ADC Warns that New FBI Powers Could Lead to Repetition of Past Abuses
Washington, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today expressed concerns that the lifting of restrictions on FBI investigations of religious and political groups could lead to a repetition of past abuses. The restrictions, put in place in the 1970s, had strictly limited FBI investigations into persons and organizations not suspected of criminal activities. ADC warned that opening the door to the government investigating Americans based on legitimate political or religious activities could lead to serious abuses of civil liberties. ADC pointed out that the Arab-American and American Muslim communities were particularly vulnerable to potential excesses resulting from these new powers.
The restrictions were put in place following serious abuses by the FBI and other government agencies during the 1950s and 60s. In that period the FBI had investigated and disrupted numerous legitimate American political activities including the civil rights movement and the movement against the war in Vietnam. Targets included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others labeled “subversive” at the time but who are now regarded as national heroes. American history demonstrates that minority communities, political dissidents, and critics of government policy can be vulnerable to politicized and unrestrained law-enforcement. ADC holds that law-enforcement agencies should investigate and try to prevent crimes, but should not investigate Americans based on their lawful and legitimate political and religious activities.
ADC President Ziad Asali said “we are as committed to improving our nation’s security as anyone else. However, we do not believe that lifting these restrictions will enhance the security of the United States. Instead, it opens the door to wholesale investigations of innocent American citizens engaged in legitimate religious and political activities. We cannot be blind to our own history. It is not just the Arab-American and American Muslim communities who should be concerned about this development. All Americans have a stake in making sure that law-enforcement agencies are used to investigate criminals, not Americans engaged in legitimate, First Amendment protected, political and religious activities.”