The Maine Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union affiliates from 29 other states filed Freedom of Information Act requests today, seeking records from the FBI about the agency’s collection and use of racial and ethnicity data.

In a press release issued this morning, the executive director of the MCLU, Shenna Bellows, said her group is concerned that the FBI’s use of the demographic data amounts to racial profiling.

“We have filed this request to ensure that the FBI is not targeting Mainers based on their race or ethnicity,” Bellows said. “Mapping and tracking people based on their race or ethnicity is unfair and a waste of resources.”

Bellows said the FBI’s power to collect and to use racial and ethnic data is described in the 2008 FBI Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide. It outlines the agency’s ability to collect information about “ethnic-oriented” businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions, Bellows said.

“Criminals can come from anywhere and have any color skin,” said Zachary Heiden, MCLU legal director.  “FBI profiling of communities based on race and ethnicity not only contradicts our values, but it also undermines legitimate law enforcement efforts.”

View a PDF of the MCLU’s request to the FBI.