Privacy SOS
Mohammed Abdkarim (a pseudonym) is a religious teacher who has been approached several times by FBI officers who came to his house. They told him he hadn’t done anything wrong, but they wanted to ask him about people in the community. Each time he said he did not want to speak without his lawyer present.  
 
Once his lawyer called back and said can you send me questions to give to the Imam? The agent refused.
 
In 2004, when he was traveling to Europe to meet with his fiancé, he was stopped inside the gate, just as he was about to embark on the plane. He was questioned, his bags were checked, and one of the officers took his wallet somewhere and came back with it later. They then allowed him to board the plane. On his return, he was stopped again and interrogated. His belongings were checked again and he was asked all sorts of personal questions, such as how often does he pray, how religious is he, why did he study a certain major in school?
 
Three years later he traveled again to meet his fiancé, and was again stopped just as he was about to board the plane. He had to go through the same questions and searches. They went through his wallet again, and this time found the card of an FBI agent. They questioned him extensively about that card.
 
On his return to Boston, once again he was stopped. This time three customs officers took him into a room and questioned him for four hours. They asked him if he believes in jihad, what tribe he is from, and so on. After four hours the FBI agent who had come to his house to talk to him and whose name was on the card entered the room.  
 
The agent questioned him about his finances, and showed him pictures of certain people, asking who they were. When he said he wanted to have his lawyer present, the agent said he can interview him without a lawyer at this point, since Customs and Border Protection had that right.  
 
“So basically, the FBI officer was able to ask me everything he wanted without a lawyer present. I am sure they made me wait four hours so that the FBI officer could come and interrogate me.”
 
He says that Logan Airport is one of the worst airports for Muslim travelers. He knows many Muslim men who have been stopped and asked very similar questions.
 
The FBI officers came back to his house in the summer of 2009. This time he told them he would talk to them without a lawyer present. He says that he has heard from at least a dozen young people who have been approached at train stations and even at school by people who say they are FBI agents. He has also been told that the FBI is visiting workplaces and even approaching employers first and asking questions about employees.
 
“People in the community are getting scared, especially when they are being asked about a specific person in the community. I know my picture has been shown to people in the community. Just recently an old lady told me that FBI agents came to her house and showed her my photo. She is now scared to come to the mosque.  Some people have stopped coming.”
 
He thinks his home and office phones are tapped. He says he has nothing to hide.  “They make you feel like you don’t belong here. I don’t know if this is what they intend to do, but this is what is happening.”

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.