DESPITE ANTI-PROFILING RULES, THE FBI USES RACE AND RELIGION WHEN DECIDING WHO TO TARGET

The bureau still claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.

President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.

ONE OF THE Obama administration’s high-profile criminal justice reform efforts was a new policy that purported to ban racial profiling in federal law enforcement. But internal policy guidelines The Intercept has obtained show that the FBI has left its racial profiling practices virtually unchanged, and that the bureau still claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.

The issue of profiling by federal law enforcement and immigration authorities has taken on new urgency with the inauguration of Donald Trump, who as a candidate called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and was slow to denounce white supremacist supporters. Among his first moves in office has been an executive order banning immigration from a list of majority-Muslim countries.

The FBI updated its policy on racial profiling as recently as March 3, 2016, in a section of its main governing manual, known as the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. (The Intercept is publishing the 2011 edition of the DIOG in its entirety, along with the updated section on profiling.) The guidelines make clear that when an FBI agent is deciding whether or how to investigate someone, he or she can consider factors like race, nationality, or ethnicity so long as these factors are clearly relevant and coincide with other reasons for suspicion. And when the FBI selects communities on which to gather intelligence — in order to generate what the bureau calls “domain awareness” — it also allows itself to take such factors into consideration.

The only policy change on profiling added in the five-year gap between the manuals — and in the wake of former Attorney General Eric Holder’s anti-profiling initiative — is that the new version reflects an expanded definition of profiling, which covers not just race and ethnicity but also gender identification, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation.

Civil liberties groups, which have long objected to the FBI’s practice of surveilling ethnic communities and seeding them with informants, say that the guidelines leave the door open to alarming forms of monitoring.

“The fact that the DIOG hasn’t changed is exactly what we had feared,” said Ferhana Khera, president of the group Muslim Advocates. “While we appreciate that Attorney General Holder expanded the categories to include religion, national origin, and sexual orientation, we were concerned that he did not go far enough in making those revisions, and that it still gave a green light to the FBI to engage in activities that would target our communities.”

The flexible guidelines on racial profiling show that the FBI’s formal procedures reflect the blunt talk of its leadership. In late 2014, when the Department of Justice announced the new rules, Holder, who had spoken about his own experiences being stopped by the police as a young black man, heralded them as an important step to ensure “sound, fair, and strong policing practices.”

Yet the very next day, FBI Director James Comey insisted that the new guidance would have no impact on his agency’s counterterrorism investigations or on its ability to look for informants and map Muslim communities and businesses in the United States.

“No, nothing. It doesn’t require any change to our policies or procedures,” he said in a press briefing.

Behind the scenes, the FBI had reportedly pushed back against any rules from Holder that would ban consideration of race, ethnicity, and religion in counterterrorism investigations. Federal law enforcement has long been barred from scrutinizing someone solely on the basis of race or ethnicity, unless chasing down a particular suspect of a crime. But rules in effect under the administration of George W. Bush included a blanket exception for national security and border investigations.

Holder’s guidelines retain significant loopholes. For example, they explicitly permit cultivating sources of a particular ethnicity when investigating a terrorist organization made up of members of that ethnic group. They also allow mapping a city and looking at “population demographics, including concentrations of ethnic demographics,” if that information is collected “pursuant to an authorized intelligence or investigative purpose.” Moreover, the guidelines apply only to federal law enforcement, not to local and state police, and not to federal agents near the borders.

The FBI argues that agents need such latitude in order to recruit informants who might have insight into terrorist networks. For example, the bureau has suggested, agents might look within Somali communities in the United States for people who might have information about the Shabab militant group.

“When there is a threat from outside the country, it makes sense to know who inside the country might be able to help law enforcement,” Comey argued in 2014. “It is about knowing the neighborhoods: What’s it like, where’s the industry, where are the businesses, are there particular groups of folks who live in a particular area?”

In recent years, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents showing FBI field offices investigating ethnic communities based on broad generalities. For example, a 2009 document from San Francisco justified mapping that city’s Chinese neighborhoods because “within this community there has been organized crime for generations.” In Michigan, the FBI looked at the “large Middle Eastern and Muslim population” as “prime territory for attempted radicalization.”

Civil liberties groups, and Muslim groups in particular, oppose this logic, noting that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans have nothing to do with terror networks.

