Muslims and people of Middle Eastern origin are mainly targeted by a US government program to “counter terrorism,” says a political commentator from Virginia.
Keith Preston, chief editor and director of AttacktheSystem.com told Press TV on Saturday that there are “concerns about what in the United States is called racial profiling or ethnic profiling in the sense that Muslims or people of Middle Eastern ancestry are being verily targeted in this program.”
He made the remarks after rights group, the Brennan Center for Justice, brought a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security largely over the issue of surveillance of supposed terrorism suspects from the United States.
What the rights center is concerned about is “the fact that the government is actually trying to pressure internet companies to impose a type of the fact those censorship on the internet in order to prevent communication by so-called extremist organizations, or by the individuals,” Preston said.
“They have been pressuring internet companies to collect surveillance data on individuals that are labeled extremist or might somehow be suspected of terrorism and this is something that’s been going on for a while,” he added.
The journalist further noted, “The government has been exercising a great deal of pressure, not just on internet companies but also on communications companies of different types, telephone companies and all that, to collect data of this type and they are trying to essentially form out this data collection process to the private sector, but they are doing it in a way that’s rather coercive.”
US government agencies set up a task force in January to boost the effort while other agencies have launched initiatives of their own. These actions came after President Barack Obama in 2011 unveiled a plan for “empowering local partners to prevent violent extremism in the United States.”
The Brennan Center at New York University said Friday that it had filed the lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan to force the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to release records about their Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.
The center says the program relies on a flawed approach to counter terrorism, arguing that it will stigmatize Muslims and reinforce Islamophobic stereotypes as well as suppress dissent and divide communities.