Arab American ADC Deeply Troubled by New FBI Investigative Powers
Problematic Attorney General Guidelines Implemented While FBI Safeguards Pending; Community Urged to Know Rights
Washington, DC | September, 23, 2008 | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is deeply troubled by new guidelines that will give federal law enforcement authorities carte blanche to conduct investigations of individuals on the mere suspicion of questionable activity or meeting the FBI’s assessment of what it considers a threat. This change will essentially move FBI investigations from being evidence-driven to those potentially based purely on suspicion.
These revised Attorney General guidelines on FBI investigations will be implemented on October 1, 2008. While the FBI is working on a supervisory-level review directive on how to implement these new guidelines to their field divisions, this will not be finalized for some time after agents are given this new authority by the Attorney General’s office.
ADC has been closely following the development of these revised FBI guidelines and has continued to engage with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI in an effort to address these concerns prior to implementation. ADC staff members have been allowed to review the draft language in a meeting at DOJ. ADC has also been working with allies in Congress and other civil liberties and post-9/11 community organizations to outline specific concerns to DOJ. Starting in early July 2008, ADC submitted comments along with several other organizations in opposition to the DOJ’s implementation of these newly revised investigative guidelines. DOJ officials have stated the purpose of their effort in making these revisions is only to consolidate several separate guidelines to ensure more effective investigations by their agents. When this regulation was originally instituted in the 1970’s it was part of a series of law enforcement reforms to cut down widespread abuses of police investigative authorities for political purposes
ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “The Department of Justice’s consolidation and expansion of its investigative authority will seriously jeopardize the Constitutional and privacy rights of all Americans and particularly Arab, Muslim and South Asian Americans during this election season. The proposed revisions would also encourage the collection and dissemination of domestic intelligence information not related to criminal activity,” Shora said, “This is a serious misstep on the part of the Attorney General’s Office which may have a negative impact on the serious coordination, trust, and communication, the FBI has been able to establish with these communities. One may wonder why the Attorney General is rushing to implement the guidelines before the FBI is able to prepare the necessary directives giving their field divisions guidance on the supervisory review process and safeguards for these new techniques.”
Implementing these unnecessary changes will encourage law enforcement agencies to shift from enforcing the law to gathering “intelligence” in ways that are harmful to a communities’ ability to exercise their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association. Law enforcement for the purpose of detecting potential terrorism threats should be based on evidence and is best approached in terms of a partnership between community and law enforcement. The proposed changes likely will lead to intelligence-gathering and dissemination that undermines Constitutional rights and community-police trust, while adding nothing to our security.
The revised guidelines maintain the Attorney General’s racial profiling guidelines issued in 2003. In 2003, ADC expressed concern for the apparent loopholes which allow officials to bypass protections against racial profiling for broadly termed national security concerns.
ADC is also concerned about language in the revised guidelines which allows the FBI and other law enforcement agents to share collected information with foreign intelligence services, their ability to take part in special events and demonstrations they determine a threat and the ability to investigate organizations or certain enterprises again on an FBI-determined assessment of threat that is not based on actual evidence.
For these reasons, ADC is releasing the following know your rights advisory statement. ADC feels it prudent to issue this advisory statement due to the potential for abuse of these revised Attorney General guidelines prior to implementation of the FBI-generated directives for a supervisory-level review process. This is based on the historically documented acts of misinterpretation and abuse by certain members of the law enforcement community when such new broad guidelines are first-implemented.
ADC would like to emphasize that it is issuing this advisory based on experiences in the community in recent years, and purely as a precautionary measure. ADC presents these suggestions for the consideration of the communities, to be evaluated by each family and individual according to their own best judgment and in the context of their own situation and relationship with their local community. ADC urges everyone to exercise common sense and rely on their own best judgment, but offers the following as suggestions should the need arise:
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS ADVISORY
In light of these developments, ADC everyone that equal protection and due process rights are afforded to everyone, including non-citizens, in the United States. ADC urges anyone who is contacted by law enforcement for an interview or information to remember:
1) Their absolute discretion whether to submit to any voluntary interview. This means it is their right to decide whether to submit to an interview.
2) Their right not to answer questions without the presence of an attorney. ADC highly recommends that individuals not participate in any interviews without an attorney.
4) Their absolute discretion in selecting the date, time, and location of any voluntary interview as well as who may attend the interview including an interpreter if needed. Remember that the interview is voluntary unless specifically told otherwise.
5) Their absolute discretion in selecting what questions to answer during such a voluntary interview. For example, one may choose to answer questions about their neighborhood or activity they may deem suspicious and yet refuse to answer any questions regarding their immigration status, political views, or religious beliefs and practices.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.
The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.