Twin Cities Muslims Advised Of Rights In FBI Talks


Somalis and other Muslims in the Twin Cities apparently are receiving more contacts from federal agents, prompting community groups to issue reminders about their rights during such encounters, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Yeserday, the Somali Justice Advocacy Center of St. Paul began distributing “know your rights” fliers. Omar Jamal, executive director, said “my serious concern in all of this is that when an interview happens, out of fear and a lack of understanding of the system, they might incriminate themselves when they haven’t done anything wrong. It’s a very tense, very fearful, very confused situation as it stands right now.”

Visits by agents to Somali residences appears to have increased in recent weeks, Jamal said. Paul McCabe, spokesman for the FBI office in Minneapolis, said members of the agency’s local Joint Terrorism Task Force had been conducting more interviews with community members. All are a result of intelligence information and none are done at random. McCabe said agents and task force members go through cultural diversity training to prepare them for the interviews. Agents explain civil rights to interview subjects, and the FBI office has received no complaints about the interviews. Peter Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said

“it is very difficult to feel comfortable not answering questions when someone in authority asks them. The natural assumption is that if you don’t cooperate, somehow that makes you suspicious. … It’s hard to get across the idea that the safest thing is not to answer, because your answer may be misunderstood.”


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