ACLU Of Colorado Seeks Records About FBI Collection Of Racial And Ethnic Data

Affiliate: ACLU of Colorado
July 27, 2010 12:00 am

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FBI’s Power To Track And Map “Behaviors” And “Lifestyle Characteristics” Of American Communities Raises Alarm

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DENVER – Invoking the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado today asked the FBI to turn over records related to the agency’s little-known authority to collect information about race and ethnicity and map so-called “ethnic-oriented” businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with concentrated ethnic populations.

The FBI granted itself this new authority in its 2008 Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide (DIOG). The FBI released the DIOG in heavily redacted form in September 2009, but a less-censored version was not made public until January of this year, in response to a lawsuit filed by Muslim Advocates.

“There has been virtually no public discussion of the FBI’s newly-claimed authority to collect and use information about race and ethnicity to focus on particular communities,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “With today’s FOIA request, ACLU affiliates around the country will uncover more information about a disturbing and heretofore unprecedented race-based law enforcement tactic.”

While some racial and ethnic data collection by some agencies might be helpful in lessening discrimination, the FBI’s attempt to collect and map demographic data using race-based criteria for targeting purposes invites unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement, says the ACLU.

“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 policy counsel and 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.”

This is not the first time the ACLU of Colorado has submitted FOIA requests to the FBI. “Responses to a series of FOIA requests to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force [JTTF] showed that all too often, the FBI regarded peaceful protests as potential ‘terrorism,'” Silverstein said.

ACLU affiliate offices across the nation today filed coordinated Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover records about the FBI’s collection and use of racial and ethnicity data from their local FBI field offices. The requests were filed by the ACLU affiliates 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.

Read the ACLU of Colorado’s FOIA request (PDF) here:

The DIOG provisions in question are available online at:

The entire DIOG is at:

Read about the ACLU of Colorado’s 2004 lawsuit against the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force at:

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