The U.S. Justice Department's plans to interview 160 mostly Middle Eastern men in South Florida as part of a far-reaching terrorism investigation has stirred fear among local Arab-Americans and drawn protests from civil libertarians.
Armed with a set of questions handed down from Washington, investigators from the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force are fanning out across the area in search of the men who made the list based on their ages, country of origin and length of time in the United States. One question asks how each man felt when he heard the news of Sept. 11.
Islamic leaders and civil rights groups say the move is akin to racial profiling. "It's a type of investigation that carries a great potential to create the impression that interviewees are being singled out because of
their race, ethnicity or religion," said Altaf Ali, director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This can have a ripple effect on the community at large, especially the Muslim community..."