The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee on Tuesday asked that the Federal Bureau of Investigation turn over records related to the agency’s collection and use of race and ethnicity data in local communities.
The ACLU contends the documents reveal the “FBI’s attempt to collect and map demographic data using race-based criteria for targeting purposes invites unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement.”
The public information inquiry came ACLU offices across the nation filed similar requests to the FBI in unison.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said a criminal justice system that is unfair to racial and ethnic minorities should not be tolerated.
“Racial profiling –– using race, religion and ethnicity instead of suspicious behavior to prompt law enforcement or domestic intelligence investigations –– is indicative of the injustice that unfortunately runs through our criminal justice system, too often leading to disparate treatment of African-American, Middle Eastern and Latino men and women,” Weinberg said in a written statement.
At is issue is the FBI’s authority to collect information about and map “ethnic-oriented” businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with concentrated ethnic populations. The approach is outlined in the 2008 FBI’s Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide.
“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 profile of a neighborhood for criminal law enforcement or domestic intelligence purposes 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,” he said.