ACLU of Washington Offers Free Attorneys to People Questioned in Federal “Dragnet” Investigation

News Release: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington announced today that it is offering attorneys to accompany any individuals in the state who are questioned by officials as part of a U.S. Department of Justice "dragnet" investigation.  The Justice Department has announced plans to question 5,000 men nationwide who have entered the country legally on non-immigrant visas in the last two years.  The ACLU attorneys will provide the legal representation without charge. 

"We recognize the importance of investigating terrorism, and the right and responsibility of the FBI to gather relevant information for that purpose.  At the same time, it is important that Americans not lose sight of the values our nation is seeking to defend.  The ACLU is providing attorneys to help insure that people's legal rights are respected," said Julya Hampton, Legal Program Director for the ACLU. 

The ACLU is concerned that the Justice Department is interrogating individuals because of their ethnicity without reason to believe that the specific individuals to be interviewed have information about terrorist activities.  Questions to be asked (as outlined in Justice Department guidelines for interviewers) go beyond those seeking factual information and include inquiries about people's political beliefs and the political beliefs of family members and friends.  Former FBI assistant director Oliver Revell told the Washington Post that the Justice Department plan is not effective and "really guts the values of our society, which you cannot allow the terrorists to do."        

The ACLU has published a "Know Your Rights" pamphlet aimed at educating targeted communities of their rights during a police investigation.  It is available in English, Spanish, and Arabic via the ACLU's Web site.