Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Bush Administration Accused Again of Racial Profiling of Journalists

The U.S. Secret Service requested racial information from journalists attending a reception before last weeks' White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

Reporters said they were offended that after furnishing the customary information -- name, date of birth and Social Security number -- they were also asked for racial information for those scheduled to attend.

The Secret Service said that it has been routine for many years to request such information of people who will be near the president, and that the information allows for quicker and more accurate searches of criminal databases. But a White House official from the Clinton administration told the Washington Post that race was not a field in the form it used to clear visitors into the executive mansion.

"It's offensive on the face of it," Edwin Chen, a Los Angeles Times White House reporter who is secretary of the correspondents' association, told the Post. "Why do they need to have race?"

Knight Ridder reporter Ron Hutcheson, the association's president, told the Post. "I just don't understand the need for it. There may be one, but I don't know what it is."


This isn't an isolated event.

-- In August, the Arizona Daily Star complained last year after a Bush-Cheney campaign official, on Secret Service instruction, called to ask for a photographer's race before she was allowed to photograph Vice President Cheney.

-- In October, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that journalists covering a presidential debate there were asked to disclose their race on a media credential application.

-- In October, the Rocky Mountain News reported that journalists covering a Bush appearance in Colorado were asked to provide race and gender.

-- In March, the Orange County Register reported that Cheney's staff requested race and gender information before the vice president would meet with the newspaper's editorial board.


Apparently, the Secret Service -- part of the much-criticized Department of Homeland Security -- is saying it has stepped up its requests for background information since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But using that as an excuse for racial profiling lacks credibility, because terrorists cross racial boundaries. Although the terrorists who flew the airplanes on Sept. 11 were of Arab origin, others arrested for their ties to Al Qaeda are not. John Walker Lindh, caught fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, is white. Richard Reid, the convicted "shoe bomber," has a white mother and a black father. Juan Padilla, arrested for allegedly planning to place a "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city, is Hispanic.

As JABBS and other sites have pointed out, the Bush administration has repeatedly highlighted Arab terror suspects through high-profile press conferences from the Homeland Security or the Justice Department, while downplaying terrorists of other racial heritages. This in spite of the fact that its conviction rate of terror suspects of Arab descent is roughly the same as its conviction rate of other terror suspects (and both conviction rates are woeful).

A report issued earlier this year by Homeland Security on terror threats facing the U.S. said the country's greatest threat are radical Islamist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and other foreign entities tied to the Islamic Jihad movement, but the report failed to mention fringe right terror groups -- similar to the conspirators behind the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Perhaps it's no surprise that some conservative pundits and politicians have suggested the Transportation Security Administration, a unit of Homeland Security, screen for Muslims , even though only about 15% of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims are Arabs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heaven forbid that anybody actually be thoroughly vetted. Apparently it is not alright to ask somebody's race, or even gender, which would make it easier to properly identify and vet the individual. This just stinks to high heaven. In your prior Gannon article, you complained about the vetting process not being stiff enough, by not inquiring into one's sexual background, and now in this case, you complain that the process is too stringent. I forgot, if Chimpy McHitler did it, it is wrong. What is the harm in properly identifying the people that will be next to the President? If a reporter's name is Mike Smith, is there something wrong with asking his race? If a reporter's name is Taylor, is it wrong to request the gender of the individual? Give me a break ...

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Fred Jones (the white one) said...

But what if his name is Mike Guckert? Nevermind. To anonymous, who can't conceive of an answer his own question: how, oh heaven help us, how! can the Secret Service possibly identify a person named Mike Smith without asking his race: um, how about a verified photo ID? Or, if you want to get a teensy bit sophisticated, maybe they could scan fingerprints? Now, maybe anonymous will explain how having Mike Smith write the word "white" on a form is a better way to keep the President safe.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to see how that is in any way wrong to ask that question. But, since Bush did it, I am sure it must be wrong.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really do not see an issue here. Do what it takes to protect the president. If you want to have a rational discussion about the pros and cons of racial profiling (and there are both pros and cons), do so outside of your discussion of the Bush administration. Because this exists as an issue in all aspects of life. I am sick of the self righteous attitude of people discussing this without taking into account world affairs at all.

If you think that there is no reason to think "profiling" muslim/arabs serves any purpose (because of ridiculous facts you throw out that prove nothing--pure spin)...well have another shot of whatever it is you drink. Yes terrorists exist in every color. But we are at war primarily with islamic fundamentalists....which is in large part made up of muslims and arab muslims.

This is a difficult issue and i dont believe being safer than sorrier when it comes to the president is such a horrible thing.

I you live in a neighborhood where 80% of the people are african american and a crime is committed, is it profiling to suggest that the suspect may be more likely afircan american? Yes its profiling but is it wrong?

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gannon story was clearly an error on the part of the administration and they should be held accountable for that--not sure what accountability means in this case but in any event, it was wrong for Bush to allow that.

This is an entirely different issue and I do not see any comparison. It makes sense to me that they ask this question....whatever needs to be done to ensure the president's safety.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one said anything about gender, anonymous 1. I see you slip that in, I assume because you can't argue the case on the merits.

Is racial profiling wrong? Our court system, from the Supreme Court on down, believes it is. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the laws regarding racial discrimination?

2:22 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

The problem with racial profiling, as JABBS points out, is that there has been little rhyme or reason to what race terrorists are. Yes, the 9/11 hijackers were Arabs, but a lot of other terrorist acts in the U.S. have been committed by whites.

