SACRAMENTO, CA - Civil liberties groups said the federal government is going too far by violating civil liberties in the name of public safety.
Documents obtained by the ACLU show 1,800 so-called suspicious activity reports. Most of them were filed with a Sacramento Fusion Center, which is an intelligence gathering center that brings together local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The ACLU and other groups said what's on their radar is not suspicious at all, but instead allows for the racial and religious profiling of people doing even the most mundane things.
Some reports include, "suspicious Middle Eastern males buy several large pallets of water," "suspicious photography of the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento," "two Middle Eastern looking males taking photographs of Folsom Dam," and "female subject taking photos of Folsom Post Office."
"The challenge is once you get flagged, you're placed in a federal counterterrorism database," explained Basim Elkarra, executive director of Sacramento Valley's Council on American Islamic Relations.
It's part of the "If you see something, say something" campaign the federal government created after 9/11.
But that mantra is also leading to racial and religious profiling, like an Elk Grove police sergeant reporting his Lodi neighbor, a Middle Eastern physician, just for being "very unfriendly."
"I think it's going overboard saying they're taking precautions after 9/11," resident Nate Kush said.
Reporting some incidents makes sense.
Last May, a report led to a man's arrest after police found a cache of weapons in his Citrus Heights backyard bunker. The rescue of two people at a pool inside a secure Sacramento water treatment plant last March was the result of a report. The man who attempted to board a flight in Sacramento with four loaded guns was also flagged.
But the bulk of the reports don't appear to uncover any valuable counterterrorism intelligence.
Now, critics are calling on the federal government for an overhaul of the program.
"There's definitely better things I think could be happening in terms of serving the public," resident Amber Perkins said. "It's probably a waste of time, waste of money."
The senate also released a scathing report on the Fusion Center Project last year, complaining that it improperly collected information on too many innocent Americans and produced little valuable intelligence.