The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; 

ACLU National Media, (212) 549-2666;       

Sweeping Homeland Security Investigation of Muslims Was Unconstitutional and Discriminatory, Says ACLU

2004 DHS Program Used Racial and Ethnic Profiling


A report in today's New York Times
revealed details of a 2004 Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
anti-terrorism program that, despite government claims to the contrary,
used racial profiling. More than 2,000 Muslim immigrants were
investigated in the lead up to the 2004 elections, and many were
interrogated right before the November election. Despite the investment
of considerable resources, "Operation Front Line" produced minimal
results. Most of those investigated were found to have done nothing

2001, President Bush declared that racial profiling was "wrong" and
that he would "end it in America." In 2002, Attorney General John
Ashcroft said, "Using race... as a proxy for potential criminal behavior
is unconstitutional, and it undermines law enforcement by undermining
the confidence that people can have in law enforcement," and his
Justice Department banned racial profiling by federal law enforcement
in 2003. That ban, however, came with an exemption for national
security investigations. Today's New York Times article shows how DHS
drove a truck through that loophole just one year later.

President Bush's vow to end racial profiling, his administration
embraced it," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU
Washington Legislative Office. "This program confirms that racial and
ethnic profiling are not only wrong, but they don't work. The time and
resources spent by DHS rounding up, interrogating and investigating
innocent American immigrants could have been spent dealing with actual
threats to our country."

The Times
story comes on the heels of a debate regarding the overhaul of
guidelines that govern FBI investigations. The ACLU is vigorously
opposed to the new guidelines that will be implemented on December 1.
Among granting other expanded powers, the guidelines allow racial
profiling, which the ACLU believes will lead to more misguided efforts
like the one revealed in this DHS program.

questioning and investigating over 2,000 people, DHS came up empty
handed. How much more evidence do we need that racial profiling is a
waste of time and resources?" said Fredrickson. "Preserving an
ineffective and counterproductive technique for our most important
national security investigations makes no sense. The national security
loophole in the DOJ's racial profiling ban must be closed."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666