“Imagine the FBI deciding to collect data on where all Italian-Americans live, the churches that they worship in, and their charitable giving activities, because they’re concerned about the mob,” said Khera. “Rather than focusing on where there’s evidence of particular criminal activity, they collect data in one broad brush on an entire ethnic group.”

The mapping policy has also come under criticism from those who see it as a representation of the FBI’s mutation after the 9/11 attacks into an intelligence agency with broad investigative powers aimed at counterterrorism rather than at solving specific crimes.

Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said that she worried about the FBI combining mapping with “the vast reams of public information that are now available about everybody (including, for example, social media posts and travel records obtained through license plate readers) to create detailed portraits of each of us and of entire communities.”

An FBI spokesperson said the guidelines under which the FBI operates “are very clear that the FBI cannot predicate investigative activity solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights, including freedom of religion, or on race or ethnicity.”

NOGALES, AZ – FEBRUARY 26: A U.S. Border Patrol agent speaks to a driver at a checkpoint from Mexico into the United States on February 26, 2013 north of Nogales, Arizona. Some 15,000 people cross between Mexico and the U.S. each day in Nogales, Arizona’s busiest border crossing. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents are tasked with stopping the illegal flow of drugs into the U.S. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) A U.S. Border Patrol agent speaks to a driver at a checkpoint north of Nogales, Ariz., on Feb. 26, 2013. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
THE FBI’S PROFILING loopholes raise questions about the extent to which other federal law enforcement agencies will amend their practices — especially under a Trump administration that has pledged to take a hard line on immigration and counterterrorism. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Transportation Security Administration have all been expected to put out new policies, which are “badly overdue,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel for the ACLU.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP and TSA, does have its own policy against racial profiling, but it has a broad loophole for national security. CBP’s current guidance states that “the use of nationality as a screening, enforcement, or investigative criterion is appropriate for the vast majority of CBP functions and operations.” A CBP spokesperson told The Intercept this fall that the agency follows Holder’s 2014 rules but did not elaborate on whether or how it will update its own guidance.

A spokesperson for DHS told The Intercept last month that the department “has reviewed the Attorney General’s guidelines on racial, ethnic, religious and other profiling by federal law enforcement and is in the process of developing our own department-wide standards.”

Activist groups have documented the targeting of Latino drivers for traffic stops and other examples of Border Patrol activity that extends well beyond actual border crossings. Last year, The Intercept reported on FBI cooperation with CBP to create lists of passengers arriving from “countries of interest” who might make good informants.

The TSA has also been singled out for allegedly profiling minority passengers for extra screening. In April, a Minnesota TSA manager said that he was told by his supervisor to look for Somali-Americans.

“Absent a specific, reliable suspect description, no law enforcement agency should engage in profiling based on protected characteristics because such profiling is ineffective and offensive,” Rickerd said. “We call on CBP and TSA to make clear that discriminatory enforcement plays no role in their operations, as well as to implement public data collection and training reforms to be vigilant against profiling.”

Top photo: Somali Muslims pray during a soccer tournament in St. Paul, Minn.

Cora Currier
January 31 2017, 1:04 p.m.

Find this story at 31 January 2017
Copyright https://theintercept.com/

Lawrence revelations: admit institutional racism, Met chief told

Anti-terror head moved as black police leader says force has not improved since the 1999 Macpherson inquiry

The crisis engulfing the Metropolitan police following fresh revelations about the Stephen Lawrence case intensified on Friday night as the leader of its black officers’ association called on the commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, to admit that the force was still institutionally racist.

Janet Hills, chair of the Met’s black police association, told the Guardian that the report by Mark Ellison QC into alleged police wrongdoing in the Lawrence case was the latest example of the force failing the communities it serves.

Her comments came as the repercussions from Ellison’s report, commissioned by the home secretary, led the Met to move its head of counter-terrorism, Commander Richard Walton, out of his post after he was caught up in allegations that a police “spy” was placed close to the Lawrence family.

The first public inquiry into the Lawrence case by Sir William Macpherson in 1999 resulted in the force being branded “institutionally racist” for its failings that led the teenager’s killers to escape justice.

Years later the Met said the label no longer applied because it had improved so much, but the leader of the Met’s own ethnic minority officers disagreed.

