As part of our big, new redesign of the Alliance for Justice website, the Justice Watch blog has moved. To be sure you're getting all the latest news about the fight for a fairer America, visit us at www.afj.org/blog

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Racial Profiling By Any Other Name

It appears that the Justice Department, under the stewardship of Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is finally graduating from its dependence on political considerations in driving its criminal investigations and will now focus its attention on a suspect’s race, religion, or ethnicity. The Associated Press is reporting that “[t]he Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.”

While we are happy to learn that the DOJ will no longer focus its efforts on digging up dirt on, let’s say, a popular Democratic governor in a strategic southern state, we’re not quite sure that they got our message. Generally speaking, its considered best to focus on, you know, evidence, rather than someone’s personal or political history. Maybe that’s just us…

According to the article, the “changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect.” Sounds eerily similar to pulling over a black guy driving in a white neighborhood, although, we’re pretty sure that whole “racial profiling” thing is unconstitutional.

Of course, the Justice Department is careful to make sure that all of this race-chasing doesn’t go too far. FBI agents wouldn’t just consider a suspect’s ethnicity – they will also take into account things like, “travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity.” So, all you Muslim-Americans who emigrated from the Middle East should be fine – unless you travel back to see your family.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Mukasey was brought into the Justice Department in order to clean up the mess that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had made. Many had hoped he would bring back a sense of respect for the rule of law. Of course, stories like this make us question what rules of law he’s considering. Heck, even former Bush AG John Ashcroft referred to racial profiling as an “unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under our Constitution.” And President Bush himself denounced the practice, when one of his own Secret Service agents, who happened to be Arab-American, was not allowed to board an airplane.

But not to worry, FBI agents will “not be allowed to eavesdrop on phone calls or dig deeply into personal data — such as the content of phone or e-mail records or bank statements — until a full investigation [is] opened.” We feel much better.

No comments: