The FBI Has an Official Policy of Racial Profiling – and Other Secret, Unchecked Powers

New information revealed by The Intercept shows that the FBI ‘s policies since 9/11 undermine civil liberties through racial and religious profiling – among other tactics.

The Intercept recently obtained exclusive access to a cache of documents detailing the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11 with policies and guidelines that grossly undermine civil liberties.

Perhaps the most jarring revelation from the outlet’s 11-part series is that despite anti-profiling rules, the FBI still targets based on religion and race.

While the bureau updated its policy on racial profiling in March 2013, investigation into its main governing manual, known as the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) by The Intercept, clearly indicates that factors like race, nationality and ethnicity can be used to investigate someone.

While federal law enforcement has never allowed for such profiling, under the Bush administration, new rules were established to make exceptions for national security and border investigations.

Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told The Intercept that it’s so worrying given “the vast reams of public information that are now available about everybody (including, for example, social media posts and travel records obtained through license plate readers) to create detailed portraits of each of us and of entire communities.”

“Absent a specific, reliable suspect description, no law enforcement agency should engage in profiling based on protected characteristics because such profiling is ineffective and offensive,” Chris Rickerd, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), added. “We call on CBP and TSA to make clear that discriminatory enforcement plays no role in their operations, as well as to implement public data collection and training reforms to be vigilant against profiling.”

In addition, undercover agents and informants are able to infiltrate political and religious organizations, as well as schools, clubs and businesses — especially in cases when a group is deemed “illegitimate” or if an informant spies on the group of his or her own accord.

“Going into political gatherings, houses of worship — these are First Amendment-protected activities,” Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, told The Intercept. “We believed the DIOG to be a broadening of their authority to go into those spaces.”

The Intercept’s investigation also found there has been a recent prioritization of recruiting informants that have precarious immigration status. Once these informants are no longer useful to the FBI, the bureau can help them be deported.

This practice has been used to recruit Muslim informants in particular, with the line from the FBI being, ‘Would you rather work for us or be deported?’

The FBI’s Confidential Human Source Policy Guide — classified secret but obtained by The Intercept — has an entire chapter devoted to the importance of leveraging a relatively vulnerable population of immigrants to recruit informants.

It also explained that once the informants are no longer of value to the bureau, agents are required to help ICE in locating them.

The earliest documented case of such an incident occurred in November 2005 when Yassine Ouassif, crossing from Canada into New York, was stripped of his greencard, shipped to San Francisco, and was given an ultimatum by the FBI: become an informant or lose the visa.

“If you’re recruiting informants for intelligence purposes, you’re casting a wide net,” said Diala Shamas, a lecturer at Stanford Law School who has previously represented people targeted for informant recruitment when she worked at the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project, known as CLEAR.

“You’re not identifying people based on their nexus to potential terrorist activity. You’re identifying people based on their nexus to the community you’re surveilling. So you’re going to turn to the most common point of vulnerability, which is immigration status, because the target community is largely an immigrant one.”

A number of other secret powers of the FBI were unearthed by The Intercept, affirming that, as the outlet put it, it has transformed “itself from a criminal law enforcement organization into an intelligence-gathering operation.”


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