Guidance on FBI’s DC Area Voluntary Interviews
Today, November 21, the FBI Washington Field Office will begin voluntary interviews of hundreds of young Arabs, Muslims, and Arab-Americans in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In a meeting yesterday with the FBI Washington Field Office, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and other Arab American organizations were informed that this current initiative will begin today.
ADC and the other representatives expressed serious concerns about the initiative. It was agreed that the Arab-American groups would meet again with the FBI’s Washington Field Office in three weeks to discuss any concerns brought to the attention of ADC and the other groups by the community regarding these interviews.
During the meeting, it was stressed that these interviews will be voluntary, non-confrontational, and are part of soliciting the community’s assistance in a specific criminal investigation.
The FBI identified the following objectives for the interviews: the need to establish a positive relationship with the community, pursue suspicious activity related to this specific investigation, and stop criminal behavior related to this investigation. It was also stressed that these interviews are being conducted for purposes of information gathering and those who accept to be interviewed are not under suspicion of any criminal activity.
In light of these developments, ADC reminds members of the Arab, Muslim, and Arab-American communities that equal protection and due process rights are afforded to everyone, including non-citizens, in the United States. ADC urges anyone who is contacted to participate in these voluntary interviews to strongly consider:
1) Making sure that an attorney is present at all times during any voluntary interview the person may choose to attend.
2) Recalling that the interviewee may determine the date, time, and location of the interview, including who may attend the interview, including an interpreter if needed.
3) Bearing in mind that the FBI Washington Field Office has emphasized that all such interviews are completely voluntary and that no one is obligated to volunteer to answer any questions.
4) Entering the interview with the understanding that the interviewee has absolute discretion as to what questions to answer in such a voluntary interview. For example, one may choose to answer questions about their neighborhood and yet refuse to answer any questions regarding their immigration status.
ADC also urges anyone who is contacted by the FBI concerning this matter to contact the ADC Legal Department and provide details concerning the incident by calling (202) 244-2990 or via email at mailto:email@example.com
Upon request, ADC will do its best to provide third party observers, in cases where potential interviewees would want such additional safeguards.
Additional useful “Know Your Rights” information may be read by viewing the legal services section of the ADC website at https://www.adc.org/legal