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Racial Profiling on an “Industrial Scale”: FBI Using Census Data to Map and Police Communities By Race

The ACLU uncovers an FBI program that pairs Census data with "crude stereotypes" to map ethnic communities.

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One of the documents we released this week is an FBI memo to the field where they discuss what type of information they want collected during assessments. That document shows this isn’t a minimally invasive investigation. It collects a tremendous amount of material so the FBI can build dossiers against people with no reason to believe that they as individuals were involved in any kind of wrongdoing. It also authorizes what it calls a “disruption strategy,” in which, after all the information is collected and the threat is otherwise resolved, the FBI can continue doing other things like performing interviews, arrests and source-directed operations. Back in the Hoover era, the FBI’s COINTELPRO included a disruption strategy that was later found to be aimed at obstructing First Amendment-protected activity. So we have serious concerns about what this new disruption strategy might be doing and who is overseeing it.

When it comes to that Detroit memo about Muslims and terrorism, how do you respond to people who look at this and think, “This is what the FBI should be doing”?

This is racial and religious profiling on an industrial scale. Rather than just stopping an individual based on race, the FBI is identifying an entire community based on race and subjecting them to more intense scrutiny. There are many problems that exist with racial profiling: first that it’s unlawful, but also that it’s ineffective as a methodology because every dollar and every hour of an agent’s time that is spent investigating innocent people is completely wasted. It is also really a dangerous practice because all law enforcement depends on public support to be successful. If they’re alienating entire communities based on race or religion, that is going to be an entirely counter-productive methodology.

 
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