Obama Civil Liberties Nominee: 'Inappropriate' to Profile Foreigners from High-Risk Countries

Obama Civil Liberties Nominee: 'Inappropriate' to Profile Foreigners from High-Risk Countries

Next week, the Senate will vote on Obama’s nominee to Chair the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, David Medine. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, followed up the confirmation hearing with a list of questions for the nominee. (The complete questionnaire is posted below.)

In his answers to Grassley’s question about profiling for terrorism among foreign nationals, Medine wrote, “In general, profiling of foreign nationals based solely on their point of departure to the United States is inappropriate.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on February 28 of this year, approving the nomination of Medine. A vote will be held in the Senate next week. The other four nominees to the board have already been confirmed. They were asked to respond to the same questionnaire.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was created in 2004 after the 9/11 Commission recommended the creation of a board to safeguard civil liberties and oversee the new authorities granted to the security agencies. The PCLOB was slow to develop, holding its first meeting in 2006. The original chair of the board, Lanny Davis, resigned citing disagreements with the White House. In 2007, legislation updated the board’s statute and established the board as an independent agency within the executive branch. Subsequent nominees were stalled for months, until 2010 when Obama nominated two members and then three additional members in 2011.

Medine’s opinion that constitutional protections against racial profiling should be extended to foreign nationals should raise serious red flags. “There may be intelligence regarding a plot being developed or partially implemented in a particular foreign country that could, under some circumstances, justify heightened scrutiny of visitors from that country linked to other information about the plot” answered Medine.

It is important to point out, that eight out of ten fugitives on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list are foreign-born. 

Medine did not answer questions about his views on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the PATRIOT Act. He is currently an attorney fellow at the SEC and prior that, he worked at the law firm Wilmer Hale.

Complete Q&A available below

PCLOB — Medine QFRs Grassley