Justice Department Prepares Broader Ban On Racial Profiling

Jan 16, 2014

The Justice Department is preparing to unveil new guidelines that ban racial, ethnic and religious profiling in federal investigations, a law enforcement source tells NPR.

The long-considered move by Attorney General Eric Holder could be announced by the end of January. Holder discussed the guidelines in general terms Wednesday in a meeting with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio; a closed-door conversation that covered strategies for preventing crime "while protecting civil rights and civil liberties," a Justice Department spokesman said.

DOJ guidelines cover agents at the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, among other federal investigative personnel. Racial profiling has long been banned, but the Obama administration plans to expand the categories of coverage to include national origin and religion, which could help assuage critics who say Muslims have too often been targeted in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The expansion was first reported by the New York Times.

Civil rights groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill say they're not ready to talk in depth about the new guidelines until they read the language and determine whether it applies to national security probes as well as ordinary criminal investigations. Without a sense of the specifics, aides there say, they can't determine how meaningful and lasting the new approach will be.

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