Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
I refused to become an FBI informant, the government put me on the no fly list (aclu.org)
1206 points by jbegley 16 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 487 comments

I refused to be an FBI informant once. They threatened to make up false charges on me. I held my ground.

They harrassed me at home twice, talked to my employer and made a huge stink trying to create pressure.

I didn't cave and they eventually went away, because I committed no crimes and they knew it.

As a security researcher I sometimes make contact with controversial people in order to get information, like a journalist might. They wanted those contacts. Too bad.

I think people here will probably underestimate how common your story is in the security industry.

Just from DEFCON connections, I'm on a first name basis with a roughly four different FBI employees who are constantly trying to recruit myself or friends as informants.

We discuss, openly, what a bad deal it is to be an informant and how I don't have any useful information for them anyway. But they persist. Thankfully lightly. Nothing like what you mentioned, but I fully believe that your story happens. And regularly.

I feel like this is a good time to remind you, and everyone: never talk to federal agents. FBI, Fish and Game, Secret Service. Don't. They can say you told them anything, and guess what? It's a felony to lie to them. They will push a pre-written statement in front of you and if you refuse to sign it they will threaten you with saying you lied to them. Don't. Talk. To. Feds. Ever.

> Don't. Talk. To. Feds. Ever.

This is the lesson I learned to teach to my kids.

I didn't get to this complete turnaround easily. It took years of systemic, post-911 malfeasance (and endless accompanying lies) by pretty much every fed LEO/IC agency, to nurture this mindset in me.

Let me play the devils advocate here..

How are they supposed to investigate crime if nobody talks to them?

As an analogy, Punching Jim down by the corner store punches everybody in the face who talks to him, so everyone has stopped talking to him. But how is Punching Jim supposed to fulfill his job as a therapist if his patients are constantly afraid of being punched? The answer is that Punching Jim might just be a bad therapist, and maybe it's good for therapists that punch people in the face to have fewer patients.

Nobody forces the FBI to have the system they have. We could have laws that make interrogation different. We could have laws that change the consequences of accidentally lying to federal agents, that raise the legal standard for consequential lies. The FBI could get rid of the no-fly list, they could stop threatening innocent security researchers to get info. We could get rid of "gotcha" interrogation techniques that are explicitly designed to try and trick people into signing away their rights.

They built this system, and nobody but them is to blame for it. If the FBI wants people to talk to them, they just need to stop punching people in the face. A lack of informants is a problem they created and that they can solve.

That's not really devil's advocate, just a great example of the many corrosive effects of an untrustworthy government.

I speak for myself here, but it is not that I would recommend against talking in principle. Only, in practice the system is set up for talking to be universally a bad idea.

If the system puts in place some better checks and balances for people to fight abuses (as the one in the post on top), I will gladly go back and do my civic duties to stop crime.

So, how are they supposed to investigate if nobody talks? They are supposed to fight for better checks and balances, so people can start talking again.

As the son of a cop, I learned very early on that you should never talk to cops or any law enforcement. They are not on your side.

Maybe in the US. That's not really what you learn in Europe. Talking to police doesn't get you in trouble. Lying to police also isn't illegal (unless you make up stories to damage others).

I've been in many European countries and have travelled a lot to the US. I've never experienced a disconnect between police and the general population as stark as it is in the US. And it has also affected me. Seeing police anywhere tends to comfort me, in the US it makes me nervous. To be clear, I've never had any negative experiences with police anywhere myself, but stories about bad cops are just so prevalent in the US.

I have no experience with law enforcement in the US, my comment was related to my experience where I live, Brazil.

My dad taught me early on that talking to cops would likely get me into trouble, as they want to make an arrest, and it does not matter if you are guilty or not, as long as they get you to confess. Later experiences taught me that my dad, a well known and liked cop in our town, was not someone to be trusted either.

I know way too many stories of racist cops in Europe to believe talking to police doesn't get you in trouble in Europe also.

P.S.: I do have european citizenship. Also, dark skin.

I have seen court filings where investigators misinterpreted things people have said in an interview, then weeks later accused them of lying and filed charges of obstruction.

Imagine it: You agree to an interview because you are a witness to a crime, tell 100% the truth, but then they take notes, misinterpret their own notes (either intentionally or due to incompetence), and then charge you with lying/obstruction.

I've seen it happen to completely innocent people. Sadly, the best advice is not to talk to investigators.

What does the FBI offer for becoming an informant if you are a law abiding citizen?

They offered: "Politicians are not happy. Someone has to pay for it. If you help us we can make sure you are not that someone"

And yeah, I was terrified. It was a mistake to talk to them in the first place.

They got in my door by telling me they wanted my opinion on some activity they felt is a threat to a visiting president then things took a fast turn asking me about my research and contacts.

FBI is 100% allowed to lie to you but if you lie back to them they own you. They also like to catch you unprepared and off guard. Don't fall for it.

Say something like:

"I'm sorry this is not a topic I feel well prepared to talk about right now. If you have a court order I will honor it but even then I am going to need time to collect my thoughts and ensure I am speaking accurately. I'll walk you out"

Then get a lawyer to coach you on what you can and can't say. If they catch you in a lie even by accident they can -force- you to be an informant.

Law professor James Duane reminds you: "Don't Talk to the Police"


thank you, i really enjoyed this lecture.

I’ll never forget the time I kicked the door down of a brothel to see if anyone was inside while it was on fire. Police came to my house, asked me to help them in an arson investigation, I invited them in, and told them what happened... it was only when they started taking photos of my jacket I was wearing that day that I realised I was the main arson suspect. That’s when the adrenaline hit... and when it does, your brain gets muddled and so it’s damn easy to get caught out with not be accurate when recalling facts... but yeah, it’s easier not to lie when you tell them to go through a lawyer.

i think i first saw this here, but it's worth repeating.


hehe. It's funny because that's always in my recommended!

> "Politicians are not happy. Someone has to pay for it. If you help us we can make sure you are not that someone"

Isn't that racketeering?

Wait, you mean the gang of armed thugs that extort money from people at the point of a gun, throwing them in a tiny rape cage if they disobey, and will abduct their own citizens to dose then with megadoses of psychedelics for weeks straight, while simultaneously operating a massive imperialist war machine...might be guilty of racketeering?

Come to think of it, you might be on to something!

Federal agents, while technically only possessing something akin to an even less accessible version of qualified immunity under the Bivens doctrine, in reality are basically never going to be held responsible in any sort of substantive way from those they victimized on the job, unless they literally kill a bystander or something and even that isn't a sure thing.

That doesn't make it not racketeering...

Regardless of what it is how many here jumping for joy if instead of a "noble security researcher" those tactics were being used against people peddling untaxed goods, rubber stamping commercial motor vehicle inspections or some other "you need to extrapolate out at least a few steps to find a victim" type crime? The government only gets away with this stuff because people turn a blind eye when its done to people they don't like.

no, the government gets away with this stuff because they have power. people turn a blind eye because it doesn't matter if they don't, because they don't have power.

The government gets away with this stuff because people can't coordinate their power, which looks basically the same as powerless people turning a blind eye. You guys are describing two facets of the same thing, but the people do in fact have more power than the government.

They can coordinate their power; it's called "government". Government employs about 15% of the labor force in America, and that's not even including contractors for whom government is the only customer.

Any large-scale coordination will necessarily eclipse the individual and take on a life of its own; you can't really have it both ways.

Not when the government does it.

The great self-referential inconsistency, if you will.

Cops are allowed to lie to you.

Even if it is, who are you gonna tell? The FBI?

I'm curious, do you know what happens if you tried to make yourself useless by publicly announcing that FBI is trying to make you an informant? Has anyone tried that as a way out?

At the time they threatened me to not tell anyone they spoke with me or unspecified bad things would happen.

I am older and have spent a lot more time researching law now, and no longer choose to let strongarm chilling effects like this work.

There are tons of good people in law enforcement and three letter agencies that actually protect people. I know some of them.

I also know some overstep and abuse their power and it is on all of us to call it out when it happens.

Likely obstruction of justice/some other nature of obstruction that may leave you with some pretty serious charges.

They won't ruin your life. It's an offer you can't refuse.

I know others who are in exactly the same situation (DEFCON connections). Astonished to see that it is that common.

Robert Graham (eratasec) told a story that they threatened to falsely taint his security clearance if he didn't cancel a DEFCON talk.

And they got their way if my memory doesn't fail me. DEFCON talk was cancelled.

What was the topic of the talk?

I couldn't find out. This is as close as I came.

"I had the FBI come threaten me to stop a talk that isn't as scary as 20 SCADA bugs," Graham says.

ref: https://www.darkreading.com/vulnerabilities---threats/power-... (2012)

I've had similar experiences, though, not with FBI, with DHS at DEFCON, to the point where I've been handed DHS business cards prior to hopping on flights out of Las Vegas on my way home, and them calling me on my personal (non-work-published) cell phone a few days later.

First name basis with FBI employees and you didn't do your duty and publish all the information you have extracted from them including names and face pictures. What the hell?! FBI befriends you, that is just their way to get informants. The be your friend manipulation. They are trained to manipulate you. You fell for it hard!

If you think doxxing low ranking federal law enforcement for the high crime of doing their job is _your duty_, then I don't have much to say to you. Antagonizing your government over low stakes is not freedom fighting.

