- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

Lawmakers investigating intelligence failures surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks said yesterday that they will examine whether sensitivities about racial profiling hampered FBI probes of Middle Eastern suspects.
"I think we need to take a look at that in the committee, in the testimony we're going to receive, to really determine whether it had an effect," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "I think we're going to have to grapple with that issue."
The panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, said the investigation has "broad scope."
"We have to look where the terrorists come from," Mr. Shelby said. "You know, like Willie Sutton said when asked, 'Why do you rob banks?' "That's where the money is."' Well, where have so many [terrorists] come from? From the Middle East."
Sources in the FBI have told lawmakers that fears of racial-profiling accusations prevented them from pursuing some aspects of their terrorism investigations before September 11. Racial profiling refers to police focusing on certain races or ethnic backgrounds while investigating for specific kinds of criminal activity, sometimes based on crime statistics.
Some critics have blamed the FBI for not seeking search warrants for the laptop computer and the apartment of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was detained in Minnesota one month before September 11.
Asked whether President Bush shared the concerns of some lawmakers that racial profiling may have hindered terrorism probes, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer evaded a direct response.
"The president believes very strongly that in protecting our nation, we are always mindful and protective of civil rights and civil liberties," Mr. Fleischer said. "The two go together."
Federal investigators and lawmakers are wrestling with how to prevent further terrorist attacks without unfairly targeting Muslim males from the Middle East. Of the 19 hijackers who committed the September 11 attacks, all were Muslim males from the Middle East. Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the answer is to target non-U.S. citizens from nations that sponsor terrorism.
"Profiling by country is not racial profiling," Mr. Schumer said. "Saying that somebody from Saudi Arabia might have a different chance of committing terrorism than somebody from Cambodia or somebody from Italy is a reasonable thing to say.
"Racial profiling of American citizens is abhorrent, whether they be African-American, Asian-American or Muslim American," he said. "I think you can do this much better by country of origin but with the strong caveat of noncitizen only, non-green-card [holder] only. That's a much more comfortable way to be with this."
Mrs. Feinstein said a memo by FBI agent Kenneth Williams of Phoenix in July 2001, warning about Middle Eastern males training to fly planes, raised racial-profiling concerns about "why you just don't go immediately to mosques" to investigate suspects.
"It did have a chilling effect," Mrs. Feinstein said. "I have been told that it did, privately, by various personnel in the FBI."
Mr. Shelby said federal agents can investigate terrorism in Arab or Muslim communities without engaging in racial profiling.
"If you're going to look in mosques, and you're going to look in schools and you're going to look in cities like Detroit, where there's a large Middle Eastern population, I wouldn't say that's profiling people," Mr. Shelby said.
"We've got to get realistic about looking at people who are most likely of a group to bring terrorism to America," the Alabama Republican said. "It defies common sense to think you're going to go find terrorists in the Rotary clubs, in the Kiwanis clubs, in the golf clubs, in the plants where people are working every day in America, on the farms."
Mr. Schumer and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, introduced legislation yesterday that would make it easier for the FBI to conduct surveillance of non-U.S. citizens suspected of planning terrorist attacks.
The bill would eliminate the standard that requires the government to show a suspect's link to a foreign power. It would apply only to noncitizens and non-green-card holders suspected of plotting attacks against the United States.
The measure would keep in place other requirements for obtaining a search warrant the FBI still would have to show that the proposed target of surveillance plans to engage in international terrorism and that a "significant purpose" of the surveillance is foreign intelligence gathering.
"It's simply not reasonable to expect that the kind of people that associate with al Qaeda, which is not a conventional terrorist-cell-type organization, are going to enable us to quickly prove that they either belong to al Qaeda or a foreign power," Mr. Kyl said. "That's not the way they work. I have no doubt that in the near future, groups like al Qaeda will try to perpetrate terrorist attacks against the United States. We have to do everything we can within our Constitution to prevent that. This is a big step in that direction."
Mr. Kyl said the proposal has nothing to do with racial profiling.
"You still have to have probable cause that a particular individual is acting or about to act in a terrorist way," he said. "And so you've got to know something more about the individual than just his country of origin or his particular race."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he is opposed to easing the ban on racial profiling.
"I would be very troubled if we publicly embraced, as a policy, whether it's in law enforcement or something else, racial profiling," Mr. Daschle said. "Somebody once said, it's a lazy man's way of law enforcement. There has to be other ways with which to do it."
Joseph Curl contributed to this report.


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