The FBI’s power to investigate suspected terrorists have been boosted by new Justice Deparment guidelines. Some Arab- and Muslim-Americans fear that it could end up targetting innocent people.
Under the revised guidelines, which will go into effect Monday, agents will be allowed to use undercover sources to gather information, interview people without identifying themselves and spy on suspects without evidence of wrongdoing.
The rules will allow for abuses, including more racial and religious profiling, critics say.
“That’s an extraordinary power”, said Mike German, a former FBI agent who now advises the American Civil Liberties Union.
“There is anxiety the Middle Eastern community will be targeted”, said lawyer Nabih Ayad, who has defended a number of Arab Americans charged in national security cases. “There is always a danger in the implementation when you give such discretion in the hands of agents.”
Because current rules came about in the 1970s, they limit the FBI’s ability to investigate people in national security cases, say federal officials.
In order to assure community leaders that they won’t be targeted, FBI agents have met with them twice, said the Detroit Free Press.
There would be no profiling under the new regulations, said Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit.
“Every agent in the FBI is going to be trained on these guidelines”, he said. “The concern in the community is that there’s going to be abuses, and it’s going to open up the possibility of profiling. We’re not going to allow that to happen.”
According to Dean Boyd, Justice Department spokesman, “at the end of the day, the FBI is not going to open an investigation simply on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion”.