Similarly, you can't equate Muslim with Arab.

So, let's say they racially profile the journalists, and they find out that 75% are white, 15% are black, 5% are Hispanic, 3% are Asian and 2% are Arab. (I'm making the numbers up for the sake of asking this question). Then what?

Should the government then cross-check the Arab journalists' names against an FBI watch list? That's not only discriminatory, but it likely doesn't get the government any closer to catching terrorists -- given how many terror acts in the U.S. have been committed by non-Arabs.

Do you cross-check all the names against an FBI list? Then what's the point of getting the racial information? Conceivably, having a name and social security number should be enough -- as has been the case pre-9/11.

But if the point of racial profiling is to find out who the Arabs are, then the effort is being run by simpletons who can only equate terrorism with the Arab hijackers -- ignoring all other evidence -- and thus aren't doing all they can to protect the U.S. from terrorism.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to racial profiling, consider this statement, which can be found at

Memorandum for the Attorney General on Racial Profiling

I hereby direct you to review the use by Federal law enforcement authorities of race as a factor in conducting stops, searches, and other investigative procedures. In particular, I ask that you work with the Congress to develop methods or mechanisms to collect any relevant data from Federal law enforcement agencies and work in cooperation with State and local law enforcement in order to assess the extent and nature of any such practices.

I further direct that you report back to me with your findings and recommendations for the improvement of the just and equal administration of our Nation's laws.


28 February 2001

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gender was brought up in jabbs' article in the section in regards to Vice President Cheney.

In fact, this is simple to argue on its merits. When meeting with reporters, the President and Vice President, via the Secret Service, should have the people thoroughly vetted. If the Secret Service thinks that profiling is an effective tool, I am more than willing to let them do their jobs as they see fit.

And yes, I am quite familiar with the fact that racial disrimination is not allowed under the law, but that is a deft attempt to change the terms of the discussion. We are not discussing discrimination, we are discussing profiling, specifically in regards to securing the safety of the President.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Bush himself apparently said racial profiling is wrong. Shouldn't that dictate administration policy?

Or should we assume that Bush has changed his beliefs on racial profiling since 9/11?

And remember, the Supreme Court has found racial profiling to be illegal -- because it is discrimination. So when I said "racial discrimination," I think I'm on solid ground.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned, racial profiling is not a grey issue. History has taught us racial profiling is the first step of a march towards broader outrages, including racial, religious and economic segregation -- even holocaust.
The complete avoidance of racial profiling in any form must be universally accepted as "self-evident" in a Democracy. It is precisely what sets us apart from other governments.
We all learned that racial profiling is to be avoided at all costs back when we were in kindergarten. As we grow old, we lose basic common senses.
The Right argues the world is a safer place as a result of Arab profiling? On the contrary, racial profiling destroys any hope of peace and makes the world a much more dangerous place to live.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a bit of hyperbole, to say the least.

Why is racial profiling so bad? Don't give me platitudes, explain it to me.

For example, if 72% of the crime in my community is committed by Asians, how is the community served by not viewing crime through this prism? I am not advocating hauling in every member of an ethnic group every time a crime is committed, but it is insane for law enforcement to not take reality into account when dealing with their duties to protect the community.

How many 70 year old Latina women have hijacked airplanes in the United States? How many people from Belarus have declared a jihad against the people and the government of the United States? Given all of the information available to us, does it make any sense whatsoever to not focus the resources on a particular group of people that have shown that they wish us harm ?

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several problems with your argument:

1) Bush himself says racial profiling is a no-no. Unless he changed his mind (or what you might call a "flip-flop") that should mean something.

2) Racial profiling is against the law.

3) As stated in David's post, while the 9/11 hijackers were Arab, the Oklahoma City bombers were white. Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympics bomber, is white. Richard Reid, the convicted "shoe bomber," has one white parent and one black parent. Etc. So, your "72% in a community are such-and-such" argument doesn't hold water.

And honestly, let's remember that in the specific case here, we're talking about journalists. U.S. journalists, with social security numbers, and in most cases long-time membership in the White House correspondents association. What no one wants to discuss is why it was necessary to get racial backgrounds for this group of people? How does it help protect the president to know that a reporter from the NY Times is white, black, hispanice, asian or arab?

At some point, this discussion veered into the pros and cons of racial profiling. But really, the question should be -- how does racially profiling a bunch of White House correspondents protect our country from terrorism?

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have never read such a stupid set of arguments in my life. Racial profiling, profiling in the holocaust? C'mon. That kind of thinking plays to the lowest common denominator and leads to the results you fight against. You can say what you want, but profiling exists, period. And limited to a degree, it should. It is impossible to investigate anything without it, at least effectively.

That said, I agree we are off point. I have one question.....why do you think the administration wants to ask this question---you think they are trying to walk down a path toward cataclysm of sorts, like a holocaust. Or is there a true security reason that so called informed bloggers like us just dont understand.

Sometimes i am embarrassed by the things we focus on here.

arent there bigger issues like war, terrorism, economy, social securty reforms, congressional and UN much energy expended to convince noone that the Bush administration is evil. I am no fan of the administration but the more this blog sounds like air america, the less influence it has or interest it provides.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is basically a media blog. It's designed to have a narrow scope.

3:54 PM  

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