US Government: profiling a-ok?

The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, ABC reports.


Currently, or on the books, at least- something called evidence (go figure!) is needed to open an investigation of suspected terrorist activity.

Intensive investigation – wiretapping, bank record tracking – wouldn’t be permitted until an official investigation is opened. However, traits considered “suspect” – race, ethnicity, jobs related to religion, travel to “terrorist” countries – would all be considered legitimate reasons to conduct open-ended questioning of and about a person.


Now, the proposed regulations would include some things that make sense: for example, I have no objection to those who have atypical access to weaponry and who have obtained training in combat being investigated. That would presumably include all kinds of people – including domestic, white supremacist militias, right? But legitimizing the investigation of a particular racial or ethnic group without evidence or reason?

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse assures us that the changes wouldn’t give the FBI more authority than it now has. He says: “Any review and change to the guidelines will reflect our traditional concerns for civil liberties and First Amendment liberties.”

This statement is nothing short of an insult to the intelligence of regular people everywhere.

First of all, how this doesn’t give the FBI more authority than it already has, I’m not sure. It’s quite clear that things that were not permissible before will now become permissible. Therefore, greater authority would absolutely be granted. If that were not the case, why would these proceedings be happening at all?

The fundamentally American idea that we are “innocent until proven guilty” flies out the window with this one. Absolutely no suspicion of actual wrongdoing would be necessary to open questioning on an individual. While the United States regularly criticizes other governments for unfairly targeting groups of people – this very tactic would be employed to ‘protect our democracy’. It seems that our government lacks the awareness to see the flagrantly hypocritical nature of its own practices.


Yes, I recognize that in many places in the world I’d be jailed – even killed – for writing this very blog entry. I owe the United States an enormous debt of gratitude for the liberties I enjoy. So, to mark America’s birthday this weekend, I’m exercising the very liberty that makes us a great democracy: dissent.

Dissent is what won the United States its freedom. May it also be what leads Americans to tell our government that we will not stand for paranoid, racist regulations like the ones being proposed now. Demanding that every American be seen as equal – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or national extraction – is the most American thing we can do.



10 thoughts on “US Government: profiling a-ok?

  1. Yeah, sux to be minority… About a year ago, I was taking taking a small trip, and I had my wine opener with me (which all waitresses have and need) which has a knife (small, about 3/4 inch). Airport security checked my purse and told me I couldn’t bring it, but I could go back and mail it to my house, which I did. As I was doing this I realized that as a ‘majority’ demographic, and given that I’m 5′ tall, I’m considered no threat. So I said to the the guy “this old thing” waved it, and said, “ooh dangerous!” I left to go mail it, and was stopped by an officer who said, “excuse me miss…”, and I replied, “yes”, he says, “so where are you headed?”, I replied, “St. Louis”, “what are you doing there?”, “partying for my birthday, is this some sort of interrogation?” the officer says, “no, I just wondered where such a pretty lady was going.” I said, “jeez, for a minute I was worried I’d broken the rules or something like saying ‘bomb’ in the airport. I promise I’m harmless ;)” When I went back through with no extra search, they just whistled. If I had been any other demographic… sheesh..

  2. Julie,
    Salaams! Thanks for your insights. I have to admit that as I read the latter half of your comment – the banter between you and the officer – I was sort of floored. It’s amazing – though not too surprising – that things panned out in that way.

    Self-presentation has always been and will always be an issue. From our personal struggles with it to how it is perceived and treated by others, it’s never simple. My new year’s resolution – the first time I’ve ever made one – was to begin wearing the hijab consistently. There are a number of reasons why this felt like the right step for me. I’d gone through a period of resistance to it, which ultimately left me feeling somewhat empty.

    Anyway, I’ve done well with it with a few exceptions. I’m not sure where I’ll be with it six months from now, but I’m working on it. I’ve had two public appearances where I haven’t worn it – but I did on Shariah TV (which I discuss in a previous entry) and the experience helped me move forward in my journey with this resolution.

    Are the reactions always positive? Definitely not. But it’s also been something that has forced me – in a positive way – to think before acting, and to let go of some of the things I’d espoused in recent years. The point is that we, no matter our faith and our choice of self-presentation, must find a way to encounter these situations with personal resolve in order to survive them. The world’s not always going to help (though my second resolution – to be more diligent about my five daily prayers – has helped). It’s tough, and believe you me I’ve shed many a tear over it!

    We live in an increasingly judgemental society. It’s not enough that other people feel the need to chew others up and spit them out over their choice of dress — often making much more of a case over someone’s attire than is rational or fair. We’ve also got authorities making decisions based both on self presentation that is self-controlled (i.e., religious attire) AND matters beyond the individual’s control — like race.

