September 20, 2004

Pasquale J. Damuro
Assistant Director in Charge
FBI New York Field Office
New York, New York

Dear Pasquale J. Damuro:

We are writing on behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – New York (ADC-NY) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) to express our concern over the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s announcement that the agency has begun questioning thousands of Arab and Muslim men in the United States. We seek clarification about the scope of this initiative in New York City and New York State.

According to accounts of a May 26 press conference held by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI has launched a new round of nationwide interviews in Muslim and Arab communities. Since its announcement, there has been little government information released regarding the nature of this initiative. Yet according to media reports, FBI agents are contacting 5,000 Arab and Muslim men, including citizens, for what have been described as voluntary interviews. These reports indicate that individuals will be asked to submit to interviews without any individualized criminal suspicion, but rather based on an individual’s religious affiliation or ethnicity.

This most recent questioning of Arab and Muslim men appears to be similar to a practice employed by the FBI in 2001 and 2002 that involved the questioning of 8,000 men identified as Arab or Muslim. The FBI undertook these interviews in the absence of any suspicion of wrongdoing. It has been widely reported that the interviews created widespread fear and confusion in the communities in which those subjected to interviews resided. The newest round of questioning is yet another exercise in racial and ethnic profiling and as such, it is bound to cause more fear and resentment in the affected communities.

In light of these concerns, we ask that you provide us with information regarding the nature of the FBI’s interviews of Arabs and Muslims underway or planned in New York City and New York State.

In particular we request that you provide us with information in response to the following questions:

  • How many people in New York City and New York State does the FBI intend to question/interview?
  • How will individuals be identified for questioning?
  • What questions will be asked? Will interviewees be questioned about their religious or political beliefs and activities?
  • Who will conduct the questioning? Will government agencies other than the FBI participate? If so, which agencies?
  • Will individuals contacted be informed of the voluntary nature of their participation in these FBI interviews? Will individuals contacted be informed of their legal rights, including their right to have an attorney present during the interviews?
  • Which government agencies or other entities or individuals will have access to information obtained from these interviews?
  • In what manner and for what purposes will the information obtained from these interviews be stored and made accessible?

We would appreciate a prompt response to these questions. And we thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Donna Lieberman
Executive Director, NYCLU

Monica Tarazi
Director, ADC – NY

Click here to read the NYCLU's related press release.