Hills said: “We believe the Met is still institutionally racist.” She said this was shown by issues such as higher rates of stop and search against black people, and “the representation of ethnic minorities within the organisation, where ethnic minorities are still stuck in the junior ranks”. She added: “For me, it lies in the fact there has been no change, no progression.”

In his first public comments, Hogan-Howe accepted that the Ellison report was “devastating” and the London mayor Boris Johnson, who has responsibility for policing in the capital, described as “sickening” Ellison’s conclusion that a detective in the Lawrence murder investigation may have been corrupt.

Hills said: “The Ellison report’s revelations came because of continuing pressure from the Lawrence family. It’s only because the Lawrence family are fighting for justice that all this is coming out, and there will be more to come.”

Hills said Hogan-Howe should publicly accept that, 15 years on from Macpherson, Britain’s biggest police force – serving a city where 40% and rising are from ethnic minorities – was still “institutionally racist”. She said: “It would be good to hear him acknowledge that … For community trust and confidence he needs to take ownership.”

Johnson defended the Met’s record on race and said confidence was rising in the force Hogan-Howe leads: “He is right to continue and accelerate the work of recruiting a police force that resembles the community it serves.

There has been good progress in recent years in recruiting from ethnic minorities, but there is still some way to go. I know Sir Bernard is determined to get there, and I am sure that we can.”

Ellison’s revelations that the Met had a “spy in the Lawrence camp” during the Macpherson inquiry led the force to announce it would “temporarily” move Walton from his post as head of counter-terrorism, one of the most sensitive jobs in British policing. He has also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In August 1998, Walton, then an acting detective inspector, was helping to prepare the Met’s submission to the Macpherson inquiry. He secretly met an undercover officer – described by Ellison as being “positioned close to the Lawrence family campaign” to exchange “fascinating and valuable” information about the grieving family. Some of that information passed from the undercover officer included details on Doreen and Neville Lawrence’s marriage.

Neville Lawrence last night called the revelations “disgusting”, telling the Daily Mail: “It’s unbelievable. They have mocked everything we have done, telling us to our faces that they are listening and things will change, and all the time laughing behind our backs.

“I think they are actually worse than criminals because these officers get paid with taxpayers’ money for what they do.”

Ellison found Walton’s conflicting accounts of the meeting “unconvincing, and somewhat troubling”.

He offered a different version of the purpose of this meeting last month after Ellison told him that he was facing criticism in the report.

Walton was moved to a non-operational role. It comes as the Met faces withering criticism from the home secretary down over the new revelations about its behaviour during the Lawrence case.

Hogan-Howe said the publication of the Ellison report marked one of the worst days of his police career.

He vowed to reform the force, and told London’s Evening Standard: “I cannot rewrite history and the events of the past but I do have a responsibility to ensure the trust and the confidence of the people of London in the Met now and in the future.”

Theresa May branded the Lawrence revelations, some 21 years after the murder, as “profoundly shocking and disturbing”, adding that “policing stands damaged today”. She said the full truth had yet to emerge.

Lord Condon, Met commissioner at the time of the “spy” in the Lawrence camp, denied any knowledge of the deployment, telling the House of Lords: “At no stage did I ever authorise, or encourage, or know about any action by any undercover officer in relation to Mr and Mrs Lawrence or their friends or supporters or the Macpherson inquiry hearings. Had I known I would have stopped this action immediately as inappropriate.”The fallout after the Ellison report is also reaching the courts. Two campaigners are to appeal against their convictions, alleging that an undercover police officer took part in their protest and set fire to a branch of Debenhams, causing damage totalling more than £300,000.The officer, a leading member of the covert unit at the heart of the undercover controversy, was revealed this week to have also been a key figure in thesecret operation to spy on the family of Stephen Lawrence.

The announcement of the appeal comes as scores of convictions involving undercover officers over the past decades are to be re-examined to see if campaigners in a range of political groups have been wrongly convicted.

Ellison, the QC who produced Thursday’s report into the undercover infiltration of the Lawrence campaign, also found that the unit, the special demonstration squad (SDS), had concealed crucial evidence from courts.

Now he has been asked by the home secretary, Theresa May, to identify specific cases in which unjust convictions have been caused by the SDS, which infiltrated political groups between 1968 and 2008.

