Saturday, November 24, 2001

ACLU urges HPD
not to help feds

The local ACLU fears the terrorism
hunt will rely on racial profiling

By Rod Antone

Honolulu's acting U.S. attorney says the U.S. Justice Department was not engaging in racial profiling when it asked local law enforcement agencies to interview about 5,000 people across the country in relation to the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to U.S. Attorney Elliot Enoki, the Justice Department was asking for help questioning people who had "entered the United States with a passport from a country where intelligence indicates al-Qaida network" activity.

"They're going by passports and how long someone spent in certain countries," said Enoki, though he could not reveal which countries were on the list. "It's not based on someone being a Muslim, for example."

Local American Civil Liberties Union head Bret White disagreed, saying that some of the questions being asked include personal information such as religious preferences.

"A lot of the questions have nothing to do with terrorism," said White. "It's a dragnet approach that magnifies concerns about racial and ethnic profiling. The Portland (Ore.) Police Department has refused to help, saying this list violates civil rights, and I urge our Police Department should do the same."

Earlier this week, acting Portland Police Chief Andrew Kirkland said he denied the request for assistance because it may violate state law. Kirkland, who is black, also reflected on his experiences of being harassed by Detroit police as a youth.

Oregon's U.S. attorney defended Kirkland's decision, though Enoki sees it as a misunderstanding.

"We're not talking about terrorist suspects. We're talking about people who might know something about the terrorist attacks," he said. "If there's a crime committed, police will knock on people's doors and ask if they've seen or heard anything. ... That's what's happening.

"They're not going to neighborhoods and round up groups of people and take them to the police station."

Enoki would not comment about how many, if any, Hawaii residents or visitors were on the Justice Department list or whether anyone had been questioned to date.

Individuals on the list were grouped together by their addresses and sent to each of the 94 federal districts.

Enoki did say that the list and a memorandum went out to all U.S. attorneys and other members of the anti-terrorism task force on Nov. 9.

The two-page memorandum from Attorney General John Ashcroft states: "We have compiled a list of individuals who have entered the country on nonimmigrant visas who may be helpful in our effort to investigate the attacks of Sept. 11.

"These individuals were not selected in order to single out a particular ethnic or religious group ... nor were these individuals selected because they are suspected of any criminal activity.

"Instead, they should be treated with courtesy and respect, as potential witnesses and as sources of information."

White maintained that the government cannot hide racial profiling simply by saying it is not racial profiling.

"If it smells like a skunk, it's probably a skunk," he said.

Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue said earlier this week that HPD "would consider any request while making sure that all rights of our citizens are upheld."

Kauai, Maui and Hawaii police officials said they would help the Justice Department. But they would not comment about whether they had seen the list itself.

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