Nearly 32 million Americans, including 1.5 million in Illinois, have been
victims of racial profiling by authorities, a practice that has increased
since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an Amnesty International USA
report released Monday stated.
The study–a result of 100-plus interviews, extrapolated polling data,
census records and university studies–also warned that 87 million
Americans were at risk of being targeted because of their race, ethnicity
or religious background.
Profiling of Muslims and those of Middle Eastern or South Asian ancestry
also has substantially increased since the terrorist attacks, the report
Organizers said that authorities using a race-focused investigative
approach run the risk of overlooking those who don’t fit the stereotype
like American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh or convicted Al Qaeda
“shoe-bomber” Robert Reid.
“The reality is that no one knows what the next terrorist or drug
trafficker will look like,” Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director
of the group, said at a Washington news conference.
Before the 2001 attacks, U.S. Customs inspector Cathy Harris said black and
Hispanic women often were singled out and searched for illegal drugs.
After the attacks, Harris noticed people who appeared to be Muslim or of
Middle Eastern descent were scrutinized more than other groups.
“In the same way Customs missed hundreds of individuals trafficking drugs,
we have now set up the same set of circumstances under which national
security measures could miss the next potential terrorist,” she said.
The profiling reached critical mass in 2002 when the Justice Department
started questioning, photographing and fingerprinting men from
predominantly Muslim countries..