On the heels of a new Justice Department plan to interview thousands of men from Middle Eastern countries, the American Civil Liberties Union today released a pamphlet that offers guidance in seven languages -- including Arabic, Hindi and Spanish -- on what to do when stopped by law enforcement.
The pamphlet -- "Know Your Rights: What to Do If You're Stopped by the Police, the FBI, the INS or the Customs Service" -- contains information for citizens and non-citizens alike and is intended for those who feel at risk of becoming innocent targets of a government investigation in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"The ACLU created the Know Your Rights pamphlets because we are concerned that many people, especially non-citizens, are not fully aware of their rights when being questioned or detained by the government," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU.
"That concern has been heightened by the government's latest dragnet approach to its investigation and by the Attorney General's apparent unwillingness to respect the checks and balances that are so central to our democracy," he added.
"None of the advice in the pamphlet is meant to stop people from cooperating with proper law enforcement investigations," Romero said, noting that the pamphlet advises those who are being questioned by authorities to be careful but truthful in their answers.
The ACLU has criticized a Justice Department "dragnet" plan to pick up and interview at least 5,000 foreigners -- all men ages 18 to 33, from mostly Middle Eastern countries -- who entered the United States on non-immigrant visas from January 1, 2000 to the present.
The ACLU has also been troubled by reports that some people under investigation have been detained and impeded in their ability to contact lawyers and their families. On October 29, the ACLU joined with a coalition of civil liberties, human rights and electronic privacy organizations in filing a Freedom of Information Act request for information about the individuals arrested or detained since September 11.
To date, the FBI has denied the groups' request, while requests to the Justice Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Services have so far gone unanswered. An appeal to the FBI denial was filed on November 9, which is required before going to court.
The ACLU is offering the pamphlets at no cost to ethnic organizations and community groups, in addition to distributing them through its 53 affiliates around the country.
The pamphlet is currently available in English, Spanish and Arabic and will soon be published in Farsi, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. It is written in a straightforward style and offers pragmatic advice in a question-and-answer format.
Readers will find answers to the questions: "What Constitutional Rights Do I Have?" "What If the Police or FBI Contact Me?" "What If I Am Not a Citizen and the INS Contacts Me"? and "What Are My Rights At Airports?"
The pamphlets are available in pdf format on the ACLU's website.
The English pamphlet is at http://www.aclu.org/library/know_your_rights.pdf
The Arabic pamphlet is at http://www.aclu.org/library/know_your_rights_ar.pdf
The Spanish pamphlet is at http://www.aclu.org/library/know_your_rights_sp.pdf