Subtitle C of Public Law 108-458, enacted December 17, 2004, may be cited as the "Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2004"! A key statutory amendment by that Act was to ensure that the civil rights and civil liberties of persons are not diminished by efforts, activities, and programs aimed at securing the homeland.
Further the DHS Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties was to report directly to the Secretary, and was to do the following:
(1) review and assess information concerning abuses of civil rights, civil liberties, and profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion, by employees and officials of the Department;
(2) assist the Secretary, directorates, and offices of the Department to develop, implement, and periodically review Department policies and procedures to ensure that the protection of civil rights and civil liberties is appropriately incorporated into Department programs and activities;
(3) oversee compliance with Constitutional, statutory, regulatory, policy, and other requirements relating to the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals affected by the programs and activities of the department;
(4) coordinate with the DHS Privacy Officer to ensure that programs, poliicies, and procedures involving civil rights,
civil liberties, and privacy considerations are addressed in an integrated and comprehensive manner.
The point of this post is to reinforce the notion that Civil Rights and Civil Liberties enforcement and protection is one of the key missions of DHS and I long ago concluded this would be a difficult mission of the Department. I was hopeful that the three Secretaries of DHS, all lawyers,would have sensitivity to this mission. So far not much evidence. It seems to me that the role of DHS would have almost made it a leader for the entire Executive Branch on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties with issues coming up almost routinely in organizations such as the FUSION CENTERS developed even before they were given a statutory mandate to do their jobs.
I would also have expected that outstanding individuals with a comprehensive background in compliance and enforcement of civil rights and civil liberties might have either led the organization or been close to its leadership.
Because the OIG/DHS can also investigate civil rights and civil liberties violations and compliance I would have thought that a detailed MOU between these organizations would be in existence and probably a series of joint investigatory manuals and procedures have been developed to ensure the statutory mandates are accomplished.
The funding and staffing of this organization would always be a key factor in its success yet its line item does not seem to reflect the special emphasis placed by Congress on this mission.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I do think that the whole arena of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is one that could be worthy of the fullest attention of Congress and academics so that the leading violator of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the Executive Branch is not DHS officers and employees, and even more hopefully that a leadership stance for the entire federal government could be adopted by DHS.