You can be civil with people who don't share the same agenda as you. Shocking thought in today's society, I guess.

I'm guessing publishing that information would create exposure to federal criminal charges of endangering FBI agents (not sure of the exact name of the charge). Then the FBI really would have leverage to either gain a new informant for as long as the statute of limitations lasts or throw the researcher in prison with a criminal record.

Could you elaborate more on why it's a bad deal?

- you will be asked/pressured to do things - to be places and talk to people you weren't planning to. Best case scenario it's at the cost of your time, worst case scenario it's at the cost of your personal safety.

- you will be expected to report on what other people, including your friends, said or did. Even if they are not doing anything illegal FBI might want information to pressure them into being an informant.

I wasn't in a situation like that, but I expect it would have a huge chilling effect on me - I'd start self-censoring interactions with others our of fear they mention something benign, but gray area legally that I would laugh at otherwise, but now would be required to report and get them in trouble.

This wouldn't have to be something big - I'm sure at some point in time a friend of yours recommended a movie or a tv show that isn't available in your region, implying they have pirated a copy. Would your first reaction be to notify FBI?

And what's the upside for all this if you're a law abiding citizen? The FBI pinky swears they won't come after you for violating the kinds of laws law abiding citizens break.

From an interview with William O'Neal:

> INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about how you felt about working for the FBI. What motivated you and what you thought you were, what ends you thought you were serving?

> WILLIAM O'NEAL: Well, in my community, the policemen were, I mean, it was the quickest way to gain respect. I mean, I think I grew up wanting to be a policeman, admiring and respecting policemen, although I always thought it was outside of my reach. I, my neighborhood was not unlike most people that grew up in Chicago, most young people, we were very mischievous and did a lot of juvenile-type, petty, criminal-type things, but stealing a car and all of a sudden having the FBI, having a case with the FBI, the thought of be--having, really going to jail got my attention. And, so when he asked me to join the Black Panther Party, and he used terms, he never used the word informant. He always said, "You're working for me," and I associated him as the FBI. So all of a sudden I was working for the FBI, which, in my mind, at that point, I associated with being an FBI agent. So I felt good about it. I felt like I was working undercover for the FBI doing something good for the finest police organization in America. And so I was pretty proud.



Just start wearing a brown shirt whenever you are around friends. Maybe they'll figure it out.

What's the brown shirt about?


colloquially called "Brownshirts"

You're potentially risking your life but certainly trading your reputation and taking on stress for not a particularly worthy amount of money.

Plus then you're on the government's radar and they think you're money-motivated, not patriotism-motivated. Everyone involved in any cases brought with your help will think poorly of you. This might turn into cases brought against you. You will never get a government job. Your identity will probably be exposed as an informant at some point -- usually through public court records.

If you actually are patriotism-motivated, go join the agency. There is no upside to informing on people.

I just watched “White Boy” on Netflix. The FBI was using a 15 year old boy to get information on drug dealers. He has been in prison for almost 30 years after the FBI had no use for him.

At first, I thought the boy who was informing was with the good guys taking down drug kingpins. By the end of it, I realized the FBI were just manipulating and using up this young kid.

During my last polygraph (I've had a lot over the years), I was accused by the FBI examiner of being a terrorist. Although we are not supposed to discuss these things, my boss told me later that they had done the same thing to him. The accusations rose to the level of abuse and the examiner was yelling at me and threatening my livelihood and future for several hours. Apparently, once he was satisfied that I had done nothing wrong, we were done. He offered his handshake to me as I left the room. I shook his hand, but I felt soiled afterward.

how accurate are polygraphs? they seem to be uniquely American (though i can't pretend i know that as a fact). I always thought they are really just worthless window-dressing on par with the tsa.I.e it's a lot of bluff and only a bit of substance. Can your experiences substantiate what i'm saying or am i being biased?

Polygraphs are intimidation devices with no scientific merit. They don't work. By making people believe that they do work, sometimes interrogators are able to get people to admit things they otherwise wouldn't.

Polygraphs are not admissible as evidence in court and civilian employers are not allowed to administer them to employees. Regardless, the US Government still uses them for security clearance.

More information: https://antipolygraph.org/

your answers and the fact that no one is defending polygraphs indicates to me that i'm not far off the mark. In which case, why on earth is the FBI messing around with it? My conclusion, corroborated by this story is that they are not so professional as they would like you to think. This is compensated, probably with interest, by being very heavy handed. But surely that is no way to run a large agency.

The FBI is nowhere near as professional as people are led to believe. The lie detector test isn't even unique, we are not even a decade removed from evidence showing nearly all their forensic techniques were utter shams.

do you have some resources on this?


The 2009 NAS report is particularly damming, but I can't find a free copy and I guess that's over a decade now, my mistake.

>how accurate are polygraphs?

Somewhere between zero and very depending on how good the person doing the interrogating is and how much the person being questioned knows about the techniques being used against them.

It's basically a good cop bad cop routine without the expense of the good cop and half as many human factors to screw it up.

>Somewhere between zero and very depending on how good the person doing the interrogating is and how much the person being questioned knows about the techniques being used against them

With your "very effective" conditions, I'd argue that an innocent person would quite often respond the same as a guilty person, making the process unreliable in a different way.

As much as I hate queues at the airport, I believe that TSA and Co. are effective. Sure, they cannot catch anyone but people demonstrating that in tests tend to be much more knowledgeable than would-be attackers. Just knowing that you could get caught is enough to put off many. There's a reason why the terrorist attacks we've seen in recent years (especially in Europe) have been largely focused on vehicles , trying to blow up a plane has become much more risky with TSA.

So I don't think it's mainly window-dressing. It's not perfect but enough to scare off most bad guys.

we all have to play along with this dumb charade that we know is inherently useless. It's insanity

I think you misunderstood my comment? I don't think it's useless. It's annoying and not perfect but airport security has improved safety of aviation by a lot in my opinion. The lack of any successful onboard attacks on aircrafts in the past decade (when other terror attacks happened frequently in Europe) are a good indicator for that.

ben gurion is widely acknowledged as being one of the most secure airports in the world. And they get by without all these stupid rules about shoes and liquids etc.

Hopefully to clear some things up about polygraphs in America:

1. You almost never go through them unless you're in the process of obtaining a security clearance (I'd be quite surprised if the UK didn't do something similar for their clearance process). In fact, I have never heard of any other instance where someone was required to have one, as they are generally not admissible evidence in courts.

2. It is my understanding that the accuracy of polygraphs is mostly down to the skill of the person reading the device and giving the test (hence why they aren't usable as evidence).

To point number 1: Depending on what sort of work the subject is doing with the clearance, he/she may never get a poly, or he/she may get one every time the clearance is updated (usually 5 years). If the subject happens to be living with a foreign national, and somebody writes a "letter of compelling need" for the subject (meaning the subject will retain the clearance in spite of the risk), then the subject will get a poly every year.

The poly is not limited to one session. The examiner will keep asking the subject to come back until they are satisfied with the results, or until the subject quits their job. Depending on the personality type of the subject, it can be extremely stressful, or just routine. Many engineers are "Type A" and that is the type most susceptible to stress.

The UK doesn't its regarded as ineffectual if not an outright carny show fraud.

So who do you report law enforcement misconduct to? Normally it's the FBI/DOJ, but it seems there's a conflict of interest in these cases...

> who do you report law enforcement misconduct to?

These rights are privately enforced. There is no public federal enforcement. You have to do what this gentleman is doing. Sue in the courts.

It is becoming apparent that the U.S. needs an independent agency focussed on transgressions by law enforcement / a civil rights enforcement bureau. One could keep it purely civil, to avoid conflicting with the DoJ. But in the same way that criminal prosecution is specialized enough that consolidating it in the DoJ makes sense, investigating law enforcement is specialized and conflicted enough that consolidating it under an independent agency makes sense.

>It is becoming apparent that the U.S. needs an independent agency focussed on transgressions by law enforcement / a civil rights enforcement bureau.

YMMV, but:

Many agencies have an Auditor General with a cadre of agents whose entire role is to investigate and publicly report on what that agency does wrong. Sadly, I can't think of any Auditor General's office with the power to punish. So if the agency is acting unconstitutionally or illegally because the governor or agency director wants them to, it's on the public to push for change. That's a hard ask.

For issues with state agencies, contact your District Attorney or state Attorney General. I've never done this, but it's stuck in my mind as the path to go. If other people want to report their dead end stories of doing this, I'd welcome the lesson.

The DAs work with law enforcement on a daily basis. They are in some ways considered law enforcement themselves (they have detectives and investigators working directly for them). My experience is that they don't care.

I've contacted the AG about stuff in the past. He was a complete idiot. I contacted him about a state law that was being violated by a state government policy and he said he would forward the complaint to the FBI. Why? It has nothing to do with federal law!

Better than my state AG. She actively works with state law enforcement to deny people their rights without saying that's what they're doing.

That's kind of what's going on here. There's a state law making it a felony to reveal specific information of citizens except in specified situations. They are revealing that information contrary to law, so a violation of the statutory right to privacy.

In my experience, state AG's can be very helpful with consumer complaints.

Yes, but those are usually against companies. Do you have any info when it's a complaint against state agencies?

You're thinking Attorney General. The correct title in the U.S. is Inspector General, and they fall under OIG, the Office of the Inspector General.