Vikram Dodd and Rob Evans
The Guardian, Friday 7 March 2014 23.04 GMT

Find this story at & March 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.

The secretive corporate outfit behind ‘Stand Your Ground’

For many years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been a particularly influential organization that has promoted the agenda of corporate America and the political right in state legislatures nationwide, but about which the public has known little. ALEC’s members, who work together to draft model bills, consist of state legislators, who pay little to join, and corporations and trade associations, who pay hefty membership fees. These fees purchase influence over ALEC’s agenda and access to lawmakers. Because ALEC’s issue-areas are quite broad – voter IDs, consumer protection, healthcare, education, the environment and guns, to name a few – not every ALEC bill connects to a particular company’s financial interests. Until now, associating with ALEC’s range of issues seems not to have been much of a problem for most companies, well worth the payoff of having their favored bills promoted. That’s why the stream of recent defections of some of ALEC’s highest-profile corporate members – McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Mars, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Intuit and Kraft – has been so extraordinary.

The principal trigger, of course, has been the taint surrounding ALEC’S “Stand Your Ground” laws, the statute at the heart of the controversy over George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. The business downside of associating with an organization pushing a law that seemingly turns a criminal perpetrator into a lawful executioner has apparently become too much for these companies, thanks to pressure from the civil rights and consumer community. That’s a good thing. But as we focus on Stand Your Ground laws, we shouldn’t lose sight of the breadth of ALEC’s damage around the country. In fact, some of the wider harm can be found in other parts of this very statute. This law does not just protect perpetrators. It is also a direct assault on crime victims themselves. Specifically, buried in ALEC’s Stand Your Ground laws – on the books in some form in about half the states in the U.S. – is a chilling measure that confers absolute civil immunity on perpetrators who successfully avoid arrest and prosecution under this law, stripping crime victims of their legal rights and access to the courts. This is important, because often in cases where the criminal justice system fails, families turn to the civil courts for help by bringing a civil suit against the perpetrators directly. This law blatantly tears away their constitutional rights.

In fact, preventing access to the civil courts for everyday Americans is a pervasive theme that runs through ALEC’s entire, corporate-backed agenda. ALEC has an entire division devoted just to preventing injured people from holding wrongdoers accountable in court. Its very active Civil Justice Task Force is co-chaired by Victor Schwartz, general counsel of the American Tort Reform Association, a corporate group seeking to limit the liability of its corporate members. The legislation generated by this task force has been nothing short of a gift to our nation’s most negligent companies, many of which have been successfully sued over and over for recklessly causing death and injury to their customers. In my conversation with the Florida Justice Association this week, I learned that Florida itself has over 18 such ALEC “tort reform” laws already on its books, with many more under consideration.

The problem with these laws is not only that they allow wrongdoers to escape accountability for what they do. They also discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age and income, issues not unlike those raised by the Travyon Martin case itself. For example, some ALEC bills target certain kinds of jury awards, specifically those that compensate for “non-economic” injuries like permanent disability, loss of a woman’s reproductive system, disfigurement, trauma, loss of a limb or blindness. When a bill passed Congress in 1996 that would make it more difficult to bring negligent product manufacturers to court (similar to various ALEC bills), President Bill Clinton vetoed the bill, stating that the legislation’s focus on non-economic damages was “especially unfair to senior citizens, women, children, who have few economic damages, and poor people.” In 2004, Representative John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, issued a press statement titled, “Tort Reform Movement Has a Massively Disproportionate Impact on Minorities,” in which he stressed the harm that “restrictions on non-economic damages” were causing minorities.

Women are also disproportionately harmed by ALEC “tort” legislation. Some ALEC bills would go even further than federal bills and completely immunize the pharmaceutical industry for manufacturing unsafe drugs and medical devices, which they’ve brought to market under lax government rules. Michigan already has such a law, and ALEC-affiliated lawmakers have proposed this legislation in other states, like North Carolina. University of Buffalo law professor Lucinda Finley, who has written extensively about jury verdicts, found that: “Reproductive or sexual harm caused by drugs and medical devices has a highly disproportionate impact on women, because far more drugs and devices have been devised to control women’s fertility or bodily functions associated with sex and childbearing than have been devised for men.” History shows that many such drugs and devices were made safer only after women and their families filed lawsuits against those responsible. Immunizing the pharmaceutical industry means that women will no longer have any recourse. The same can certainly be said for the increasingly medicine-dependent senior citizen population.

