ACLU Says FBI Questioning of Iraqi Nationals
in U.S. Will Hamper, Not Help, War on Terror
- March 19 - The government’s latest plan to question thousands
of Iraqi nationals is yet another example of ethnic and religious
profiling that may hamper rather than help efforts to apprehend
terrorists, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.
ACLU offices across the country have been mobilizing to identify
– and in some cases provide special training for – local attorneys
to accompany Iraqis to the interviews, which are scheduled to
begin this week. The ACLU expressed concern that some FBI officials
have told Muslim groups that the presence of an attorney would
lead them to immediately suspect that the person might "have something
"In the same
breath that they are asking for assistance from Iraqi nationals
in thwarting terrorism, the FBI is alienating people by treating
them like suspects and discouraging them from consulting with
an attorney, which is their right," said Dalia Hashad, the ACLU’s
Arab, Muslim and South Asian Advocate.
many good reasons to have an attorney present during questioning,
none of which have anything to do with guilt," Hashad said. "Further,
it is unlikely that people with information will come forward
when they feel that having an attorney present will render them
suspicious to the government and not having an attorney present
will expose them to unwarranted detention or worse."
that the ACLU has been fielding phone calls from frightened Iraqis,
many of whom fled Saddam Hussein’s regime and are concerned that
the government is targeting them for questioning merely on the
basis of their country of origin.
news reports, the FBI is working from an initial list of about
50,000 Iraqi nationals living in the United States, about 11,000
of whom have been targeted for interviews in the event of a war.
Officials have not said what the basis for the "targeting" is,
although a similar interview program known as Special Registration
singled out men over the age of 16 from mainly Muslim and Arab
The FBI plans
include setting up meetings between the heads of FBI field offices
and local Islamic groups across the country to ask for their support
in identifying terrorists and to assure them of FBI protection
against hate crimes. While in some places, like Pittsburgh, the
FBI has also met with local ACLU officials to allay fears and
establish cooperation, the message from the FBI has been inconsistent
the ACLU said. For example, the FBI told a Muslim group in Philadelphia
that they would not be arrested for immigration violations; however
an FBI official told the Washington Post on Monday that they would
detain anyone found to be in violation of immigration laws.
"It is ironic
that the government is promising to protect Iraqis against hate
crimes, which are attacks based on a person’s ethnicity, skin
color or religion – in other words, the very kind of profiling
the government is resorting to," Hashad said.
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