Been Questioned By the FBI? A message on FBI Questioning from Partner Organizations


Dear Community Members:

We write to you as civil rights advocates from the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC), and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) who investigate FBI surveillance of South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim communities in America.

Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) plays an important role in the investigation of domestic crime, the role of the FBI in domestic investigations of “national security” has raised serious concerns about government overreaching that impacts individual privacy rights and may discourage religious and civic participation in impacted communities. We need your help to stop this.

In order to inform lawmakers about civil rights violations in the Muslim community, we need hard facts and stories. We launched a community survey project to document such encounters and have been collecting stories for the last few months. The information provided in our surveys will remain anonymous at all times (we will not connect anyone’s story with their name) unless they specifically give us permission to do so. We know that the widespread FBI investigations and assessments have not just affected individuals and families, but they have also isolated, stigmatized, and instilled fear in entire communities.

The project goal is two-fold:

1)      Identify and document instances of FBI visits to community members and organizations.

To that end, if you have been visited by the FBI or know of someone else who has please contact us immediately.

2) Empower community members with access to attorneys, information and resources so that they are prepared in case of an FBI visit.

As part of this effort, we have already given presentations at a number of mosques including Masjid Al-Tawheed in San Francisco and the Shia Association of the Bay Area in San Jose. If you are able to host a “Know Your Rights” presentation at your location or for your group, please contact us.

This announcement includes Know Your Rights tips. Please share this information with your membership and forward to your lists to help spread the word.  Interviews are confidential and we believe the information we are gathering will be crucial for raising the awareness of lawmakers to overly intrusive FBI practices and their impact on the civil rights and civil liberties of South Asian, Arab, and Muslim communities. The constant surveillance and intimidation of our communities are issues that we must be aware of and help challenge. We thank you for helping us investigate these practices and the extent to which they undermine the values and freedoms upon which the United States of America stands.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! If FBI or any other law enforcement agent or officer contacts you in person or on the telephone:

• You do not have to answer any questions, other than giving your name and sometimes your address.

• You may have an attorney accompany or represent you in any interview or questioning.

• Because it is easy to make mistakes in casual conversation, and because there are serious consequences to giving incorrect information to a law enforcement officer, you should consult with an attorney before speaking to any officer or agent.

• If you start talking to agents or officers by mistake, you can stop at any time. Tell the agents you do not want to answer any more questions without a lawyer present. Offer to call them back or have your lawyer call them. If you decide to go forward without a lawyer, you can choose when and where the interview is to take place, have a family member, friend, or community leader present, limit the interview to certain subjects, and refuse to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time.

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

• Do not allow them inside.

• Ask if you are free to go, and offer to take their card so that you can get in touch with them later, maybe through an attorney.

• If an officer presents an arrest or search warrant, make sure the warrant is signed by a judge, and if it’s a search warrant, make sure it’s for the correct address. If it appears to be a valid warrant, comply silently with officers’ instructions, but do not consent to any search beyond what is provided in the warrant.

• If the FBI comes to your workplace, the owner of the property can deny them access to private areas of the property if there is no warrant. If your employer has a policy of excluding outsiders from non-public areas of the property, you can inform law enforcement officers of  that policy and ask them to show a warrant or leave.

If you are arrested, you can (and should!) 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. Tell the officers you do not want to answer any questions until you have a chance to speak to an attorney.

• Be aware 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.

Try to get the names, agencies, badge numbers, and business cards of ALL agents or officers who contact you.

Contact CAIR, ALC or the ACLU to report the interview/incident and to discuss next steps.


Summer Hararah, Asian Law Caucus: 415.848.7714
Veena Dubal, Asian Law Caucus: 415.896.1701
Zahra Billoo, Council on American Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area: 408.986.9874
Adel Syed, Council on American Islamic Relations Sacramento Valley: 916.441.6269
Julia Harumi Mass, American Civil Liberties Union: 415.621.2493, ext. 339