The FBI has collected information about religious, ethnic, and national-origin characteristics of U.S. communities, say internal documents made public by the American Civil Liberties Union and reported by the New York Times. The ACLU urged the Justice Department to tighten restrictions on FBI powers. The documents show that agents identified Arab-American and Muslim communities in Michigan as a potential terrorist recruiting area; cited a rise in Georgia’s black population when analyzing “Black Separatist” groups; identified Chinese and Russian communities in San Francisco as places to look for organized crime syndicates; and highlighted Latino communities as potentially harboring the Central American gang MS-13.
The ACLU told Attorney General Eric Holder that “the F.B.I. is illegally and unconstitutionally” targeting people for investigation based on their race or religion. It asked Holder to bar agents from considering this kind of factor; current rules forbid the use of race or ethnicity unless describing a particular suspect, but contain a broad exception for national security or border-related investigations. The FBI said agents were doing their jobs by analyzing potential threats in their area of responsibility. It said it obeyed rules barring investigations based “solely” on religion, race, or ethnicity.