Note: outing classified to an Inspector General not cleared, will still get you thrown in prison. Even pointing in a direction to start asking questions or getting cleared may carry legal consequences that OIG has no authority to protect you from, even if in the end you are in the right.

I've often thought the OIG should be charged with and have authority to countermand and investigate executive agency oversteps through unfettered access to all information regardless of classification in the Executive branch, but it'll never happen.

What you just described is one of the biggest downsides of accepting a security clearance - and, happily, the First Amendment prevents such consequences for those of us (like me) who have never done so.

I very much respect my friends and colleagues who have made the other choice, but it's a lifelong sacrifice of liberties that are otherwise present.

> The correct title in the U.S. is Inspector General, and they fall under OIG, the Office of the Inspector General.

Note that each agency has its own IG (usually within an OIG directly under the top-level of the agency), there is not a single central OIG.

The nature of Auditors General or Inspectors General is explicitly that they cannot punish. If they could, they would essentially just be another layer of management. The tradeoff for not being able to punish here is having unlimited powers to ask for documentation and to investigate.

The system is set up under the assumption that the institutions themselves cannot have systemic issues and all problems are really the work of individual employees acting outside of what they're supposed to do, and so you're supposed to sue them in their personal capacity. Then the Supreme Court basically slammed that door effectively making remedies impossible to obtain. Deetz: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/civ...

> agencies have an Auditor General with a cadre of agents whose entire role is to investigate and publicly report on what that agency does wrong

This was the case with prosecutors. Then in 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant consolidated them under the DOJ [1]. The common portion of their work, criminal litigation, was specialised and conflicted enough that the benefits of densifying its practitioners outweighed the cost of distance from the field.

I argue a similar problem persists among our Auditors and Solicitors General. Yes, there are advantages to having them in house. But there are disadvantages, too, and the bad outweighs the good.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Ju...

> For issues with state agencies, contact your District Attorney or state Attorney General.

State agencies often have their own IG or similar office, and DAs may not have jurisdiction over state agencies. Some states have centralized agencies that have general oversight of illegal activities in state and sometimes local agencies, as well (Bureau of State Audits in California, for instance.)

Independant agencies to police the police can help but more is needed

We have such a organisation here (Aotearoa) to monitor the police. https://www.ipca.govt.nz/

It is mostly captured, policywise, and supports outrages committed by police.

It is a improvement over what there used to be, but not much.

What has made the biggest difference here is a succession of cases where it became undeniable that the police were raping and framing. They have taken shame and attempting to reform themselves, which is a surprise to those of us who over the years had to deal with the bigoted, prejudiced, violent pigs.

There is a lot of opposition within, and without, the police here. Time will tell.

...you really had to throw a 'pigs' in there?

I always felt it was a slur to Sus scrofa—an animal I like.

You could easily argue that any law enforcement officer who feels targeted or offended by that is admitting to being bigoted, prejudiced, and violent... Or at the very least knows their profession contains enough bigoted, prejudiced, and violent members that they're being tarred with the same brush, while presumably turning a blind eye to it all instead of outing the pigs from the inside.

Except I'm offended by it, but I'm not a law enforcement officer, but did have many dealings with them in my youth due to my wayward ways - some police officers were massive dicks (dog handlers seem to be rather unnecessarily aggressive), but then some were amazing and gave me chances that let me turn my life around.

Hence my objection to the pejorative term often applied to all police offers equally - it only advances a "them vs. us" mindset, which is not at all true for my country if you're not an active criminal, a country I share with the user I was replying to.

> any law enforcement officer who feels targeted or offended by that is admitting to being bigoted, prejudiced, and violent

Responding to a taunt is an admission of guilt?

> You could easily argue

Sure. But it still just hurts your main argument.

No it does not.

Ask George Floyd... Oh wait, you cannot.

"Pig" is a pejorative term, I used it in connection with the violence, bigotry, prejudice, adn stupidity (forgot to mention that), the raping, the framing....

I did not use it as a replacement for "peace officer". I know what I said and I meant it

So, you were only calling police officers "pig" selectively?

>I did not use it as a replacement for "peace officer". I know what I said and I meant it

That seems to be quite clearly the intent.

Anecdotally around my region people refer to corrupt police officers as pigs, so when someone says something derogatory about 'pigs', it's colloquially understood as "the violent bad ones that extort and over-step, not the ones that help you find your dog."

Around my region, people who yell "pigs" at the cops, haven't stopped to ascertain whether or not the officers they're yelling at are the violent bad ones who overstep. They're just yelling "pigs" because they're wearing the uniform and driving the car.

Noting that I left out extort because that's incredibly rare here, and prosecuted very quickly if it ever does.

The courts protect FBI and police. [0] Impossible to get a real win from a lawsuit. Getting money is not a real win. [1] No changes will be made. The dude who got murdered by police and caused a riot of criminals stealing and burning down buildings, not even that caused the police to change.

I should add a white person got killed the same way before that. No riots. No news. No screaming crying people in the streets demanding justice. No change then either. The family of that person didn't even get money from it.

[0] https://abc7news.com/san-jose-police-beating-hotel-couple-ta...

[1] https://www.sltrib.com/news/2017/10/31/utah-nurse-arrested-f...

Which person are you talking about? If it’s who I think it was, formal charges were filed and the outcome was totally different.

There's so many. How can we guess which one?

You could argue that this is what the ACLU is. They need better funding.

ACLU donation link for the lazy https://action.aclu.org/give/now

I personally have a monthly recurring donation. Give what works for you.

I wish they could let you donate to specific issues. I agree with much of what they do, but I disagree on specific issues.

You point is true for all organisations that cover many issues, and do not concentrate on one single small issue. You end up not donating to anything, even if your donation would have a large net positive.

Tagging money for specific issues is problematic because the organisation doesn’t change its budget percentages for small donations (money is fungible), and organisations find tagging difficult to manage [TODO insert article link here].

I've been in organizations that allowed earmarked donations for certain funds / projects. The ACLU can totally allow earmarked donations for projects they are undergoing.

Ex: A policy of %80 towards earmarking & %20 towards the general fund to help boot up new projects / general admin would be totally fine with many donators.

Organizations that say that they let you donate to fund specific issues are fooling you, unless the amount you plan to donate is huge. The reason is that money is fungible. Let's say I need $200k to fund issue A, and $200k to fund issue B. You say that you want to support only issue B. Fine, I just put your money in the issue B bucket and move a corresponding amount of unrestricted funds into the issue A bucket. Unless almost everyone restricts their donations they can always do that. They can backfill any unrestricted money to fund any of their priorities that are, for some reason, less popular with donors.

That only works if earmarking for issue B is not common, but if some media story suddenly made earmarking for issue B 50x the general fund / issue A, by people in aggregate, your not going to be able to do that well.

What you talk about is much like the arguments against voting, while such logic makes society lose it's prisoner's dilemma for change.

Call them and ask. There is usually a fund manager who can direct the money into different causes at the benefactors wishes. Now, if you only donate a minimal amount that will go in to the general fund. They wouldn't expend the same energy for a $35 donation that they would for a $3500 donation.

If I were able to donate thousands, then I'd probably use it to file a civil rights case for a recent issue we've experienced.

If it's a civil rights case and there's merit to your claims, you might be able to find public interest lawyers to help out for much less than that. Call around, there are firms in most large cities.

I've contacted one. They said we have a case, but that the federal courts don't really care about rights violations unless there were substantial financial impact. In theory, the DOJ is supposed to investigate our complaint and take injunctive action to correct any agency policy, practice, or pattern that violates the rights of defendants/people. We'll see how that actually works, but I won't hold my breath.

ACLU has mostly shirked their core mission and embraced whoring around their brand recognition for political gain in recent years. Basically the NRA but for the other side of the isle.

But yes, they kind of used to do that.

Actually, they've supported some gun cases in the recent past.

They, alongside the Second Amendment Foundation, have actually had some success fighting states for discriminatory laws that deny 2nd Amendment rights to specific populations. After all, the Constitution wouldn't work if it doesn't apply to everyone, but states have spent a lot of effort putting up roadblocks to everyone from legal immigrants to medical marijuana patients and states would selectively refuse to renew CCWs and licenses without cause or bar legal gun owners from receiving Section 8 vouchers and imposing categorical bans on legal gun owners attempting to foster or adopt children. In a sense they are the exact opposite of the NRA, who haven't done much to address the lack of equal access to the Constitutional right for quite some time when the complainants don't fit a particular mold.

That's not really true. The NRA has fought for shall issue and even constitutional carry, which removes the discriminatory possibilities under may issue schemes. They worked with an African American in the Chicago handgun ownership case, the PA mother arrested after crossing into NJ, etc. They have shied away from ambiguous or complicated cases, regardless of demographics.

This country was founded on checks and balances. We seem to have lost that entirely.

> This country was founded on checks and balances.

No, it wasn’t. It was founded on an impotent central government. It later adopted checks and balances when it decided it needed a much more powerful central government and what it was founded on was unsuitable.

But just because US Gov 2.x lasted longer than 1.x doesn’t mean everything in the 2.0. release was perfect; its certainly needed many minor and bugfix releases, and there’s no reason to think that it might not at some point need another ground-up rewrite.