These under-the-radar liability issues may not be garnering the same kind of public attention as some other ALEC priorities. But the concerns they raise are just as poignant. And they put at risk not only the rights of Trayvon Martin’s family but also those of every person living in this country.

By Joanne Doroshow April 13, 2012

Find this story at 13 April 2012

© Thomson Reuters

Zimmerman and ‘Stand Your Ground’

Following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, new battle lines are forming between the Obama administration and the National Rifle Association.

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder and the NRA traded statements on the merits of “stand your ground” laws, which have been adopted in some form in more than thirty states. The legal principle allows individuals to use reasonable force to defend themselves in a dangerous situation and removes the requirement to retreat.

“It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict into our neighborhoods,” Mr. Holder told an NAACP convention Tuesday in Orlando, Fla. “These laws try to fix something that was never broken.” In the rest of his speech, the attorney general called on states to review their adoption of these laws, stating that they encourage “violent situations to escalate” rather than curb crime.

Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA, fired back the next day. “The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right,” he said in a statement. “To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda.”

Florida has been at the forefront of “stand your ground,” being one of the first states to adopt the law as well as the site for the Zimmerman trial. In 2005, Florida first expanded the “castle doctrine” (the principle that you do not need to retreat when in your home) to general circumstances, which was quickly replicated by other states. Mr. Zimmerman did not use a “stand your ground defense” during the trial. Yet after the verdict protesters camped out at GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s office, demanding that he call a special session to repeal the law. On Thursday night, he rejected their appeal. “I told [the protesters] that I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which concurred with the law,” Mr. Scott said in a statement.

The efficacy of “stand your ground” is heavily disputed, but the rhetoric early—particularly from the Department of Justice—points to a conversation primarily driven by politics. In any case, no “stand your ground” state appears to be leaning toward repeal. And sustained opposition to such efforts, coupled with summer-recesses, make prospects even more unlikely.

July 19, 2013, 1:23 p.m. ET
By HARRY GRAVER

Find this story at 19 July 2013

Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripties en rapporten over etnisch profileren

“Leden van etnische minderheden zijn oververtegenwoordigd in de criminaliteitsstatistieken. In Nederland is veel onderzoek gedaan naar verklaringen voor het criminele gedrag van leden van etnische minderheden. Er is daarentegen nauwelijks aandacht besteed aan de mogelijkheid dat de oververtegenwoordiging een weerspiegeling is van selectief politieoptreden. Ik stelde daarom de vraag welke factoren van invloed zijn op de keuzes die politiemensen maken met betrekking tot het staande houden van burgers, een praktijk waarin selectief politieoptreden het duidelijkst op te merken is, en of deze selectiviteit mogelijk een verklaring is van de oververtegenwoordiging van etnische minderheden in de criminaliteitscijfers.”

Bovenstaande passage komt uit de afstudeerscriptie “Een verdacht profiel, selectief politieoptreden in Veenendaal”. Etnisch profileren binnen het politie en justitie apparaat lijkt steeds meer aandacht te krijgen. Lijkt omdat in de jaren negentig ook al onderzoek werd gedaan naar het selectieve optreden van de politie. Hier een overzicht van de afstudeerscripties en rapporten uit binnen- en buitenland. Niet al het onderzoek is opgenomen. Veel theoretisch werk wordt niet gepresenteerd, alleen een overzichtsartikel en een literatuurstudie. De scripties en rapporten gaan over de praktijk van de politie.

Find this story at 19 June 2012

Jacht op de schoonmaakster

In de afgelopen twee jaar worden in de chique buurten van Haarlem tientallen zwarte schoonmaaksters en klusjesmannen opgepakt. De vreemdelingenpolitie krijgt een tip van busmaatschappij Connexxion. Die heeft last van zwartrijders. In een aantal gevallen blijkt het te gaan om illegale vreemdelingen. De politie volgt zwarte mensen op weg van de bushalte naar hun werk om ze op heterdaad te kunnen betrappen op illegale arbeid. Maar volgens de rechter mag dat niet. De politie mag mensen niet op grond van hun huidskleur volgen en om hun papieren vragen.

