June 15, 2010
Mr. Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
VIA FACSIMILE: 202-307-6777
Re: Allegations of FBI Pressure Tactics that Amount to “Rendition”
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and spirits.
It is my unfortunate duty to bring to your attention allegations of discrimination by federal entities against several members of the American Muslim community.
In recent months, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has received a number of complaints from United States citizens who have been detained overseas by the FBI and the U.S. Department of State.
In all of the cases, these citizens have been placed on the no-fly list while in foreign countries, stranding them there with virtually no legal recourse. They have been subjected to repeated FBI interrogations and their Fifth Amendment due process rights have allegedly been violated.
After several months, some of these American citizens have been allowed to return to the United States. But despite their full cooperation with the FBI, others still remain in forced exile.
One of our clients, a natural born citizen still detained outside the United States, has been trapped in Egypt since May 4, 2010. His passport was confiscated and FBI agents have subjected him to at least eight interrogations, despite assertion of his constitutional right to remain silent as advised by his attorney. He has been explicitly told that he is on the no-fly list, and he has been pressured to submit to a polygraph test.
After a polygraph test on June 8, he was allegedly told by an agent that, based on his answers, he would “never see the United States or your family again” unless he “rethought” his answers. Subsequently, he says he has been pressured by the FBI to spy on the American Muslim
community when and if he is allowed to return to the United States.
On Saturday, the FBI told the man he was cleared to leave Egypt and he was given a temporary passport today. He was informed that despite being cleared to travel, he cannot use American or Canadian airspace. When he asked how he could return to the United States without being able to board a plane, he was allegedly informed that “Christopher Columbus did not ride on a plane” to come to America.
The man’s 19-year-old brother was also stopped by the FBI in Egypt as they were travelling home from Yemen. The younger man, who has since been allowed to return to the United States, says he also faced repeated FBI interrogations, was allegedly interrogated by a man claiming to be with the “CIA” and was blindfolded and chained to a wall in an Egyptian police facility for several days. During his detention, he was reportedly assaulted and subjected to sleep deprivation.
Another natural born United States citizen has been stranded in Egypt with his wife and two small children since April 13, 2010. He is a disabled veteran of the U.S. military who has also worked for the United States Postal Service.
After FBI agents interrogated him, they indicated that they would be going on vacation for several weeks and would not be able to give him clearance to return to the United States until after their return.
Of those American citizens initially denied entry into the United States who have since been permitted to return after lengthy detentions, one is a natural born citizen who had traveled to Yemen with his family to learn Arabic and was arrested on January 6 by the Political Security Organization in Yemen.
After being released, he was unable to board a flight from Turkey to the United States because he was on the no-fly list. Turkey deported him back to Yemen, where he sat in a Yemeni prison until he was finally cleared to fly on March 26.
The other is a naturalized citizen who flew from Yemen to Sardinia to return to the United States. He was prevented from boarding a flight and was deported back to Yemen at the beginning of April. It was not until May, and after interrogations by the FBI, that he was cleared to return to the United States. Neither of these individuals has been charged with any crime.
We are concerned that FBI interrogations of American citizens in a condition of forced exile are being conducted without due process and using techniques that amount to a form of “rendition.”
The use of apparently illegal pressure tactics flies in the face of President Obama’s commitment to abandon unconstitutional policies instituted under the previous administration.
If the FBI wishes to question American citizens, they should be allowed to return to the United States where they will be able to maintain their constitutional rights free of threats or intimidation.
We are also deeply concerned that this apparent targeting of American Muslims not only infringes on constitutional rights, but also sends the message that Muslims are second class citizens and that the due process of law does not apply to them.
I therefore respectfully request that your office investigate these incidents and take whatever remedial actions are necessary based on the results of that investigation. I would also request that the U.S. Department of Justice allow all American citizens to return to the United States, and, if there are any reasons to charge or investigate particular individuals, to do so once they are in their country of birth.
American Muslims are firmly committed to our nation’s safety and security. We applaud your efforts to protect America while defending the rights of all citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity or national origin.
CAIR looks forward to a swift resolution to this problem. You may contact me at your earliest convenience at 202-488-8787 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details of the cases described above may be obtained by contacting CAIR’s Civil Rights Manager Khadija Athman at 202-646-6033 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
National Executive Director
Glenn A Fine, Inspector General, Department of Justice
Thomas E Perez, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice
Senator Patrick Leahy
Representative John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary
Secretary Hilary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State