A Washington, D.C.-based political action group has urged minorities, and especially Arabs living in the U.S., not to cooperate with the FBI, claiming the agency will use any information it gathers “to harass, investigate or deport members of your community.”
“The law says you don’t have to talk to the FBI,” says a warning published by the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom.
“FBI agents receive psychological training in making you feel it is wrong not to talk to them. But according to the U.S. Constitution, both citizens and non-citizens have the right to refuse to talk to any government agent (this includes the INS and local police),” the warning said.
“The FBI has a history of harassing and harming minority and immigrant communities. Some people are spending a long time in jail because they or their friends talked to the FBI,” said the warning.
“It is now against the law to knowingly give humanitarian, charitable aid to certain foreign organizations, many of them in the Middle East,” the warning said. “You or your friends could be deported, or if citizens, jailed 10 years for such donations. The FBI is collecting information about such donations in Arab, Muslim and other immigrant communities.”
Kit Gage, national coordinator for the coalition, said the group stands by its warning – which was initially written and distributed in 1997 – even in the wake of the attacks.
“I don’t disavow the need for people to know their rights,” she told WorldNetDaily.
Asked if, in lieu of events, there could be some give and take, Gage remained resolute.
“There is clearly sensitivity with the Arab-American and Muslim communities,” she said. “They’re feeling under attack, and they’re also feeling the need – in some ways – to assert their American-ness, in some ways like Japanese-Americans did” during World War II.
“At the same time, I think it’s important for people not to give up their rights,” she added. “The FBI has a long history of having difficulty distinguishing between people’s opinions on world affairs … and involvement in any criminal activity.”
An FBI spokesman said the agency was too busy working leads to address the warning, but in the past, FBI officials have denied targeting minority communities. Also, officials are urging full cooperation in any ongoing terrorist incident investigation.
“I’m certainly concerned – as are a lot of other civil liberties folks – that there not be some huge sweep of Arab-Americans and Muslims into detention because of their associations and beliefs, or because they’re just Arab-Americans,” Gage said.
“Don’t talk to the FBI unless you are required to, and then have a criminal defense lawyer with you,” the warning continued. “If a government agent threatens you with arrest or deportation, you should consult with a trustworthy attorney immediately; then your attorney can call the FBI or INS if necessary.”
“The FBI is looking for information to use against you, your family and/or your community,” said the warning.
Khalil Jahshan, vice president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, told WND his group is associated with the coalition but has advised members to cooperate with authorities.
“Early on, after Sept. 11, we issued an appeal to our community urging all those concerned to cooperate with the investigation,” Jahshan said. “We have informed our members of their rights, in the sense that if they don’t want to talk, they don’t have to talk. But we urge members to help if they have any information at all that will contribute to the investigation to do so.”
Jahshan said his organization has “worked very closely” with the coalition and is a member of it. “But we reserve the right to have our own position in this regard, which is clearly different from the coalition.”
The Princeton, New Jersey-based American-Iranian Council not only condemned the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and against the Pentagon, but also urged members to help in any way possible.
“The American Iranian Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the vicious acts of terrorism that occurred in the United States … and expresses its deepest sympathy to the victims and their families,” the group said in a statement. “AIC urges all its members to provide whatever assistance they can to those suffering, especially with donations of blood and financial support.”
“AIC welcomes the Iranian government’s condemnation of this barbarous act, and it believes that now is the time for Iran to offer full cooperation to the United States in the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the statement continued. “In the aftermath of this tragedy, we are also presented with an opportunity for the two nations to work together against terrorism and for the good of their people and humanity.”
Jahshan said some members had complained about “overzealous” interrogations and actions by a few FBI agents since the agency began investigating the terrorist attacks. However, he said the FBI had been “responsive” to his members’ concerns.
“We’ve had probably the best expected cooperation from this administration at the highest levels,” he said. “The president has been extremely cooperative, the attorney general has been, the director of the FBI, members of Congress … at that level, there is no problem.”
But with 7,000 FBI agents investigating thousands of leads, “you’re apt to run into some cases of [rights] abuse,” said Jahshan, who added: “But those cases have been few.”
Gage said she did not support universal federal scrutiny of non-citizen Arabs and Muslims who may be in the U.S. on work or education visas.
“If you’re going to talk about talking to the FBI, the first advice is, ‘Talk to my lawyer,’” Gage said, “so that [Arab-Americans] don’t lose any rights.”