'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, November 09, 2007

Get the Horse Stalls Ready 

UPDATE: From the Los Angeles Times:

City officials this morning defended the LAPD's decision to identify Muslim enclaves across the city, saying that instead of "mapping," Angelenos should see the program as "community engagement."

Civil rights groups have harshly criticized the new initiative as racial profiling that unfairly targets Muslims. The American Civil Liberties Union along with other community groups sent a letter to the LAPD this week saying the prospect of such a measure raised "grave concerns."

At a press conference about police recruitment in Elysian Park, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Chief William Bratton and Councilman Jack Weiss said they stood behind Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing's decision to gather extensive intelligence about local Muslim communities.

"Chief Downing has good intentions here," said Villaraigosa, who added that he had only learned of the new program through newspaper articles and at a short briefing.

Of course Downing does, just like Earl Warren did in 1942. One wonders if Villaraigosa would be so sanguine if the LAPD was engaged the mapping of communities with large numbers of undocumented people. I doubt that he would consider it community engagement.

INITIAL POST: From the New York Times:

A plan by the counterterrorism bureau of the Los Angeles Police Department to create a map detailing the Muslim communities in that city, an effort described as a step toward thwarting radicalization, has angered civil rights groups, which say it is no better than racial profiling.

At least three major Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter yesterday to top city officials raising concerns about the plan.

“When the starting point for a police investigation is ‘let’s look at all Muslims,’ we are going down a dangerous road,” Peter Bibring, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Southern California, said in an interview. “Police can and should be engaged with the communities they are policing, but that engagement can’t be a mask for intelligence gathering.”

The objections started after Michael P. Downing, a deputy Los Angeles police chief who heads the counterterrorism bureau, testified before a United States Senate committee on Oct. 30 that the Police Department was combining forces with an unidentified academic institution and looking for a Muslim partner to carry out the mapping project. He emphasized that he wanted the process to be transparent.

In his testimony, to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Downing said the project would determine the geographic distribution of Muslims in the sprawling Los Angeles area and take “a look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions.”

The idea, Mr. Downing said in an interview yesterday, would be to determine which communities might be having problems integrating into the larger society and thus might have members susceptible to carrying out attacks, much like domestic cells in England and elsewhere in Europe.

“There are people out there who believe in extreme violent ideology who present a threat to the American people, and that is what we are trying to prevent,” he said. “This could be called another prevention strategy.”

The civil rights groups argue that contrary to what has been found in Europe, the scattered cases exposed in the United States have involved individuals with no clear ties to international terrorism groups.

The estimated 500,000 Muslims living in the greater Los Angeles area, including Orange and Riverside Counties, make its concentration of Muslims the second largest in the United States, after New York City’s.

For those of you insufficiently curious to investigate the horse stalls reference, here it is:

In the hysteria following the outbreak of the World War II, the United States government feared that Japanese Americans would commit acts of sabotage against their country. Although no such act was ever committed by a Japanese American, some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the Western United States were removed from their homes and made to live in internment camps. Of these, almost 80,000 were United States citizens; 40,000 were children. Ruth Asawa was one of these citizen children.

In February 1942, Ruth’s father Umakichi, a 60 year-old farmer who had been living in the United States for forty years, was arrested by FBI agents and taken to a camp in New Mexico. The family did not see him for almost two years. In April, Asawa was sent along with her mother and five siblings to the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, California, where they lived for five months in two horse stalls. They took only what they could carry. "The stench was horrible,” Asawa recalled. “The smell of horse dung never left the place the entire time we were there."

Japanese Americans in Northern California were housed at Golden Gate Fields. A story like this should send shivers down the spine of anyone familiar with episodes like the internment or the forced expulsion of Mexican Americans in the early 1930s.

Somehow, I can't shake the feeling that the emergence of this story at this time is not a coincidence. I can't help but think that it is connected to the prospect of an impending attack upon Iran, and fears of domestic unrest as a result.

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