Lees ook het nieuwsbericht: Vreemdelingenpolitie Kennemerland negeert rechterlijke uitspraken

We krijgen eind september informatie waaruit blijkt dat politie Kennemerland toch doorgaat met de aanhoudingen. We onderzoeken of de vreemdelingenpolitie zich houdt aan de uitspraak van de rechter.

150.000 schoonmaakhulpen
In het tijdperk van de tweeverdieners, hebben steeds meer gezinnen een schoonmaakhulp. Volgens een recente schatting van de FNV zijn er daar zo’n 150 duizend van in ons land. Het merendeel van de schoonmakers is van buitenlandse afkomst. Veel van hen zijn illegaal. Ze mogen niet werken en als ze worden aangehouden worden ze het land uitgezet. Ze zijn continu bang om opgepakt te worden.

Persoonlijk relaas
In ZEMBLA vertellen twee van de in de omgeving van Haarlem opgepakte schoonmakers over hun aanhouding. Emily werd in juni 2011 aangehouden in Heemstede: ‘De politieman vertelde me dat veel zwarte mensen zonder vergunning werken. Ik zei: ‘Niet alle.’ Hij zei: ‘De meeste.’

Joseph werd in maart 2010 opgepakt in Overveen: ‘Ze zeiden: ‘Jij gaat terug naar Afrika.’ Hij was aan het lachen: ‘Jullie Afrikanen, jullie komen hier maar, betalen geen belasting, allemaal zwart werk.’

Ethnic profiling
De vreemdelingenpolitie is aan strenge regels gebonden bij het aanhouden van Illegalen. Professor van Walsum, hoogleraar migratierecht aan de VU: ‘De politie mag niet zomaar iedereen in het wilde weg aanhouden en naar hun papieren vragen. Er moet wel sprake zijn van een gerechtvaardigd vermoeden van illegaal verblijf.’ Professor Staring, bijzonder hoogleraar Mobiliteit aan de Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam: ‘Je zit natuurlijk al heel snel op het terrein van racisme, discriminatie, ethnic profiling zoals dat genoemd wordt, en dus willekeur ook. Dus je kunt niet zomaar iemand aanhouden op basis van huidskleur.’

De hoogste rechter, de Raad van State, maakt in juli vorig jaar korte metten met deze methode van de vreemdelingenpolitie in de dure buurten rond Haarlem. ZEMBLA ontdekt dat ondanks de uitspraak van de Raad van State in juli vorig jaar, de vreemdelingenpolitie doorgaat.

Research: Marieke van Santen
Samenstelling en regie: Sander Rietveld
Eindredactie: Manon Blaas

Find this story & video at 21 December 2012

Racial Profiling Rife at Airport, U.S. Officers Say

BOSTON — More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

In interviews and internal complaints, officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavior detection” program at Logan International Airport in Boston asserted that passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for “suspicious” behavior.

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one white officer, who along with four others spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity.

The T.S.A. said on Friday that it had opened an investigation into the claims.

While the Obama administration has attacked the use of racial and ethnic profiling in Arizona and elsewhere, the claims by the Boston officers now put the agency and the administration in the awkward position of defending themselves against charges of profiling in a program billed as a model for airports nationwide.

At a meeting last month with T.S.A. officials, officers at Logan provided written complaints about profiling from 32 officers, some of whom wrote anonymously. Officers said managers’ demands for high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals had led co-workers to target minorities in the belief that those stops were more likely to yield drugs, outstanding arrest warrants or immigration problems.

The practice has become so prevalent, some officers said, that Massachusetts State Police officials have asked why minority members appear to make up an overwhelming number of the cases that the airport refers to them.

“The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program,” one officer wrote in an anonymous complaint obtained by The Times.

A T.S.A. spokesman said agency inspectors recently learned of the racial profiling claims in Boston. “If any of these claims prove accurate, we will take immediate and decisive action to ensure there are consequences to such activity,” the statement said.

The agency emphasized that the behavior detection program “in no way encourages or tolerates profiling” and bans singling out passengers based on nationality, race, ethnicity or religion.

