Race seems to be a major theme of the moment. The events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought race relations to the surface of the political and cultural discourse.
Now, among his final acts as outgoing Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder stands poised to expand a ban on racial and religious profiling in federal investigations, eliminating a national security exemption. The news hits immediately after the Council on American-Islamic Relations called upon Holder to do so. Fox News reports:
The expected ban comes amid heightened concerns of Islamic militant groups executing a terror attack on U.S. soil and was reportedly opposed by national security officials.
A Justice Department official told Fox News on Monday that outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder will announce the policy change in the coming weeks and that it will also put an end to profiling based on ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Holder intended to announce the policy change several months ago, but the White House ordered a last-minute hold so the Department of Homeland Security could review the national security implications, a congressional aide told The Los Angeles Times, which on Saturday first reported the story.
Either the DHS review concluded that policy change would make sense in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma by an apparent Islamic militant, or the administration doesn’t care what its national security experts think. Either way, the feds stand set to consider white Catholic nuns as no less likely to commit acts of terrorism than Arab Muslim totalitarians.
The practice of profiling bears an unfair negative connotation. Profiling has been an integral part of law enforcement and national security operations for as long as such endeavors have existed, and for good reason. When a crime is committed, investigators could proceed randomly. Or they could proceed based upon the trends evident in past cases. The latter method does not model an irrational prejudice.
Factors such as race and religion may prove critical to an investigation. The Fox News article cites “the monitoring of some religious groups and surveillance on mosques without evidence of suspected criminal activity” as being of particular concern to Holder and the DOJ. But what if criminal activity proves part and parcel of your religious beliefs? If you adhere to a religion which preaches the killing of non-believers, doesn’t that make you suspect in and of itself?
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 10:43 minutes long; 10.36 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)