ACLU Commends Biden Administration for Ending Discriminatory ‘China Initiative’ – Calls for More Reforms

AP Photo/ Susan Walsh

By Delilah Hammons and Jaanvi Kaur

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) weighed in this past week on the Biden Administration’s decision to end the “China Initiative.”

The project was initially created as an effort to scrutinize, investigate, indict, and take additional measures against U.S. based scientists and researchers assumed to have relations to China. The Biden Administration issued this announcement after this biased initiative created unjustified misgivings on scientists of Chinese descent leading to failed prosecutions across the country.

The Justice Department stated in its announcement that it was in favor of a “strategy for countering nation-state threats.”  It also stated that its National Security Division would have a key role in overseeing research integrity investigations and prosecutions, deciding whether to pursue criminal, civil, or administrative sanctions in specific cases.

Patrick Toomey, a senior staff attorney with ACLU’s National Security Project said, “[a]fter years of biased profiling of Asian American scientists, the Justice Department has rightly disavowed its ‘China Initiative’ at long last.”

Toomey added, “Though today’s announcement is a welcome step, it won’t prevent discrimination from seeping into the FBI’s investigations of Asian Americans and others going forward. Getting rid of the name is not enough. To ensure this discriminatory program comes to an end once and for all, the Biden administration must fundamentally reform the longstanding Justice Department policies that enable racial profiling in the name of national security.”

The China Initiative, said the ACLU, has harmed scientists by the FBI’s discriminatory profiling and surveillance of Asian American researchers for decades.

Currently the ACLU represents many of those scientists, including Professor Xiaoxing Xi and hydrologist Sherry Chen. Both, charges the ACLU, were wrongly investigated by the FBI, they were both “arrested on the basis of fabricated evidence, and charged with crimes that could have sent them to prison for years, only to have the Justice Department eventually drop all charges.”

Their prosecutions, claims the ACLU, have been a part of a broader pattern within the government and the discrimination against Asian American scientists that has longstanding roots within the Justice Department polices.

In fact “[t]hese policies predate the ‘China Initiative’ and include the Department’s guidance on the use of race by law enforcement, which contains loopholes permitting bias-based profiling in the national security and border contexts, and expansive claims of authority under the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide,” said the ACLU.

Ashley Gorski, a senior staff attorney with ACLU’s National Security Project explained that “[t]oday’s announcement still fails to address the underlying problem of DOJ policies permitting racial and ethnic profiling in the national security context.”

“Until these policies are overhauled, the standards governing FBI investigations will continue to leave space for bias and discrimination — rather than facts or evidence — to dictate whom the FBI pursues with some of its most intrusive investigative tools,” Gorski said.

About The Author

Delilah Hammons attends Sacramento City College and plans on transferring to a UC in two years to major in English. She wants to purse a career as a writer after graduating with the hope of publishing her own books.

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