AG Holder Tweaks F.B.I. Racial Profiling Rules

By Carla Murphy Apr 10, 2014

After five years in revision status, anonymous sources tell The New York Times that the U.S. attorney general has finalized the F.B.I.’s racial profiling rules. The paper describes them as a compromise between Eric Holder’s "desire to protect the rights of minorities,"–influenced in no small part by his experience as a younger man–and concerns from national security officials that they might be hampered in their front-line fight against terrorism.

"Decades ago, the reality of racial profiling drove my father to sit down and talk with me about how, as a young black man, I should interact with the police if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way I felt was unwarranted," Holder said this week before Al Sharpton’s civil rights group, the National Action Network.

However, as the rules revision process appears to have repeatedly highlighted: "Making the F.B.I. entirely blind to nationality would fundamentally change the government’s approach to national security."

Besides race, the new rules reportedly add religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation to the F.B.I.’s prohibited profiling list. They also increase "the standards that agents must meet before considering those factors" and establish a program to track profiling complaints.

The new rules do not change however, how the F.B.I. uses nationality to map neighborhoods, recruit informants, or look for foreign spies. They leave unchallenged, the fundamental question of whether the F.B.I. can collect information on a Muslim man without evidence of wrongdoing.

Civil rights groups welcome the expanded prohibitions but had also been looking to the new rules to rein in more of the authority granted to federal agents in the aftermath of 9/11.

At the White House’s request, the Justice Department is reportedly delaying release of the new rules in order to coordinate a larger review of racial profiling to include the Department of Homeland Security. Under Bush-era regulations, racial profiling rules carried exemptions not only for national security investigations but border security and immigration investigations as well. 

(h/t The New York Times)