Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ALERT: Reports of FBI Visits Prompt Reminder of Legal Rights

(SANTA CLARA, CA, 5/18/2010) -- The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) said today that CAIR offices nationwide have been receiving an increasing number of reports of FBI agents, along with local law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security officers, visiting and interviewing American Muslims, particularly members of the Pakistani and Yemeni community. Reports received by CAIR-SFBA describe visits by the FBI as "community outreach" visits.

Considering recent events, and the increase in FBI/Joint Terrorism Task Force-related (JTTF, including officers from the Department of Homeland Security and local police or sheriff departments) incidents reported to our office, it is important that Muslims understand their rights when visited by FBI/JTTF at their home or workplace:

1) Understand that your providing information to the FBI or any law enforcement, absent a subpoena, is strictly voluntary. You are not obligated under law to answer any of law enforcement's questions, other than giving your name and sometimes your address.

2) You may choose to have an attorney accompany or represent you for any interview or questioning. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney regarding the risks and benefits of being interviewed by law enforcement in your specific case. CAIR-SFBA may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

3) If an FBI/JTTF agent shows up at your home or workplace, and they do not have a search or arrest warrant, you have no obligation to let them in.

4) If they do have an arrest or search warrant, you can still exercise your right to remain silent. Comply with all directives and do not physically resist an officer. Be polite and respectful at all times. Remember that you retain the right to remain silent and do not have to comment or respond to any inquiries. You also have the right to an attorney.

5) If an agent or officer says they have some questions for you, you have the right to refuse to speak to them and/or you may tell the agents or officers that you will have your attorney contact them if they wish to speak to you. Again, CAIR-SFBA may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

6) Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law, and lying to an agent or officer is a criminal offense.

7) Should you decide to speak to agents alone despite the risks, note that you may set the conditions of the interview, including choosing when and where the interview is to take place, having a third party present such as a family member or community leader, and deciding what questions to answer, and refusing to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time.

8) Be sure to get the names, agencies, badge numbers, and business cards of ALL agents or officers.

9) Contact your attorney and/or CAIR-SFBA to report the interview/incident and to discuss next steps. If you feel that your civil rights were violated, you may also file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. CAIR-SFBA can help you with this process.

10) To file a complaint with CAIR-SFBA, please go here: CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Page


1. "FBI Interview: Knowing the law can protect you," by Ahilan Arulanantham and Ranjana Natarajan. InFocus News.

2. VIDEO: "Got Rights: Protect yourself and your family at home and at the airport," by Muslim Advocates.

3. To file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, go to:
DOJ Civil Rights Page

American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of every individual. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and to be politically active.

If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.

[Please note: This above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions about the material herein or about a specific case, please consult with your attorney.]

CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA, 408.986.9874, E-mail: info@sfba.cair.com

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