Thursday, July 10, 2008

FBI's profiling of "Muslims" Is Racist, Oppressive, and Counterproductive

The FBI plans to "ethnically profile" Muslims in terror probes, an unconstitutional and dangerous Big Brother-style course. Why do neocons insist the only road to security is that taken by totalitarian dictatorships? Are they our new example of How to Run a Country and Secure Its Citizens? Don't they see they will become the problem, not solve it?
This article in Salon discusses the issue where the inimitable Juan Cole shows how this policy both violates the U.S. Constitution and at the same time does not help in the fight against terrorism.

The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask "open-ended questions" concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person's travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.

Wait a minute! Is this the United States of America? What happened to the Bill of Rights here? Does it again apply to some and not to others? Many "conservatives" in days gone by, not so far gone in fact, thought blacks to be a "threat" to "security". Were not lynch mobs created ad hoc in order to "enforce" "security"? Security being in the mind of the enforcer, not the accused, of course.

Where did due process go? Shall we hold a funeral? Congress, I'm sure, is almost ready for that. Hopefully, Barack Obama is not.

The new guidelines would lead to many bogus prosecutions, but they would also prove counterproductive in the effort to disrupt real terror plots. And then there's Attorney General Michael Mukasey's rationale for revising the rules in the first place. "It's necessary," he explained in a June news conference, "to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself as it is transforming itself into an intelligence-gathering organization." When did Congress, or we as a nation, have a debate about whether we want to authorize the establishment of a domestic intelligence agency?

And this "technique" - ah, the all-forgiving word "technique! - is also against the law.
using race and ethnicity as the -- or even a -- primary factor in deciding whom to stop and search, despite being widespread among police forces, is illegal.

And ineffective, possibly even worse than ineffective:
If the aim is to identify al-Qaida operatives or close sympathizers in the United States, racial profiling is counterproductive. Such tiny, cultlike terror organizations are multinational. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is a Briton whose father hailed from Jamaica, and no racial profile of him would have predicted his al-Qaida ties. Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaida spokesman, is from a mixed Jewish and Christian heritage and hails from suburban Orange County, Calif. When I broached the topic of FBI profiling to some Muslim American friends on Facebook, a scientist in San Francisco replied, "Profiling Muslims or Arabs will just make al-Qaida look outside Islam for its bombers. There are many other disgruntled groups aside from those that worship Allah."

So we end up spreading the "message" of al-Qaeda as a means to fight oppression rather outside the Muslim world, as if they really needed another incentive to violence. Great! Now we give a carte blanche to the neocons who promote Islam-bashing and Islamophobia, while at the same time increasing the power and breadth of terrorist groups. Not to mention alienating moderate and progressive Muslims whose willingness to assimilate culturally with America without losing its soul would be dealt a severe body blow. Chalk one up to extremists.

Oppression creates more oppression, much in the way pedophiles sometimes create more pedophiles out of their victims, or victims of abuse becomes themselves abusers. Healing and conciliation, reaching out and diplomacy may not be the macho choice in this world of Supermacho choices (al-Qaeda itself appealing to the Supermacho thing, as well as the neocon knee-jerk "bomb 'em" response - 2 sides of the very same coin whose currency is worthless and economy-wrecking). Racists raise up more racists. Dialog and government-enforced civil rights legislation was the only help. The marketplace does not eliminate oppression, unless moved to do so by government. The right is wrong on this.

It is a mystery why the Department of Justice has not learned the lesson that terrorists are best tracked down through good police work brought to bear on specific illegal acts, rather than by vast fishing expeditions. After Sept. 11, the DOJ called thousands of Muslim men in the United States for what it termed voluntary interviews. Not a single terrorist was identified in this manner, though a handful of the interviewees ended up being deported for minor visa offenses. Once it became clear that the interviews might eventuate in arbitrary actions against them, the willingness of American Muslims to cooperate declined rapidly, and so the whole operation badly backfired.

I believe the mystery can be solved if one looks to the neocon influence and islamophobia. It's motivated by the same thing that motivates racists - fear, and the easy path of choosing to label large groups of people for blame and self-promotion. It's based on the notion that "we" are somehow superior to "them", those nasty "Muslims". It's based on seeing the flag as a symbol of superiority rather than a symbol of democracy and human inalienable rights. The neocons were pushing us into a near-totalitarian, racist direction - are we not ready to give that up to keep the real reason for our country's previously good reputation? And change the world opinion that we are just another huge, overblown, conceited, rich, unweildy, powerful oppressor nation.


Anonymous said...

When you have crazy islamic fundamentalists like Tarek Abdel Aleem from UC Berk then you have to profile. Never know what a racist anti-semite like that might do.

Omyma said...

Dear Anonymous,
That's ridiculous! Tim McVeigh bombed the Murrah Bg in OK City. So let's target all white, anglo-saxon protestants.