March 29, 2012

Iranian Americans Report Being Targeted by FBI for Iran Information


Know Your RightsWashington, DC – In recent weeks, Iranian Americans have increasingly been sought out by the FBI to participate in voluntary interviews that may be related to heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

In the past, the FBI has singled out members of diaspora communities in the weeks and months prior to U.S. military action.

It is unclear what methodology the FBI is using in selecting Iranian Americans to target for interviews. However, targeted individuals have reported that the FBI has been fairly aggressive and vague about the reasoning behind the interviews, causing panic and concern among ordinary Iranian Americans.

The FBI utilized similar methods in 2003 in an operation known as Operation Darkening Clouds, a pre-war intelligence-gathering effort focused on Iraqis in the U.S. More recently, the FBI aggressively sought out interviews with Libyans living in the U.S. shortly prior to the NATO-led intervention to obtain information about Colonel Qaddafi as well as to identify possible retaliatory threats against U.S. citizens.

NIAC has spoken with the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) to obtain more information about what Iranian Americans can do if contacted by the FBI. It’s important to also note that what the FBI is doing is NOT illegal or unusual, but you have legal rights you should be aware of.For starters, as a U.S. citizen you DO NOT have to give consent and allow yourself to be interviewed. If you’ve decided otherwise, it is imperative that you bring legal counsel to protect your rights. NIAC has provided several links below to ensure that our members have the resources necessary to make informed decisions in response to any future encounters:

  • “ACLU Know Your Rights When Encountering Law Enforcement” – a good overview of what community members should do if they are approached by members of any federal agency (available in English and Farsi)
  • “Know Your Rights Comix_FBI” – a simplified version of above link that provides a visual guide which takes people step by step through the do’s and don’ts of FBI interviews
  • “For Attorneys Representing Clients Voluntary FBI Interviews” – a guide geared towards attorneys that assists them in understanding the basics of how to represent clients who are approached by the FBI for “voluntary” interviews.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Christina Sinha, IABA Fellow at the Asia Law Caucus, at [email protected] or Nobar Elmi at [email protected].




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