Breeding distrust

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) says there’s been “a recent wave of reports from across the country indicating that FBI agents are contacting Arab and Muslim Americans, including citizens, for what has been described as voluntary interviews.”

Particularly disturbing to Arab-American leaders is the way the feds launched this latest round of interrogations.

“Unlike previous initiatives, the FBI has not communicated to ADC any plans to conduct such interviews,” the nonprofit advocacy group declared in a press release.

Imad Hamad, regional director of the ADC, finds the lack of communication disconcerting.

“Historically speaking, we’ve had good relations with FBI,” says Hamad. “The different thing about this new wave of interviews is that the FBI, despite ongoing interaction, basically left us in the dark. They never notified us. They never discussed this with us.”

As of Monday, Hamad still had not been contacted. However, interviews have already begun in the Detroit area, confirmed Special Agent Dawn Clenney, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Detroit office. She says the contacts, both locally and nationwide, are being conducted in an attempt to gain detailed information about a possible attack intelligence reports indicate the al Qaeda terrorist group is planning.

Yet Clenney insists that the interviews are not part of some new initiative being launched by the FBI. The agency, she says, is “just reinforcing our presence in the community. This is not something new we are doing.”

However it is characterized, news of the effort has spread quickly through the Arab-American community. Hamad says calls have been pouring into his office from people concerned about what to do if they are contacted by the feds.

That high level of anxiety is part of the reason Hamad says it was a mistake for the feds to have launched such an effort without first informing Arab-American leaders.

“It is helpful to all when you have clear and open lines of communication,” says Hamad. “That approach has been proven to be effective and helpful for the government as well as the community.”

The flip side is that without such communication, trust erodes and fear spreads. The ADC is advising people contacted by the authorities to make sure an attorney is present during any interview.

“It is important to note that everything you say to an FBI agent or other law enforcement representative is recorded, nothing is ‘off the record,’ including immigration status,” the ADC advises.

Unless John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge are crying wolf (that’s always a possibility), it’s certainly prudent for authorities to beat the bushes for data on possible terror plots. But disclosure is key, and working with the ADC seems equally prudent.

For information contact the local office of the ADC at 313-581-1201.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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