The FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) – the agency’s main governing manual – states that agents may consider race, ethnicity, or nationality when deciding to investigate an individual so long as these factors are of relevance and correspond with other reasons for suspicion. This policy of racial profiling was updated as recently as March 3, 2016 – sixteen months after the Obama administration’s policy reform that ostensibly prohibited the use of racial profiling in federal law enforcement was unveiled.
The guidelines put into place by then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s antiprofiling initiative had loopholes to allow for cultivation of sources based on ethnicity when investigating a terrorist organization. The mapping of communities by ethnic demographics gives the FBI vast power. The FBI’s propensity for profiling, combined with the promises of President Donald Trump to build a wall along the southern border, and his determination to ban Muslims from some countries from entering the United States, are a potent and potentially toxic constitutional cocktail.
In December 2014, Holder’s policy reforms were broadly covered by national media including the Washington Post and CBS News. These news organizations for the most part reported that the reforms were intended to strengthen civil rights protections following the public outcry over the August 9, 2014 shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo. But Cora Currier reports in the Intercept that the FBI pushed back against the reforms and in some ways the profiling has grown, creating the potential for increased profiling on the basis national origin or religion, and community mapping. Currier quotes ACLU policy counsel Chris Rickerd: “[N]o law enforcement agency should engage in profiling based on protected characteristics” without a specific, reliable suspect description.
Source: Cora Currier, “Despite Anti-Profiling Rules, the FBI Uses Race and Religion When Deciding Who to Target,” Intercept, January 31, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/01/31/despite-anti-profiling-rules-the-fbi-uses-race-and-religion-when-deciding-who-to-target/.
Student Researcher: Spenser Rey (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)