael German, ACLU policy counsel and former FBI agent. “Creating a law enforcement profile of a neighborhood based on the ethnic makeup of the people who live there or the types of businesses they run is unfair, un-American and will certainly not help stop crime.”