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Protecting the Privacy and Civil Liberties of Americans

As the nation’s primary law enforcement agency, the Justice Department strives to be a model for ensuring that Americans’ privacy and civil liberties are forcefully protected in all the department’s national security efforts.  In recent years, the department has dramatically enhanced oversight of its national security activities.  It has also restored the department’s Civil Rights Division as the nation’s preeminent civil rights law enforcement agency.  In Fiscal Year 2009, there were more federal criminal civil rights cases filed by the Justice Department than in any prior year – and in Fiscal Year 2010, the department broke that record once again.  The department’s commitment to civil rights has never been stronger, and protecting the rights of the Muslim and Arab-American communities, and other communities, is a critical part of that commitment.  Below are some of the advances the department has made since 9/11:

  • The Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have brought federal hate crime charges in 52 post-9/11 backlash cases, with 47 convictions to date.  Department attorneys have also coordinated with state and local prosecutors in numerous non-federal criminal prosecutions, in many cases providing substantial assistance.
  • The Civil Rights Division has also worked to ensure that Muslims are free to practice their religion without facing illegal barriers or discrimination.  Using its authority under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the division has taken action in a number of jurisdictions around the country to ensure that land use and zoning decisions are not used to illegally prevent Muslim communities from building places of worship.
  • The department appointed its first Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer in 2006, and subsequently created the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties to support the duties and responsibilities of the Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer.  The principal mission of the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties is to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people through review, oversight and coordination of the department’s privacy operations. 
  • The department’s National Security Division has dramatically enhanced its oversight of FBI national security activities, and in many cases, those of other intelligence community agencies, to ensure adherence to the nation’s laws, rules and regulations, including privacy interests and civil liberties.
  • The FBI created the Office of Integrity and Compliance in 2007 to ensure the bureau’s compliance with laws, rules and procedures, not only in national security activities, but in all FBI activities.
  • The department developed and issued guidance to federal agencies in 2003 expressly prohibiting racial profiling in federal law enforcement practices.

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