By Omar Sacirbey and Alfredo Garcia
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS) Muslim American groups and the American Civil Liberties Union are demanding the FBI turn over records relating to agency guidelines they say permit the FBI to collect and use racial and ethnic data.
The groups allege that the Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide, an FBI policy manual published in 2008, gives FBI agents the authority to map and investigate communities based on ethnic behaviors and lifestyles, cultural traditions, and "ethnic-oriented" businesses, even when there is no evidence of criminal activity.
While the guidelines don't mention Muslims specifically, opponents say they are used almost exclusively against Islamic followers. Critics say such policies are not only unconstitutional, but ineffective, and often counter-productive.
"It drives a wedge between the police and the communities they are sworn to serve," said Michael German, an ACLU lawyer and former FBI agent. "The FBI should be focusing its efforts on people it has a factual basis for suspecting of wrongdoing, not targeting communities with race-based investigations."
Rather than profiling, the FBI would be better off establishing cooperative and open relationships with Muslims, since they are in the best position to detect radicals, critics say.
Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, agreed.
"Law enforcement has an important job to protect us and should do so by focusing on legitimate leads and credible intelligence of actual criminal activity and threats," said Khera.
On Wednesday (July 28), FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee the current guidelines are "effective," adding that membership in a particular religious or ethnic group was not "in and of itself" enough to justify FBI surveillance.
"There are segments in the Muslim community who do not necessarily want the relationship (with the FBI) to work out, but ever since Sept. 12, 2001, we've reached out to the Muslim community, and if you talk to leaders in that community, you will find that relationships are very good," Mueller said.
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