Attorney General Eric Holder's long-awaited revisions to the Justice Department’s racial profiling rules would allow the FBI to continue most or all of the tactics opposed by civil rights groups, such as mapping ethnic populations and using that data to recruit informants and open investigations, reports the New York Times. A draft of the new rules expands the definition of prohibited profiling to include not just race, but religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation. The draft increases the standards that agents must meet before considering those factors. They do not change the way the FBI uses nationality to map neighborhoods, recruit informants, or look for foreign spies.
The rules would eliminate the broad national security exemption that former Attorney General John Ashcroft put in place. The draft rules represent a compromise between his desire to protect the rights of minorities and the concern of career national security officials that they would be hindered in their efforts to combat terrorism. The Justice Department has been reworking the policy for nearly five years. Civil rights groups hope it will curtail some of the authority granted to the FBI after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Muslims say federal agents have unfairly singled them out for investigation. Making the FBI blind to nationality would fundamentally change the government’s approach to national security. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) has said the existing rules “are a license to profile.”