CAPAC Members Welcome Decision to Eliminate Rogue Investigative Unit at Commerce Department

Sep 3, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, amid rising anti-Asian violence and xenophobia, the Commerce Department announced that they would be eliminating the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS), a little-known, rogue unit at the Department of Commerce that has been, without authorization, investigating Chinese and Middle Eastern employees based only on their ethnicity. Earlier this year, CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu called for this unit to be disbanded after a report released by Senator Roger Wicker, the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, showed that ITMS had taken on law enforcement activities that treated employees as national security threats based on their race and background, and did so with no oversight or accountability. Not only were these investigations unjustified and flawed, they failed to uncover any national security threats despite the thousands of investigations that were opened and the numerous lives ruined. According to whistleblowers, constitutional protections for Asian Americans were regularly ignored in search of proof to justify improperly started investigations.  

Established during the George W. Bush administration, ITMS was intended to protect the Secretary of Commerce. But under successive administrations, this unit began to engage in law enforcement and counterintelligence activities, despite lacking any proper authorization. According to multiple whistleblowers, this unit overwhelmingly targeted Asian Americans, opening thousands of investigations even without evidence, based only on ethnicity. But, according to the report, these cases were regularly dismissed by Federal prosecutors “based on identifiable flaws in methods”. Meanwhile, many other innocent people have had their careers ruined or jeopardized by these illegitimate investigations. After conducting an internal review of ITMS, the Commerce Department accepted the recommendation to immediately cease the law enforcement activities, eliminate ITMS, establish an oversight framework, and update polices to ensure they comply with safeguards to protect civil rights and civil liberties. Members of CAPAC issued the following statements:

CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu:

“I want to thank Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and the Biden Administration for taking the reports of abuse by this rogue unit seriously and acting quickly to stop it. State-led xenophobia and prejudice against Asian Americans and Middle Easterners has led to greater public suspicion of these communities and contributed to an historic rise in hate crimes and incidents. Worse, this unit was able to conduct its race-based investigations without the oversight or accountability of actual law enforcement agencies.

“While there are legitimate national security concerns related to China, there is no place for the kind of racial profiling conducted by ITMS in our government. Eliminating this rogue unit is an important step, but our communities will not be safe and equal until we put an end to all racial profiling, like the China Initiative, which presume individuals are national security threats based only on their ethnicity.”

CAPAC First Vice Chair Rep. Grace Meng:

“I am grateful for the months of thorough review the Department of Commerce’s Office of General Counsel has spent evaluating the Investigations and Threat Management Service. The targeting of Asian American employees and others was unconscionable. I commend the Office of General Counsel for their recommendations that include eliminating this office that has perpetuated faulty assumptions and stereotypes of Asian Americans.”

 

CAPAC Whip Rep. Ted Lieu:

“I am pleased the Department of Commerce is shutting down the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) unit, which has overwhelmingly targeted Asian Americans for years, opening investigations without proper authorization or evidence. Not only have these race-based investigations failed to uncover any legitimate national security threats, they have also ruined lives and contributed to discrimination against Asian American communities. I am grateful to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and the Biden Administration for taking the reports of abuse by ITMS seriously and acting to disband this rogue unit. This is an important first step, but we still have a lot of work to do to root out racial profiling in our government.”

House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chairman Rep. Jamie Raskin:

“I am grateful that the Department of Commerce has made the much-hoped-for and long-overdue decision to disband its dubious Investigation and Threat Management Service (ITMS). Most of ITMS's actions constituted investigative overreach based on a distortion of its own authority and ended up many times trampling people’s rights. Eliminating ITMS is a great first step in restoring respect for people’s rights, along with trust in the Department of Commerce, though we still have a lot more work to do.”