    To turn the conversation back to the real issue at hand (which is not my hijab, but this proposed legislation!): When things like racism are legitimized by our governments — well, I wonder what the long-term impact of that is on not just the individual, but the entire society? We’ve seen that Jim Crow, slavery, etc have left an indelible and tragic mark on the way the United States (dys)functions. I fear that we’re walking into a pattern of subjugation and fear that will set us back even further. What do you think?

  3. since time immemorial, there have been divisions, separations, and wars against Self, against blood, against friend, against neighbor, against community, between religions, between states and nations, against sexes and races, and…

    it’s these social constructions and our clinging to them–our belief in them–that cement the divisions to the point of irreparability. we call for peace, for the dissolution of violence and hate…yet the chaos, and confusion continue to reign. nothing has ever changed. the ghandis, the mandelas, the kings, the buddhas, and allahs, and jesuses, and…..continue to come, and they continue to go. as do the hitlers, the stalins, the amins, the pol pots, the bushes. but where are we now? how far, really, have we come? is it not arguable that the collective consciousness of the entire world is more confused than it’s ever been? or more enlightened? or perfectly balanced? is it all an illusion? these silly, silly ideas, these silly ‘truths,’ these ‘things’ that separate, divide, annihilate, destroy…uplift, uphold, unite? what if there were no religion? i mean, is that not what created this mess in the first place? my god is greater than yours? my god declares this, and this is the absolute truth?

    we hold so tightly to our ‘truths’ (as ever-changing as they may be), seeing the world through eyes and language and customs ingrained in us by our cultures, families, races, religions, sexes, political and economic systems, rules and regulations, our feminisms…always changing, ever changing, never the same. 500 years from now, when all of the people of the world are multiracial, or if, by then, technology has advanced such that we can live to be 1,000, or if, tomorrow, we are wiped out by a meteor…what will it all have mattered? this anger at the system? at ourselves? at our friends, and families, and neighbors? we gotta stop the division. we gotta give up our dogmas, our dharmas, our religions, our customs, our traditions, our habits, our -isms, our…

    does good exist without bad? does peace exist without chaos?

    1000 years ago, i would have been a completely different woman.

    all dharmas are dreams.

  4. Yeah, well, I think that part of what motivated me to act insanely was that, they say that they are not involved in ‘racial profiling’ but that ‘behaviour profiling’ is what is effective. I wish that is what they were doing, but I think that is not.

    Now, I almost missed a plane back to the US from Israel because I faced an hour+ interrogation. They made me prove that I was in the country studying Biblical Hebrew by pulling my Tanakh out of my bag, and forcing me to spot translate Jonah. Since I was a Christian, I think they thought I was ‘proselytizing’ which is illegal (which I wasn’t doing). After my interrogation where I gave the name of the Christians I had visited with, at least one got arrested, I don’t know what for…

    Now, you know I live in New Orleans, and ‘broken government’ is the rule, not the exception… So, our airport, which was just 3 years ago turned into a hospital, where bodies littered the floor and people died. Dude, we re-elected William Jefferson after we knew he stole $90,000, and had all sorts of deals going on for his family.

    And the really sad thing… There are still racist stickers on the street signs around the city, “We should’ve picked our own damn cotton.” “David Duke for president” “Wake up white people” The thing is, I wish I could believe that ‘Jim Crow, slavery, etc have left an indelible and tragic mark’, but from where I sit, Jim Crow still happens (and sometimes in reverse Jesse Jackson won’t let thousands of festering crack-houses get torn down because that would change the demograpic of the area e.g. need permanent addresses for Democrats to cast votes) and the indelible mark is more like a Jackson Pollock painting.

  5. It isn’t new in this country. During WWII after Pearl Harbor was bombed the American government rounder up some 120,000 Japanese Americans and put them into internment camps in different parts of the country. That was due to an executive order issued by President Roosevelt (oh the great “liberal” president). The justification of the ruling was due to the fear that these people could be spying for Japan in spite of the fact that most of them American citizens and half of them were children. Until the end of the war some 10 people were convicted of spying against the US – all of them were – make a wild guess – WRONG! CAUCASIAN!!

    Now common logic would dictate that we round up all American citizens with roots in countries that belonged to the Axis power group. So let us wonder why German and Italian Americans (or Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Yugoslavians, etc) didn’t receive the same treatment? You probably got it this time – because they’re all WHITE!

    There are various other instances in American history when colored people were subjected to profiling (Koreans, Vietnamese, Cubans, etc) who were at the receiving end of special treatment from the American government which is acting in its wartime powers to protect its people which doesn’t include colored people.

    I recently noticed a billboard on I75 close to Atlanta sponsored by a local congressman seeking re-election which said, “Profiling could have avoided 9/11. Vote for Bill something.” I won’t be surprised if the gentleman who sponsored the billboard will get re-elected in the state of Georgia.

  6. On behalf of African Americans everywhere, welcome to our world. Now that you are the new black, you’ll need your own version of Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton. You’ll get used to it.

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