The FBI, in seeking to standardize criteria for identifying 'Violent Terrorists' is broadening its lexicon for 'labeling' possible suspects.
Are you a 'Violent Terrorist'? Well, surprise! You might just be! If you're the wrong race or religion, if you read the wrong books, write the wrong words or associate with the wrong people, you could be a target of investigation.
The new road map allows investigators to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities in an effort to assess national security threats. FBI agents could pursue each of those steps without any single fact indicating a person has ties to a terrorist organization. (Carrie Johnson, "Guidelines Expand FBI's Surveillance Powers," The Washington Post, Saturday, October 4, 2008; A03)
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that,
The new guidelines reduce standards for beginning "assessments" (precursors to investigations), conducting surveillance and gathering evidence, meaning the threshold to beginning investigations across the board will be lowered. More troubling still, the guidelines allow a person's race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes may institute racial profiling as a matter of policy. ("ACLU Condemns New FBI Guidelines," Press Release, October 3, 2008)
I think that the ACLU is being more than a little circumspect in their objection. "...may institute racial profiling as a matter of policy" MAY? That's exactly what's happening. If you are brown, wearing a backpack and happen to drop a used tissue on the ground, the FBI has grounds to investigate you for being a terrorist.
What have we become?
- Lois Carneiro