The Justice Department is currently considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups”:
The plan “would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.”
But the FBI’s proposal, which has already generated harsh criticism from the ACLU, is both ineffective and inefficient. In fact, immediately after September 11th, in an attempt to preempt another terror attack, the government launched a similar and possibly unconstitutional program, detaining thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants in cities across America. And while the detainees may have “seemed suspicious” to law enforcement authorities, officials failed to file any terrorism charges.
According to a 2003 report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office, the government’s post-9/11 round ups “forced many people with no connection to terrorism to languish in jails” and did not identify a single terrorist:
What breakthroughs have been made in identifying and apprehending terrorists have been the result of traditional police and intelligence work and co-operation and information-sharing with foreign intelligence agencies, not from any of the immigration initiatives taken by the administration, says the report, which also includes the most comprehensive compilation of the individuals detained after 9/11 and their experiences.
Similarly, after the National Security Agency began sending a flood of “telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I.,” officials complained that “the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive”:
F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency, which was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans’ international communications and conducting computer searches of foreign-related phone and Internet traffic, that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators…in bureau field offices, the N.S.A. material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more “calls to Pizza Hut,” one official, who supervised field agents, said.
The government may be hungry for more information, but racial profiling alienates minority communities, breaks-down informant networks, and provides a “false sense of security.”