Prior to 1900 or so (even more so prior to 1860) the "potent" central government was still very impotent by modern standards.

What are you counting as 1.x, Pre-Constitution?

Articles of Confederation. It was in force for 6 years before the founders dumped it and drafted the Constitution. The main problems were the inability for congress to levy taxes, regulate trade international and interstate, and congress wound up having to beg the states for money.

This isn't really an example of that, though. This is just a clear cut 6th (and probably more) amendment violation by the government.

We need such an accountable agency more badly than any of the other govt projects being funded right now.

There's the GAO. They don't get much publicity or power.

The DOJ does have a civil rights division that investigates issues in state and local law enforcement agencies. But politicians seem to have no taste for proper oversight of the federal law enforcement agencies. For example, Biden's Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines shielded CIA agents who hacked Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The hacking occurred while the Senate Intelligence Committee was attempting to perform oversight of the CIA's use of torture.

On a scale of 1 to Feinstein and Harman, how bad was this?

Worse than.

> So who do you report law enforcement misconduct to?

In the case of the FBI, the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (essentially, the FBI’s “Internal Affairs” unit), DoJ Inspector General, your reps in either House of Congress, or members of the Judiciary Committee (in either House) or the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (in the Senate) or the Oversight and Reform Committee (in the House).

May also be worth going to media and/or NGOs, though which, if any (especially of the latter) are most likely to be useful varies a lot by who you are and what the exact details of thr misconduct are.

Private litigation may or may not be useful (both governmental and personal immunities come into play) and can be very expensive (though NGOs may help with this.)

I agree with the options you mentioned. It's just that I've dealt with a similar issue at the state level and none of that works.

A trooper knew he was holding an incorrect charge against my wife. The charge carried with it pretrial restrictions that would not have occurred under the correct charge (a "leash law" violation). IAD didn't care. The investigation even tried to explain the trooper's lie to the judge about why he was amending the charge as just a misunderstanding... yeah, ok. Neither state reps replied to my two letters. The governor claims he can't get involved in a court issue even though I only wrote him about the practices of the state police (which he oversees) leading to violations, and that the policy should change. I contacted the ACLU, but this is not a big enough issue for them.

The only thing with any traction is an investigative journalist who is pitching the story to their editor.

I'm not holding my breath, but I am either in the process of submitting or waiting to hear about: a complaint to the Bar about the ADA having information that it was an incorrect charge and allowing it to stand, the DOJ to investigate the practices of the state police knowingly holding false charges, and a response from my latest letter to the governor.

>your reps in either House of Congress

I would guess that would be the most expedient route, if you can get them interested. If you work for a big employer in their district, and are comfortable with it, having your employer reach out to them might help.

This assumes one gets back more than a form letter and that the actual rep reads your letter.

> This assumes one gets back more than a form letter and that the actual rep reads your letter.

Well, the first more than the second; a rep doesn’t have to read your letter to be briefed and direct staff followup, which may itself produce results.

But how often does your concern meet their eyes/ears/etc? I seem to only get form letters, some of which aren't even appropriate responses to my concerns.

If it's a form letter, you're just going to be lumped in with the others of similar concerns.

Government agencies often have an inspector general's office responsible for reviewing misconduct complaints against the agency itself.


How effective is it to report misconduct to the very agency that is committing the misconduct?

I'm not aware of any summary reports on the effectiveness of the OIG, but I've read that its structured to try to minimize the most obvious types of corruption (for instance, by also reporting to Congress and not just to the agency head). I'm sure there's plenty of mileage variation depending on the circumstances and political environment.

This page suggests that the office does investigate misconduct claims and issue reports periodically: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/type/investigation

I can say that at the state police level, self-investigation is a joke.


This is basically internal affairs for the FBI. Report here. Personally, I would make a report here no matter what, just to start a paper-trail of them harassing you.

Call the DoJ Inspector General hotline number:


US Attorney General's office. They have authority over the FBI.

A friend of mine (mid-West redhead) spent years in China doing research. She came back to the US to do her PhD, and FBI started hassling her, asking if she was spying for the Chinese. Finally ended when she called that agent's superior and implied the agent was coming on to her.

That is so ridiculous. They stopped because she accused them of sexual harassment, not because they were out of line? Like is that all a real Chinese spy would have to do to get the FBI of her back?

Which is totally not how you recruit a source - sounds like some FBI officers think that acting like an OTT cop from TV show (Constable Savage for UK HN's of a certain age.) is how it works.

The way malwarebytes was handled is another example great the FBI has just alienated a large potential group of sources and this FBI idiot by bullying Mr Chebli has alienated a lot of Lebanese Americans who might provide information in future.

Why not ask for something impossible for them to agree to so they leave you alone? For example "I'll become an informant if you pay me 2 billion per contact and 1 million per week while being an informant". Will that not work?

Besides why didn't you go for a lawsuit? They threatened and harassed you. They threatened your employment, your livelihood.

Not to mention you claim to be a security researcher and the first thing on your mind wasn't to record them and take down their details to publish later on internet. It's a good punishment. It would prevent those who visits you to do certain work and with their face and name everyone will know what they are, where they live. In case people want to visit and leave some very justified feedback about the FBI. It's perfectly legal to record them since they entered your home/property. Always, always record!

I bet they left a card so you could contact them. Even publishing that alone is good.

FBI is very afraid of the public light because of this in my opinion illegal stuff they do. FBI must have positive PR. Bad PR means less trust, less informants, etc.

A a security researcher you are supposed to know this stuff. How to deal with FBI, etc. I'm disappointed.

This is hilariously bad advice. Keep in mind that the FBI needs a good relationship with people out in industry and doing research.

Most of the attempts to recruit informants are benign, as I mentioned in my own story elsewhere in the thread. It boils down to being in Vegas the same few days and having a drink and killing time talking about how great America is (yes, FBI agents generally do love their country). It's good PR for everyone involved.

Alternatively, call a god damn lawyer and have them deal with this. This is no time for amateur hour crowdsourced solutions.

This was more than 10 years ago.

I 100% would handle things very differently today and advise others based on my mistakes.

They gave me a good pretext for talking to me and caught me 30 seconds out of bed. Still. Lessons learned.

Just sharing another example.

There was a similar, much more terrifying, story was in the New Yorker about six months ago.

An Iranian physicist, Sirous Asgari, visited some US universities. On his next entry into the US he was detailed by the FBI as he entered and handed a completely-invented indictment of numerous crimes, and they demanded that he become an informant.

He refused, since the indictment was completely phony. The FBI, furious, ensured he was charged with everything under the sun.

Even though the government lost its case against him (due to clear lies by the FBI), he was then thrown in an ICE jail, through utter Kafkaesque bureaucratic hand-offs. Had to endure near-prison revolts as the inmates tries to keep themselves free of Covid. A judge almost granted him release due to the dangers of getting ill, but then he caught Covid and nearly died, so his petition was rejected. He was finally swapped as part of a prisoner-swap deal with Iran. And yet he seems to be persona-no-grata now in Iran, as the assumption is that he must now be working for the FBI.


There's the story of the Ibrahim family, too. The mother, Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim, sued over being wrongly put on the No-fly list. Her daughter — a US citizen — was to testify at her trial but was denied boarding her flight because she too had been put on the no fly list.


> Dr. Ibrahim’s oldest daughter Raihan Mustafa Kamal was denied boarding in Kuala Lumpur yesterday when she tried to board a flight to San Francisco to observe and testify at the trial in her mother’s lawsuit.

> Ms. Mustafa Kamal, an attorney licensed to practice law in Malaysia, was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen. Ms. Mustafa Kamal was with her mother when Dr. Ibrahim was denied boarding on a flight from K.L. to San Francisco in 2005 (after having been told that her name had been removed from the “no-fly” list) under what now seem eerily similar circumstances. The DHS had been given notice that Ms. Mustafa Kamal would testify at the trial as an eyewitness to those events she witnessed in 2005.

Happy that the ACLU is taking this on. It shouldn't matter, but if you look at the filed complaint[1] Ahmad is a US citizen. This treatment seems clearly unconstitutional to me.

Also, this excerpt from the complaint:

>In response, the agents pulled out two newspaper articles about Hezbollah and told Mr. Chebli, “We know you are a Hezbollah agent and were sent here by Hezbollah.”

What a couple of assholes.

[1] https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/chebli-v-kable-complaint...

The complaint is absolutely disgusting to read. One (I suspect uncontested) fact alleged in the complaint really stood out to me:

> As a result, he was stranded in Lebanon for over a month, during which time the U.S. government confirmed that he had been placed on the No Fly List. Mr. Chebli was then able to obtain a one-time waiver to fly home.

If someone is dangerous enough to be on the No Fly List why would the US government allow them to fly? To the US? Even once? And if they're safe enough to fly on that occasion why are they, upon landing (presumably safely), once again considered unsafe to fly? The No Fly List logic just doesn't quite add up for me...

> why would the US government allow them to fly? To the US? Even once?

Because it was never about him being dangerous. It was about creating a condition where he felt trapped. And if you are a US Citizen stuck in a foreign country international news orgs notice that. Investigations get started. Questions get asked. And this thing that is wildly unconstitutional gets asked about in a public court. But if it's a US Citizen in the US it can be conveniently swept under the rug. The investigations now not so urgent.

Until you realize it is a political tool, not a binary fly / not fly list.

