Documents Show FBI Targeted Communities Based On Race, Ethnicity

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October 20, 2011 1:11 p.m.
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just released a massive trove of FBI documents indicating that anti-Muslim training materials have spread pretty far and wide within the bureau over the past several years and that analysts have been targeting areas based on racial and ethnic demographics.

It’s all part of the ACLU’s new “Mapping the FBI” initiative, which “aims to expose misconduct and abuse of authority by the bureau.” They say the documents show that the FBI “has been targeting American communities for investigation based on race, ethnicity, national origin and religion” and that analysts “across the country are associating criminal behaviors with certain racial and ethnic groups and then using U.S. census data and other demographic information to map where those communities are located to investigate them.”The FBI said in a statement that they join the ACLU in opposing racial or ethnic discrimination and said the Attorney General Guidelines and the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) “clearly prohibit the predication of investigative activity solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights, including freedom of religion, or on race or ethnicity.” Civil rights advocates want those guidelines updated, but the FBI defended taking demographics into account.

“Often, though, certain terrorist and criminal groups are comprised of persons primarily from a particular ethnic or geographic community, which must be taken into account when trying to determine if there are threats to the United States,” the FBI said in a statement.

One of the documents obtained by the ACLU through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is a 2003 FBI memorandum from San Francisco on an FBI trainer whose material included what the ACLU describes as:

• Racist and derogatory assertions about Arabs and Islam: “the Arab mind is a Cluster Thinker, while the Western mind tends to be a linear thinker”, and “although Islam was not able to change the cluster Arab mind thinking into a linear one . . . it alleviated some of the weakness that inflicted the Arab mind in general”;

• Faulty non-sequiturs: “Historically, the mainstream Muslims have always been the silent weak majority within the Islamic faith”;

• Hyperbole: “a mainstream Muslim may be subverted to terroristic causes, but an extremist/terrorist Muslim will never be brought back to the mainstream side of the Islamic faith, NEVER”; and

• Outright falsehoods: “Wahabis control the Koran and it’s [sic] issuance and distribution worldwide. No Koran is distributed without the approval of the Saudi Arabian government’s religious institutions.”

The ACLU also writes that the FBI collaborated with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center on a 2008 counterterrorism textbook called “Terrorism & Political Islam: Origins, Ideologies, and Methods” that they took issue with.

“Although more carefully written and professionally produced than other FBI training materials, the textbook contains essays that reinforce many of the same problematic themes: that Muslims and Arabs are inherently ‘different’ from other Americans and should be treated with suspicion; that Islam is inherently violent; and that religious practices and political activism by Muslims and Arabs are signs of increasing dangerousness,” said the ACLU.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (who’s reportedly “firmly committed” to eliminating anti-Muslim training), ACLU officials asked him to take several steps to bring an end to the practices.

“We urge you to curb these abuses by: first, amending the AGG to prohibit the FBI from undertaking ‘Preliminary Investigations’ unless they are supported by articulable facts and properly limited in time and scope, and to eliminate the FBI’s authority to conduct suspicion-less ‘Assessment’ investigations; second, rescinding the exemption in the Guidance on Race that permits the FBI’s use of racial and ethnic profiling in national security and border integrity investigations; and third, amending the Guidance on Race to prohibit profiling based on religion and national origin,” they wrote.

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