It is unusual for transportation agency employees to come forward with this kind of claim against co-workers, and the large number of employees bringing complaints in Boston could prove particularly damaging for an agency already buffeted with criticism over pat-downs, X-ray scans and other security measures.

Reports of profiling emerged last year at the behavior programs at the Newark and Hawaii airports, but in much smaller numbers than those described in Boston.

The complaints from the Logan officers carry nationwide implications because Boston is the testing ground for an expanded use of behavioral detection methods at airports around the country.

While 161 airports already use behavioral officers to identify possible terrorist activity — a controversial tactic — the agency is considering expanding the use of what it says are more advanced tactics nationwide, with Boston’s program as a model.

The program in place in Boston uses specially trained behavioral “assessors” not only to scan the lines of passengers for unusual activity, but also to speak individually with each passenger and gauge their reactions while asking about their trip or for other information.

The assessors look for inconsistencies in the answers and other signs of unusual behavior, like avoiding eye contact, sweating or fidgeting, officials said. A passenger considered to be acting suspiciously can be pulled from the line and subjected to more intensive questioning.

That is what happened last month at Logan airport to Kenneth Boatner, 68, a psychologist and educational consultant in Boston who was traveling to Atlanta for a business trip.

In a formal complaint he filed with the agency afterward, he said he was pulled out of line and detained for 29 minutes as agents thumbed through his checkbook and examined his clients’ clinical notes, his cellphone and other belongings.

The officers gave no explanation, but Dr. Boatner, who is black, said he suspected the reason he was stopped was his race and appearance. He was wearing sweat pants, a white T-shirt and high-top sneakers.

He said he felt humiliated. “I had never been subjected to anything like that,” he said in an interview.

Officers in Boston acknowledged that they had no firm data on how frequently minority members were stopped. But based on their own observations, several officers estimated that they accounted for as many as 80 percent of passengers searched during certain shifts.

The officers identified nearly two dozen co-workers who they said consistently focused on stopping minority members in response to pressure from managers to meet certain threshold numbers for referrals to the State Police, federal immigration officials or other agencies.

The stops were seen as a way of padding the program’s numbers and demonstrating to Washington policy makers that the behavior program was producing results, several officers said.

Instead, the officers said, profiling undermined the usefulness of the program. Focusing on minority members, said a second officer who was interviewed by The Times, “takes officers away from the real threat, and we could miss a terrorist we are looking for.”

Some Boston officers went to the American Civil Liberties Union with their complaints of profiling, and Sarah Wunsch, a lawyer in the group’s Boston office, interviewed eight officers.

“Selecting people based on race or ethnicity was a way of finding easy marks,” she said. “It was a notch in your belt.”

The transportation agency said it did not collect information on the race or ethnicity of travelers and could not provide such a breakdown of passengers stopped through the behavior program.

But the agency defended the program’s overall value. Behavior detection “is clearly an effective means of identifying people engaged in activity that may threaten the security of the passengers and the airports and has become a very effective intelligence tool, enabling law enforcement to bust larger operations and track any trends in nefarious activity,” the agency said in its statement.

“In addition, the deterrent value of the program can’t be overstated,” it said. Monitoring passengers’ behavior “adds another layer of security to the airport environment and presents the terrorists with yet one more challenge they need to overcome” in their efforts to defeat airport security measures, the agency said.

But government analysts and some researchers say the idea of spotting possible terrorists from their behavior in a security line relies on dubious science.

A critical assessment of the program in 2010 by the Government Accountability Office noted that aviation officials began the behavior program in 2003, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, without first determining if it had a scientific basis.

Nine years later, this question remains largely unanswered, even as the agency moves to expand the program, the accountability office said in a follow-up report last year. It said that until the agency is able to better study and document the validity of the science, Congress might consider freezing tens of millions of dollars budgeted for the program’s growth.

Based on past research, the accountability office said the link between a person’s behavior and mental state is strongest in reading “simple emotions” like happiness and sadness.

Read this article at 11 August 2012

August 11, 2012

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and ERIC LICHTBLAU

© 2012 The New York Times Company

Police up to 28 times more likely to stop and search black people – study

Human rights watchdog warns of ‘racial profiling’ as data reveals under 3% of stop and searches leads to an arrest
Vikram Dodd

A Metropolitan officer is allegedly about 30 times more likely to use section 60 to stop a black person than a colleague outside London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Police forces are up to 28 times more likely to use stop-and-search powers against black people than white people and may be breaking the law, new research from the official human rights body reveals.