It's not logical, it's political theater. Like the whole TSA, basically.

It's not theater. It's a weapon.

And at the very least is a way to create new enemies. You know, wars and military expenses need to be motivated somehow.

It's probably less about logic and more about law, the US government can't refuse entry to US citizens and would rather prevent a court case that inevitably ends in the No-Fly list being ruled unconstitutional.

I mean, they're preventing a mode of transportation, not entry (I'm not saying this justifies anything at all).

Legally I'm assuming people on the no fly list can still take a boat in to town.

> If someone is dangerous enough to be on the No Fly List why would the US government allow them to fly? To the US? Even once?

Extend this logic just a millimeter further and you should understand how awful the no fly list truly is. If we have evidence a person is too dangerous to fly, and we're willing to let everyone know that we know they're dangerous, why wouldn't we just take them into custody and charge them with a crime? Put them in prison, or get them to roll on someone involved in their conspiracy?

But of course, there's approximately never any evidence.

Because the no-fly-list was originally a tool against terrorism but has been misappropriated for other uses like the one here?

That case of misappropriation is not alone, just look at other things like surveillance or civil asset forfeiture. Or social security numbers.

Edit: It probably has already settled at "now included in too many useful applications" that it's too big to fail now.

Maybe people can now understand why putting the Capitol rioters on the list was a horrible idea and people should vote out any politician who suggested it.

> the Capitol rioters

Those people are, by the definition you've used, perpetrators of an actual crime. (at least 375 have been charged, as of a few days ago) Not comparable to the traditional victim of the no fly list at all.

Nobody has been convicted of anything but you’ve got no issues be being put on a no-fly list?

People who have been convicted of something, or who are on parole, are by definition not a part of the constitutional argument about the no fly list. The judiciary and the department of corrections can keep them off a plane if that's needed, that's their role, and if a no fly list is needed for that, no problem.

Suspected rioters travelling to and from riots, whose arrest is imminent, would appear to be the most sympathetic use of extrajudicial law enforcement action to keep people off a plane via a no fly list. I don't think there's a big problem there. It is a case that has nothing to do with the standard due process arguments against the no fly list.

I agree that using the no fly list to prevent anyone who was present as a protestor in DC from flying, regardless of whether they were suspected of having committed a crime, would be excessive. I saw shortly after the riot that the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security suggested TSA and the FBI put protestors identified as having entered the Capitol building on the no fly list. That position, working under the assumption that people who entered the Capitol building during a riot while federal law enforcement was trying to secure it committed a crime and ought to be indicted, doesn't seem crazy.

How many other people are stuck in this way abroad?

It's not a terrific workaround, but I suppose you could fly into Canada or Mexico and then ground transport across the border.

I wondered that but reading Wikipedia it's more of a no travel thing despite the name. Mexico won't let you through and Canada has its own no entry list that includes the USA one.

Or a boat.

I think there might be an issue with these too. It's titled a no-fly list, but I think they have additional restrictions too. I'm not sure if they deny entry based on it too.

He's a citizen, so denied entry would be pretty curious.

It's a subset of the larger TSC database. I don't know if they treat citizens on that list differently, or if he's even on the more restrictive part of that list.

There's plenty of federal case law that makes it pretty much a right for citizens to enter the US.

"...the right to return to the United States is inherent in American citizenship.” Fikre v. FBI. Which was about this exact issue. They can put you on the no fly list, but if you get to the Border, there is an absolute right for citizens to enter, even without a passport.

Of course, the courts might not get around to enforcing your right to enter for a few months or years, and it might cost you a fortune in lawyer fees

But is there any case law if they're in the more restrictive parts of the TCS database? Haven't citizens been held at the boarder for not unlocking their phones, even though they aren't on a list?

Holding someone at the border is not the same as denying them entry from the country sadly.

I think its a rather gaping hole in the constitution that has been ruthlessly exploited. Warrantless searches at the border were allowed to be exempt from the 4th amendment since customs agents needed to be able to inspect goods coming in to apply tariffs appropriately and prevent contraband.

Snooping through people's personal papers and phones is pretty far outside of that mandate if you ask me.

The takeaway is that if you have the time, you are free to tell them that you won't be providing a password. They are free to hold you for a 'reasonable' amount of time (reasonable could mean many hours). And they are also legally allowed to seize your phone and allow you entry to the country.

I thought for at least a while (2004ish) they were actually denying entry unless they could search devices. Maybe they were just confiscating them. It was a long time ago.

I'm not sure any reputable airline will fly you anywhere even outside of the US.

I don't think the system allows you to bump against the US No Fly list if the origin and/or destination isn't the US.

I gotta ask: why not sail? Does the No-Fly List include all international travel?

Did you hear of the concept of "due process" ?

I mean, not trying to be grim about it, but broadly speaking, an airplane landing has a lot less fuel to do damage with.

He is very lucky to be a US citizen. The FBI has treated non-citizens much much worse.

For example [0], the FBI arrested Syrian-Canadian engineer Maher Arer while he changed planes in USA. The FBI imprisoned him without charges, denied him a lawyer, and then kidnapped him and delivered him to a prison in Syria where he was tortured for 10 months. His wife finally got the Canadian government to intervene and get him out. The head of RCMP (Canada's FBI) resigned in shame for letting it happen. All of the US people responsible continued with their lives as before. A few of them apologized.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar

You seem to glossing over Canada’s hand-in-hand role with the US in that situation.

While it's terrible enough in either case, it does make a big difference that he's a citizen. Countries have another level of responsibility towards their citizens than to their residents. It shows in how AFAIK no country has even talked about restricting inbound travel for their citizens during the pandemic while even permanent residents have been blanket denied.

Australia has severely rate limited the number of incoming passengers, including citizens. One year on, there are still tens of thousands of Australians unable to get home that want to do so.

I haven't seen my parents in over a year due to this, it makes me pretty angry

But those are travel restrictions, not restrictions of entry. For Australia it doesn't make a big difference but they still cannot turn away citizens at their borders. They can detain people or quarantine them but not send them back. I'm not sure if there's any country where denying entry to your citizens is legal.

Judging by the information here: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/travel-restrictions

It seems that citizens (and even permanent residents, which was not the case in e.g. Japan for several months) are free to enter. Sure, number of planes and seats are limited, but that's a different matter from denying entry at the border.

That's like saying you can take as many cookies as you want when the plate is empty. There are citizens and residents who have been unable to get home for over a year!

NZ allows both citizens and permanent residents to return home - however we have limited space in managed quarantine that limits how many can return at a time - and if you're just coming home for a holiday, not permanently, or you left for a holiday or biz trip, they will charge you for the whole process

Sri Lanka banned all inbound passenger flights with only 24 hour notice stranding citizens abroad

They denied the flights, they did not deny their citizens entry - a different distinction, even if the immediate effect for an individual plays out similarly.

It's illegal for any country to deny entry to a citizen of said country.

They can of course arrest you the second you set foot in the country, but that's an entirely different story. They must allow you to inter.

"Illegal" under what jurisdiction?

> They must allow you to inter.

That's evidently not true. Or at least grossly misleading. Countries can and are refusing to allow all people who want to get onto flights bound for the country they're citizens of.

My country (.au) is currently limiting inbound international travellers to 3000 per week, with over 40,000 Australian citizens registered as trying to get home. Some of those people have been trying for close to 12 months to get home.

These restrictions mean that airline seat pricing is going insane. In pre Covid times, I'd regularly fly Sydney to SF round trip for $AUD1500-$2000 or so on United. A recent news report says they're now flying business/first class only flights with the cheapest one way LA-SYD tickets being $AUD21,000.

Can you imagine being on a trip last Jan/Feb with a return ticket for March or April, only to be told your return ticket keeps getting bumped for higher paying customers but you could always upgrade to a $21,000 ticket to get home. And your travel insurance says "Sucks to be you, you're not covered for pandemics, as outlined in section 374 on page 93 of your Product Disclosure Document you got when you paid your premium. Have a nice day!" So now you're stuck in the US, originally of a 90 day tourist visa waiver and not legally able to work, and there's no casual work available anyway because of Covid shutdowns, and you've needed to manage to find food/shelter for 12 months while waiting for a flight home. I know one of those people, and know of several more...

There is an important distinction here - they're restricting the number of inbound planes, as opposed to barring their citizens from entry.

Theoretically speaking, if a ship crew of only AU citizens would dock at an Australian port, they would not be denied entry given that they follow quarantine procedures, I assume?

You may be overgeneralizing a bit, but it's not far from the truth.


This includes the USA, which is the country in question here. So yes, there seems to be a strong case that this is in fact breaking their own regulation and treaties.


Do you mean that all 206-ish countries have laws on the books about this?

Can't speak to all, but a lot of them do.


This includes the USA, which is the country in question here. So yes, there seems to be a strong case that this is in fact breaking their own regulation and treaties.


The first time the FBI went to interview him, he should have requested an attorney - whether he had one or not. As soon as you lawyer up (which is totally legal in his case) the FBI get really itchy about having to deal with lawyers and probably would've moved on to another target.

He should have also gone to the media much sooner or threatened to take this public. Yes, it is now, but had he gone to the media sooner, I'm sure the FBI would've backed off a lot sooner. Having a Muslim racially profiled, intimidated and then put on a no-fly list for no reason is not a good look for that agency.

