CAIR-Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU-IL) came together Saturday, March 29, 2008 to present “Know Your Rights and the FBI” a workshop aimed at educating the community about their rights when dealing with law enforcement, particularly the FBI.
Dealing with the law
Close to 40 community members attended as CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Director Christina Abraham discussed some cases she has seen and advised the audience on how to handle similar situations. ACLU-IL Civil Liberties Fellow, Wendy Park, discussed what requests every citizen has a legal right to make and what they can expect in dealing with law officials such as the FBI.
Above all, both Abraham and Park stressed a citizen’s right to decline answering any questions without having their attorney present. “In many cases, people immediately comply with the FBI and law officials because they don’t want it to seem like they have something to hide. Abraham stressed that “these cases aren’t about guilt or innocence; they’re about citizens’ rights.”
Community members learned about ambush interviewing, voluntary interviewing, and the watch list. Park explained ambush interviewing as surprise visits by the FBI, during which they ask a series of questions in order to gather information. Many of these “ambushes” are voluntary. Abraham explains that these “interviews” are within legal boundaries but citizens have the right to decline answering any questions without the presence of their attorney. It is crucial that citizens exercise this right since anything said to a law enforcement official can be used against them in a court of law.
“One of the main reasons workshops like this are so important is because many citizens don’t fully understand the law and are intimidated by it,” said Abraham.
The workshop wrapped up with a lively question and answer session between the community members and Abraham and Park.