The research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) looked at police stop powers where officers do not require suspicion of involvement in crime, known as section 60 stops.

The power is used most by the Metropolitan police, which carried out three-quarters of the stops between 2008-11, some 258,000 in total. The next heaviest user was Merseyside with 40,940 stops. Some forces barely use the power.

Thus what the Metropolitan police does can skew the national picture and the data shows a Met officer is about 30 times more likely to use section 60 to stop a black person than a colleague outside London.

The figures show how often black Britons experience stop and search through section 60 alone, never mind the more commonly used other stop-and-search powers. The EHRC found that in 2008-09, the Met stopped 68 out of every 1,000 black people in its area. This fell to 32.8 per 1,000 by 2010-11. In the rest of England, the figure was down to 1.2 stops per 1,000 black people by 2010-11.

Section 60 of the 1994 Public Order Act was introduced to target originally brought in to tackle people going to illegal raves. It gave police the power, if they feared violence or disorder, to stop and search suspects at a specific time and place.

Most stops in England and Wales require an officer to have “reasonable suspicion” that someone is involved in crime. Section 60 gives an officer maximum discretion and privately police fear its wide-ranging nature and the discretion it gives officers, plus the allegations it is being abused, may lead the courts to strike it down – as happened with section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which had to be reformed after the courts ruled its provision allowing stops without suspicion was too wide-ranging.

The EHRC notes that while the overall use of section 60 had fallen, excessive use of the power against ethnic minorities, known as racial disproportionality, had continued or even increased. The report found a rise in the percentage of ethnic minorities among those stopped under section 60 between 2008-11, from 51% to 64%.

The commission said the police may be breaching their legal responsibilities, known as the public-sector equality duty: “Any continuing and serious disproportionate use of these powers against ethnic minorities may indicate that the police and Home Office are not complying with their public-sector duties obligations.”

The worst rates of racial disproportionality were outside London, according to the EHRC. An officer in the West Midlands was 28 times more likely to stop and search a black person than a white person, in the Greater Manchester force the figure was 21 times, in the Met 11 times, and for British Transport police the figure was 31 times.

Nationally, the EHRC said black people were 37 times more likely to be stopped and searched under section 60 than white people in 2010-11. From 2008 to 2011, the racial disproportionality worsened for the Met and West Midlands forces, while Greater Manchester’s disproportionality rate in 2008-9 was 44.9 times greater, which had been halved three years later.

Racial disproportionality meant an officer was 10 times more likely to stop Asian Britons than a white person, with the worst offender being West Midlands police.

The EHRC said through section 60 alone ethnic minorities underwent more than 100,000 excessive searches over 2008-11.

Figures also show that section 60 may be ineffective in fighting crime. According to the report: “In England as a whole, only 2.8% of [section] 60 stops and searches resulted in an arrest in 2008-09 and this decreased to 2.3% in 2010-11. Of these, fewer than one in five arrests were for offensive weapons.”

The fact that arrest rates are similar for black and white Britons suggests problems in how police use the power, the EHRC said: “The lack of a significant difference does not prove that black people are not inappropriately targeted.”

Simon Woolley, a commissioner at the EHRC, said: “Our research shows black youths are still being disproportionately targeted, and without a clear explanation as to why, many in the community will see this as racial profiling.

“Moreover, police data itself questions the effectiveness of this practice. Some forces are using 200 or 300 stops before arresting an individual over a weapon.

“We are encouraged at least that the Met seek to review the practice with a clear objective that avoids the crude measure of racial profiling and focuses on intelligence-led policing.”

The Met is being threatened with a legal challenge over allegations that it discriminates in its use of section 60 stop and search. The commission has previously said it believes the Met’s use of section 60 is unlawful.

The Met said it was reforming its use of the power and would aim to make it more focused on tackling violence and reduce the number of stops carried out.

However, in a statement, the Met’s deputy commissioner, Craig Mackey, who speaks on stop-and-search issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “Chief officers support the use of stop and search as these powers are critical in our efforts to tackle knife, gun and gang crimes.

Find this story at 12 June 2012

The Guardian, Tuesday 12 June 2012

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.