(CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday said it has asked FBI field offices in 29 states and Washington, D.C., to turn over records the FBI collected on race and ethnicity in various communities. The agency fears the FBI’s data gathering and mapping practices will invite racial profiling by law enforcement.
The ACLU says the FBI collected information about and created maps of so-called “ethnic-oriented” businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with ethnic populations.
“The FBI’s mapping of local communities and businesses based on race and ethnicity, as well as its ability to target communities for investigation based on supposed racial and ethnic behaviors, raises serious civil liberties concerns,” said Michael German, ACLU’s policy counsel and a former FBI agent.
“Creating a profile of a neighborhood for criminal law enforcement or domestic intelligence purposes based on the ethnic makeup of the people who live there or the types of businesses they run is unfair, un-American and will certainly not help stop crime.”
The ACLU says the FBI released a “heavily redacted” copy of its Domestic Intelligence and Operations guide in 2009, and that a less-censored version was made public in January in response to a lawsuit filed by a Muslim-rights group.
In the document, the FBI spells out its power to collect, use and map racial and ethnic data to help in its “domain awareness” and “intelligence analysis” activities.
“The public deserves to know about a race-based domestic intelligence program with such troubling implications for civil rights and civil liberties,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “We hope that the coordinated efforts of ACLU affiliates across the nation will finally bring this important information to light so that the American people can know the extent of the FBI’s racial data gathering and mapping practices and whether the agency is abusing its authority.”
FOIA requests were filed Tuesday by FBI field offices in Alabama, Arkansas, California (Northern, Southern and San Diego), Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.
To see a sample FOIA request, from the ACLU in Nevada, click here.