> Having a Muslim racially profiled, intimidated and then put on a no-fly list for no reason is not a good look for that agency.

We have had a steady stream of stories like this for almost 20 years now. Nothing substantial has changed. I don’t think the FBI is worried about PR around this at this point.

This could be substantially different for them. The guy is a citizen, works for an "All American" type company (Ford), etc. And the ACLU picked up the case.

Well, the ACLU has already filed lawsuits about citizens on the no fly list and won... 8 years ago. Seems like not much has changed


So why is this time “substantially different”?

Oh, yeah...appears Abe Mashal had a pretty good backstory too...also a citizen, and happened to be a former US Marine: https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/discriminatory-p...

I hadn't seen his story before, the ones I had seen were residents. Supposedly, there aren't very many citizens on the list:

"According to leaked documents published by The Intercept, there were more than 47,000 people on the No Fly List as of August 2013, including 800 Americans." [1]

Chebli's story does include the additional wrinkle of the recruitment, harassment, threats, etc, and thus first amendment violation petitions for relief.

[1] https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/first-government-officia...

> The guy is a citizen, works for an "All American" type company (Ford), etc.

How is that substantially different?

In April 2005, 70000 people were on the list. I bet most fit this description of yours.

This makes a good "example case".

If you are going to take something to the Supreme Court you want a Plaintiff who looks like a boy-scout to the press. You want to make sure that they can't retroactively dig up a reason for the guy to be on the no-fly list. It needs to be clear that the only reason that he is on that list is that he said "no, thank you" to the FBI

It's secret, so nobody knows for sure, but my guess is that most of the people on the list are not citizens, probably most are not residents either.

"According to leaked documents published by The Intercept, there were more than 47,000 people on the No Fly List as of August 2013, including 800 Americans." [1]

The recruitment and harassment beforehand is also somewhat unique.

[1] https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/first-government-officia...

Even if they win, who will enforce it? The FBI/DOJ are supposed to be the ones investigating color of law and law enforcement misconduct.

This seems interesting in that area. He can sue individual FBI agents for monetary damages: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/10/supreme-court-says-muslims-p...

"20 years now"

You mistyped. 200 years

> Having a Muslim racially profiled, intimidated and then put on a no-fly list for no reason is

.. is what the DHS was created for? After 9/11 some Muslims had to be punished for something, regardless of personal guilt, and here we are.

There have been worse outcomes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdulrahman_al-Awlaki

The Clinton administration (with Senator Bidens support) targeted and removed “rights” of the weak and non-whites with the unconstitutional Omnibus Terror Act:


According to the wikipedia article you cite, the bill was neither voted on nor passed.

> Both bills were never put to a vote, although a significantly altered version of the House bill became law as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

I thought this too, but it's definitely easier to say in an HN comment than it would be to do in the moment.

> The first time the FBI went to interview him, he should have requested an attorney - whether he had one or not.

Was he under arrest? The FBI is not obligated to bring you an attorney if they are merely interviewing you.

> He should have also gone to the media much sooner or threatened to take this public. Yes, it is now, but had he gone to the media sooner, I'm sure the FBI would've backed off a lot sooner.

I somehow doubt it. Muslims (and antiwar activists) being placed on no fly lists were often in the news. That didn't stop it.

> Was he under arrest? The FBI is not obligated to bring you an attorney if they are merely interviewing you.

No, they are not obligated to do so. However, I believe he would have fully been within his rights to say "I am not prepared to talk to you, I do not feel comfortable continuing this interview without my attorney present."

Do people have attorneys in general? I suppose people the FBI are prone to harass should have the ACLU's number on their phone (or have the awareness that it's an organisation that can help them, just google the number on said phone..).

Doesn't matter if you have one or not, you can just refuse to talk without one.

People in general should at least have an attorney they plan to contact if necessary, but I say that without having one myself.

A friend of mine was in such situation in Russia. She is a journalist specializing on exotic countries and regions. She has applied for an international passport and was approached by an FSB (Russian FBI) agent. She agreed to meet with him and a lawyer. The FSB agent just disappeared and did not return calls. She has never heard from them again.

So more rights in Russia then?

My point was that all law enforcement agents across the world are same at their core. They are very good at putting pressure on people and exercising people's bounds. So, I think, making things public, defending your rights actively and bringing a lawyer helps in any country. Regarding the Black Lists - we have that in Russia too. They can even block you from using your bank account and it's very hard to get off that lists too.

She probably wasn't worth the effort. Pretty sure if the FSB considered her even moderately worth pursuing they would have exerted far more (and worse) pressure than the FBI does...

>"if the FSB considered her even moderately worth pursuing"

Following your logic they've contacted her just for the fuck of it. Looks like grasping at straws trying to prove that russian asshole got to be worse than the american asshole.

Or maybe they figured it was only worth trying once, and not really worth pursuing further when it became clear that she would not cooperate. It is not grasping at straws to claim that when the Russians want to make someone's life hard they are far less restrained about it than the Americans. American political activists face BS criminal charges and are sometimes placed on the no-fly list; Russian political activists find themselves poisoned with radioactive metals and with nerve agents.

>"Or maybe they figured it was only worth trying once, and not really worth pursuing further when it became clear that she would not cooperate."

Well then FSB had treated her way better than FBI treated Ahmad.

As for the main point - assholes (or let just say criminals protected by respective government) are still assholes. There is no reason to be proud that you did not fuck / killed as many.

"assholes (or let just say criminals protected by respective government) are still assholes"

Given the choice, would you rather be a dissident in the USA or in Russia? Would you rather be Ed Snowden (the US politely asks that he come home to stand trial) or Alexei Navalny (nearly died after Russian agents slipped poison into his tea)? You say there is no difference, so maybe you would like to just flip a coin.

It is beyond absurd to claim that the US is just as bad as Russia, and it is equally ridiculous to claim that no comparisons can be drawn and all crimes are just as bad. Of course the US has done things that are wrong, but what Russia does is much worse. It is not a matter of being proud, it is a matter of being rational.

>"It is beyond absurd to claim that the US is just as bad as Russia"

Bad in what way? If we are talking treating their own subjects I would say in average the US does much better than Russia. No argument here. Does not mean that it did not kill people for political reasons. Victims of Kent State shootings or Fred Hampton may attest to that. I am pretty sure if you dig deep enough you will uncover some more.

Internationally I think US kills and otherwise harms way more people than Russia. They just declare it legal and sleep well. Again victims might disagree.

I think if you are a lawful citizen, appear with a lawyer and make the case public - you won't worth the effort anyway.

It won't make a difference.

How could he go to the media before getting banned? There's not much to go on, especially if he didn't have a recording.

The other part is, who will actually listen to that story? My wife was subjected to pretrial restrictions on a charge that the trooper knew was incorrect. I even have evidence supporting it. An investigative journalist pitching it to their editor, but other than that nobody cares. IAD thinks it's fine, the DA thinks it's fine (an ADA was also aware that the charge was wrong, but I don't think the complaint with the Bar will result in anything), and the judge misapplied the law and contradicted himself so that the issue could be ignored in court.

This story is making me reconsider contacting the FBI/DOJ about police misconduct.

I'm glad the ACLU is taking this on, but if Ahmad was a Trump supporting redneck from West Virginia who refused to be an informant in an investigation of the January 6th riot, they wouldn't touch it. And that's a big problem, because the old ACLU didn't care how unpopular and disgusting the client was. They cared that abuse of power against the unpopular is an inevitable slippery slope towards abuse of power against all citizens.

I agree the ACLU lost its way, but disagree that the FBI would act like this with a redneck in WV.

>but disagree that the FBI would act like this with a redneck in WV.

The only thing stopping them is that there's probably a few grey beards who remember the media hell they got for the Texas BBQ

> They cared that abuse of power against the unpopular is an inevitable slippery slope towards abuse of power against all citizens.

They also have to care about having a case that will win and not lose and set bad precedent.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is stacked against them and they have to have cases that will provoke public outrage if it goes the wrong way to prevent the court from going too far off track.

Having sympathetic defendants is unfortunately something required for right now.

There is a reason why you know about Rosa Parks and not Claudette Colvin.

The no fly list seems to be clearly unconstitutional. You can't find out why you are on it, you can ask for redress but you have no legal ability to file actions on it apparently. You cannot ever overcome it because it is the magic "national security". For us citizens especially, why can I travel anywhere via any normal legal means? If I'm dangerous on an airplane and you can legally stop me from doing it, it seems it's another obvious extension to say I can't ride on a bus, a boat, drive a car?

There must be a good reason the no fly list has not come to the us supreme court - probably because the govt delays and then folds if anyone has a compelling case. But it must come to trial! I know there are dangerous terrorists in the world that want to kill me, and I don't want to enable them. But there's a lot more people on the no fly list in the us for very dubious considerations (probably, the number must be a secret too).

Yes...in fact, the ACLU has already file lawsuits about this nearly 10 years ago... and won.

And yet here we are, with it still going on.


It isn't unconstitutional since you don't have a right to fly since it's a private endeavour, even though it's highly regulated. Clearly the are abusing it as punitive rather than preventative measure. it's stupid in this case that it's being used as a punishment for no good reason. Congress need to address this and give a much better definition for what can be used to "put you on the no fly list"

You are wrong the courts have ruled it is unconstitutional. You have a right to fly. There is no due process here.


