“October Plan” chills religious and political activity of Muslims and Arabs

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced today that it will provide lawyers to assist persons selected for questioning under a sweeping FBI initiative to thwart terrorism before and during the elections. According to news sources, the FBI project -- officially called the “Fall Threat Task Force” but popularly referred to as the “October Plan”-- is openly spying on activities at Mosques and aggressively targeting Muslims and Arabs for questioning leading up to the elections.
Under the nationwide plan, hundreds of Muslims living in Arizona were questioned by FBI agents prior to the presidential debates in Tempe, Arizona, last week. The ACLU fears a repeat of the post 9/11 roundup that resulted in more than 1,000 persons being secretly questioned and detained, but later found to have no connections whatsoever to terrorism.
“As we understand it, this plan focuses on Muslims and Arabs who are unlikely to have any connection to any criminal activity,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “We want our government to act against legitimate terrorist threats, but casting a net of suspicion over an entire religious and ethnic community is an ineffective and counterproductive investigative tool.”
Individuals who have been contacted by the FBI and asked to be interviewed should contact the ACLU of Virginia at 804/644-8080.
“We hope to be able to provide assistance to everyone who needs it,” said ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg. “We strongly advise people who are contacted by the FBI to call us. It is important that they know there are limits to what the FBI can do in investigations of this kind-- and that they have a right to have a lawyer present if they choose to go through with the interview.”
According to the FBI, participating in the interviews is voluntary. But the ACLU believes that many in the Arab community will feel coerced to take part. In addition, the FBI interviews seem to be geared to collecting information on dissenters as much as actual terrorists. News reports say that individuals are being asked questions such as: “Do you know anyone critical of the domestic war on terrorism?” and “Have you heard any anti-U.S propaganda?”
The ACLU produces a “Know Your Rights” brochure in English, Arabic and six other languages. Copies of the brochure can be obtained from the ACLU of Virginia or on the web at http://www.acluva.org/publications/fbiKYR.pdf

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022