Attorney General Michael Mukasey says the Bush administration will do everything it can to make sure the government has what it needs to fight terrorists before a new president takes over.
But civil rights activists say that shouldn't include letting the FBI start using terrorist profiles that potentially single out Muslims, Arabs and other racial and ethnic groups instead of relying on evidence of wrongdoing as the basis for investigating Americans.
Mukasey was to appear Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, where senators were expected to ask him about proposed changes in Justice Department policy that critics say opens the door to racial profiling. . .
The policy, first reported last week by The Associated Press, would let FBI agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious. Among the factors that could make a U.S. citizen or resident the subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person's race or ethnicity.
The Justice Department has declined to discuss the details of the proposed policy because it is not yet final.
Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union said Mukasey should be made to spell out the changes to senators to make sure there is no discrimination against racial and ethnic groups.
"We cannot let the Department of Justice selectively apply the presumption of innocence," Fredrickson said in a statement Tuesday. "Treating all Arabs and Muslims as suspects is not just illegal, it is also an ineffective and counterproductive way to conduct terrorism investigations."