...or the courts need to wake up to the reality of life in the modern world, where being denied the ability to board an airplane can result in harm to a person's personal and professional life. My boss is great but there is no way he is approving a 5 day trip on Amtrak for my next in-person meeting in California, let alone weeks of travel by boat for the next conference in Europe or Asia (assuming these things resume after the pandemic). I have met people whose entire career would be destroyed if they could not fly freely and frequently.

If the courts are not prepared to rule the no-fly list unconstitutional, then they need to start awarding damages to people who have been placed on the list. Either the government proves in court that there was a legitimate reason to prevent a person from flying or they compensate that person for all the harm that ensues.

>since you don't have a right to fly

We are still being deprived of our liberty without due process, making it unconstitutional.

You can get put on a "kill list" as well as the "no fly list" even if you are a US citizen and the opacity and inability to remove oneself or correct the issue is the same.


good point, that's another terrible overreach. It was surprising how much obama in particular was involved with choosing people to be killed with drones.


While the kill list was still unconstitutional, arguably a war crime, and just an evil practice, requiring Obama's approval to be put on the kill list is marginally better than Trump who removed presidential oversight and let the CIA do as they please.


I would speculate that they are pretty quick to take citizens off the list as soon as they lawyer up, rendering any case that could get the whole thing thrown out moot.

What makes you think the no-fly list is unconstitutional? The Supreme Court doesn't take cases because a law is unfair, they take cases that violate the Constitution or written law. The Court has routinely deemed "national security" concerns as a valid reason for laws to exist, so long as those concerns aren't just makeup for a more discriminatory reasoning.

Some of the processes around the no-fly list have been declared unconstitutional before. For example:


IANAL but it would not surprise me if the courts further restricted the ability of law enforcement to arbitrarily modify the no-fly list in the future.

The processes around reporting were deemed unconstitutional, not actually putting someone on a list. The government slightly improved the process and would actually tell people if they were on the list, which was enough to satisfy the courts. After that the ACLU lost their follow-up suits and appeals.

I feel like the general concept should be disallowed. They aren't blocking people (based on the public cases) who are imminently expected to kill someone or blow up a plane by sneaking something on it. There are a million people on the list, there are not a million attempts to blow up planes, even in 10 years there are probably only a few. Why not disallow questionable people from using the internet, cell phones, driving cars, walking in public? You can destroy someone's opportunity to be part of the world, work in most companies, etc see their family or children with these choices. Therefore, I think because these are not criminal claims and are not substantiated as imminent threats they are against their liberty.

This is exactly the way the Stasi used to get new agents.

Monitor someone who they wanted to recruit until they could

1) find an accusation for which the target would have no alibi (although they were clearly innocent)

2) confront the target with the accusation and the penalties for it,

3) say that (as an agent) "I personally think that you are innocent although you have no alibi and would have to be found guilty if reported,

4) "but to prove your loyalty, you could help us just this once in our fight against the criminals we just accused you of working with."

The also hindered you in all kinds of ways like:

- You not getting a job.

- You losing a job.

- You getting "moved" to small villages (e.g. as a teacher).

And if they couldn't affect you they went for your relative. E.g. your children being bared from studying at a university even if they are qualified and so on.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AOJdpzCN-4

The whole film is fantastic.

That is a fine film. The protagonists are, however, not ordinary citizens.

I'd highly recommend also watching Christian Petzold's Barbara [1]. It's an equally fine film, but it has a different focus.

Here, the heroine is an ordinary physician (played by Nina Hoss), banished from Berlin to some province. The film captures the nightmare for the ordinary citizen of authoritarian police states, including the depressing fact that nearly anyone in your life could be informing on you. We also see how cooperating with the state authorities can get you privileges, such as better housing.

[1]: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2178941/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


p.s.: this review is quite good. Almost felt like quoting it in full, as it is rather topical to the thread as well:


As someone born in the USSR, I am fascinated by this movie.

It's very German, but also very Soviet, it's almost surreal.

> - You not getting a job. > - You losing a job.

These two seem to be getting more popular nowadays.

Remember, it's only a no-no if the government does it.

If it's "we the people", it's totally fair and indicative of a very progressive and tolerant society. Or something.

> If it's "we the people", it's totally fair and indicative of a very progressive and tolerant society. Or something.

This is a very dishonest framing.

Oh, in socialistic countries it was also the collective of your comrades, it wasn't The Government either. Or so they said.

It's only okay when it happens to people I don't like, so whoever is considered a nazi or a communist this week (delete as appropriate). Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences, paradox of tolerance etc., you know the drill.

The paradox of tolerance in and of itself is okay. We've seen already what happened if intolerance was tolerated, and way more than once.

However, the tightly guarded boundary between "tolerant" and "intolerant", as well as "context thereof" must be defined precisely and not be moved around according to one's mood, or depending on whether someone is losing an argument, or whether someone is in an outgroup or in an ingroup.

A good application of the paradox of tolerance requires integrity, which is a threatened species among human traits.

In fact the law does forbid certain forms of discrimination by "we the people." You cannot deny someone a job on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. Redlining is illegal, discrimination in rentals is illegal (as the previous President discovered), etc.

Did the Stasi also permit you to lawyer up with the ACLU and sue them in open court?

What these FBI agents did, if true, was reprehensible. But surely we can come up with a better comparison than one of the most evil secret police regimes ever to exist.

The FBI doesn't "permit" you to lawyer up, the Bill of Rights does. Comparison of the tactics used is sound.

The FBI isn't "less evil" because they "tolerate" laws that they have no ability to ignore. They aren't tolerating them out of the goodness of their hearts, or out of a sense of morality. If they had the ability to ignore them, they would.

Edit: Re: responses

I'm not claiming that the FBI is incapable of violating the law, I'm objecting to the parent's claim that they are somehow "less evil" than the Stasi because they "allow" the law to be upheld, when they're not the ones allowing anything. Yes, when they are able to get away with breaking the law, they sometimes do. It's not clear how prevalent this is, because "able to get away with it" implies not getting caught.

> If they had the ability to ignore them, they would.

They do have the ability to ignore laws, lots of government organizations ignore congressional guidance all the time and it only ever comes back to bite them if someone objects loud enough.

The US legal system doesn't "prevent" people from doing anything, we just punish violations and for those violations to be punished someone who cares about the violation has to be aware of the violation.

It's a pretty common meme in cop shows today that "We can't wait for a judge to give us a warrant - let's bust down the door" to which the audience cheers since bad guy is obviously bad, but that is illegal and, it can potentially destroy a case IRL - but only if the defense finds out the entry was illegal.

I don't see how a legal system could prevent people from doing anything against the law. That's always a personal, moral/ethical choice. Aren't all legal systems going to be reactive because of that?

>If they had the ability to ignore them, they would

Not to be too inflammatory but there are plenty of cases where they ignore them without technically having the ability.


Being the first free generation out of Portuguese dictatorship I never understood this American belief that three letter agencies are angels following the law.

It's mainly a thing reserved for white collar people in urban and suburban areas.

The hicks and the inner city crowd both mostly hate federal law enforcement.

> the Bill of Rights does

The Bill of Rights doesn't permit anything, but rather lists certain inalienable rights held by all persons on U.S. soil--or so the story goes. The worry that it could be construed as a list of grants was extremely controversial.

The comparison is certainly valid. Almost all the FBI's "terrorism" convictions over the last 20 years have been people set ip by a CI or agent, including the FBI supplying materiel.

The fact that there still exists, to some degree, a mechanism in the USA to challenge this in some cases is indeed something to celebrate, but the quite reasonable comparison is not just legitimate and appropriate but is a tool for trying to fix the injustice, not just retail (one victim at a time) but wholesale (change of law).

> The comparison is certainly valid. Almost all the FBI's "terrorism" convictions over the last 20 years have been people set ip by a CI or agent, including the FBI supplying materiel.

There's a quantitive difference between an FBI agent inviting an idiot to coffee, and fabricating a plot with him to blow up a post office, and an FBI agent getting in touch with an idiot who is plotting to blow up a post office, and offering to give him fake explosives.

The former might be entrapment. The latter is good policework.

Much of the anti domestic terrorism work which the FBI did was entrapment. The FBI plants were frequently under pressure to show proof that their assigned organisations were in fact terrorist cells.


The police would plant people in suspect groups who pressure the rest of the group to engage in terrorist activity.

This isn’t exclusive to 1970s USA. Similar things happened in mosques after 9/11 where Imans would know an FBI agent simply because he was the only extremist in the congregation.

And in the United Kingdom, there were long term plants in environmental organisations who engaged in ecoterrorism.

I've read several stories over the years and seen at least one documentary where it's pretty clear they were doing the former. It's generally chalked up as a win, gets good press / pr - keeps the funds going in that direction, and keeps the average headline reader scared enough to be fine with pariot acts and similar things going.

I do not recall any stories of the latter.. perhaps there is one or some - and perhaps things have occurred that saved the X Y or Z and we'll never know - and that's great.

However I think it's high time that people paid more attention to the details of these "be afraid / keep sending us budgets" stories and see that many are fabricated just to check off a PR box.

9 out of 10 sex trafficking headline stories are the same, and similar.

It's not just the top level of the DOJ - the local law agencies use the same playbook (especially vice squads) for the same reasons. imho.

They did also get involved with some bad people and rounded them up too, don't worry. But a lot of their work seems to have been ruining lives in order to look productive. Tragic!

But they both result in similar convictions, so it's just another day in the salt mines regardless.

Let’s focus on what’s important. Perhaps the comparison isn’t perfect but I don’t think it matters as much as horror the FBI regularly does.

The more we start comparing to other countries and say “oh well at least we’re better than them” the more complacent people are.

Not to mention many of US’s worst action have had the excuse of “well there was some worse country out there we gotta stop!”

How generous of my government to let me spend years battling them in court, while they get to violate my rights for the duration with little consequence if they end up losing. Much like a corporation getting fined or sued by the government is often just a slap on the wrist and the “cost of doing business,” the FBI has demonstrated time and time again that it doesn’t mind breaking the law to serve its goals. When the recourse for most people when the government violates their rights is to hope that some org like the ACLU will step up and represent you pro-bono, and that the courts will actually rule in your favor, and that even if they do you’ll still have a long time of suffering while the case goes through the courts... it tells the FBI that they can basically do whatever they want, because most people don’t want to deal with that crap.

I mean, the U.S. has been caught running interrogation black sites in our own borders, so the comparison extends further than even some of the other commenters are admitting.

Source for this please? Interested to read more.

I believe parent is talking about what the Chicago PD was doing a few years ago[1]. If there are others, I'd really like to know about those as well.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-poli...

The New York city police also maintain a black site in NE Manhattan.

That's because there are other powers of the state that (may) side with the citizen. The FBI is still behaving like a secret police here.

It seems to me that they were comparing the tactics, not the entire institution, or justice system.

What would you call a better comparison? Would you like a moderately evil secret police regime?

> But surely we can come up with a better comparison than one of the most evil secret police regimes ever to exist.

So we have to be thankful that we are "allowed" to spend our life's saving on fighting a lawsuits against a trillon dollar government ?

For every such case there are probably 100 other people who folded. There is no difference between those cases and cases where stasi might have done the same thing. It is 100% same.

Apples to Oranges. OP was referring to the MO of acquiring collaborators, not the legal environment surrounding it. Which is the same MO used by the secret police in basically all countries behind the iron curtain.

Let's not mention people lacking money for a proper legal defense.

But now that we're talking about it, you might want to read about FISA Courts. Also stuff like https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/federal-court-sides-aclu... and yet..

Edit: Your boos mean nothing, I've seen what makes you cheer.

No alibi == found guilty? Under the Stasi, probably. In a decent system? No. Presumption of innocence is supposed to fix exactly this.

There are a lot of gradations between "guilty" and "not guilty" in our system, some of them very unpleasant.

For example, the author experienced involuntary exile while technically "not guilty." Many employers will fire an employee who is charged with a crime, without a conviction. A "not guilty" person can be arrested and held in jail until a court date which could get postponed repeatedly.

There are plenty of cracks people can fall (or be pushed) into.

In a decent system? No.

Would you be willing to risk that the system you live in is decent? I live in the UK and I hope I never need to find out, because I have a few doubts.

The issue is most people don't think this way. They immediately jump to the worst case scenario and are pressured to accept.

Sure, in theory.

We (America) have lots of folks that accept plea agreements because we put pre-trial folks in jail and treat them like criminals, which can easily ruin lives even if you are found not guilty.

Of course, you might not be talking about the US system when you refer to a decent system, so maybe you are correct.

without an alibi it will probably come down to whose lawyer is better

USA is a beacon of freedom, Liberty and Equality

Am I correct in assuming that this is sarcasm?

It’s probably sarcasm but I don’t think it matters. A glib throw-away comment adds nothing to the discussion.

I'd note that all powers not granted in the US Constitution are denied and federal police forces are definitely NOT allowed by the US Constitution.

Once again, it's just the garbage logic that EVERYTHING can potentially affect more than one state, so they have the right to control everything via the interstate commerce clause.


> None of these virtues matter when it comes to climate change. We can demolish your house, take your children and throw you in ocean if we have to to fight global warming and local cooling.

What are you even talking about?

For example a Massachusetts official was talking about how they will have to "break the will" of people who are heating their homes or driving cars. Whatever that means.


What were the next few sentences after that? Did someone previously mention breaking the will of bad emitters? Was he trying to say "there are no bad guys to break the will of"?

As a masshole that doesn't even register on my "paternalistic-authoritarianism-ometer". At least he's aware that the public won't like what he thinks needs to be done.

Sure a NH or ME politically appointed administrator would follow that acknowledgement up with something about being bound to serve the will of the public/electorate but acknowledging public opinion is a thing that needs to be considered probably puts him in the top half of Massachusetts political appointees.

We found that those things help keep you from interfering with the freedoms of others.

So what happens to people refuse to work for the cops in other countries? "Sorry for bothering you, bye-bye"?


The UK is also proposing a law to give informers and police widespread immunity from prosecution for undercover crimes: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/spy-cops-law-bill-polic...

If it’s a government for the people, yes. If it’s a government for someone/something else, then make people do stuff for the other by threat of force.

yes-ish. No government is immune to corruption but certain forms of government narrow areas of operable corruption whereas others can expand it. It's always there but just harder to exploit.

I am asking about practice, not theory.

"make people do stuff for the other by threat of force."

That's the basic premise of any state and society.

That's exactly what happened to someone I know who refused to work for an analogue of a three letter agency in Poland. This was 10+ years ago though, so it doesn't say anything about the current state of affairs.

In a lot of countries, yes.

The reality is that when it really comes down to it, the institutions are fundamentally unethical. And this is no surprise because governments are essentially very official mafias.

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

Shafting people has been around for aeons


>With so many Muslims why did they choose him?

It's their job to pick someone, you can't assume guilt because he was chosen.

Additionally, if you're not not assuming guilt then there is one thing you can assume: leverage.

He's got a lot to lose which the article makes painfully clear:

- time with family

- personal reputation

- fulfilling personal/religion goals

- ... and a lot more

Personally, I think it enlightening to consider the opposite scenario: what about those on the fringe with nothing to lose? The FBI has a life changing program for you! They'll give you a sense of purpose, a feeling like you're part of something, and all the support you need to ... become the star of the next foiled terrorist plot.

Exactly. And in this guy's case, he also has a wife who is not a US citizen, so they can additionally threaten him with messing with her immigration status.

Leverage takes many forms, and need not have anything to do with being guilty of a crime.

Often it is a guy who has little time , loved ones, and is both disconnected with the community and weak jurisprudentially IOW doesn’t know how to defend himself.

> Is this the case of someone guilty getting 25 years in jail for not wanting to snitch?

This is an absolutely disgusting suggestion.

well, it is possible that someone may have different feelings about the USA, despite living here, no?

Do you really not get how what you're saying is 180° from principles of due process, equal protection, and freedom of speech?

I understand that as a US citizen I have more freedoms than most people throughout history, but the idea that it's really free for everyone is a little idyllic. Obviously this is a hyperbolic example and is a tiny fraction of the populace, but you can't possibly talk about due process and reconcile that with Guantanamo Bay. There are many more examples to fill spaces in the spectrum, that's just meant to be a single point to prove it's not really equal for everyone.

I'm with you on all of that, but that's not what the person I'm replying to is saying. They're saying that the subject of the article might be a bad guy so he probably deserves what's happening to him.

NOT at all. I'm just willing to believe that some Russian, Chines, "Muslims" or [insert anything here] are willing to do harm to our system. I am EXTREMELY happy that ACLU took the case so the truth has a chance to come out

> I understand that as a US citizen I have more freedoms than most people throughout history

Maybe on paper or as long as you are lucky.

In most EU countries such stories of police abuse are way, way less common.

Including things like unwarranted searches, seizing money with no good reason, swatting, aggressive questioning.

>Is this the case of someone guilty getting 25 years in jail for not wanting to snitch?

Maybe you can let us know about the facts you have at hand to make claims like these.

Court case will answer that.

Except it won't, because the government decided to skip due process.

Courts convict innocent people all the time.

Wait you think people in jails should just not exist? Do you want to uh elaborate on that a little?

EDIT: yes I got it thank you to everyone who explained. I'm not a native english speaker and misunderstood the phrasing.

I believe they were trying to say: "No fly lists should be reserved for people who are in jail ... and therefore the no fly list should not exist (since the people who shouldn't fly can't fly because they're in jail)".

But their statement was open to misinterpretation, and it's possible that I might be the misinterpreter.

I'm not the person you're replying to but I read their comment as saying the No-Fly List shouldn't exist. As in, if someone is deserving of government restrictions on their movement then they should be in prison, otherwise they should be permitted to move freely.

I do think prisons should not exist, although I'm not sure that's what was being said originally.

Here's an audio interview with Ruth Wilson Gilmore elaborating. https://theintercept.com/2020/06/10/ruth-wilson-gilmore-make...

No, I said /meant the No-Fly list should not exist, at least of US persons. If you are too dangerous to fly, you should be either in jail or mental hospital.

Ohhh I see ok. Thanks for explaining that makes a lot more sense.

Definitely not the obvious interpretation. Parallel structure of “should ... ie should ...” strongly suggests that the poster meant people in jail should not exist

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact