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Friday, June 14, 2024

WI men part of national search for info on attacks

Wisconsin's U.S. attorney's offices are seeking to interview 100 mostly college-age Wisconsin men in accordance with a U.S. Department of Justice plan to interview 5,000 men nationwide in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a deputy U.S. attorney told the Associated Press Friday. 




Francis Schmitz, head of the criminal division of the Eastern District of Wisconsin U.S. attorney's office in Milwaukee, told the AP that Justice Department officials hope to ask young Muslim men whether they have encountered anyone supporting terrorism. 




The approximately 5,000 men were selected by the Justice Department for voluntary interviews because they entered the United States on tourist, business or student visas since Jan. 1, 2000, from countries in which the al Qaeda terrorist network is known to operate. 




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Grant Johnson, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, declined to comment on how officials will go about conducting the interviews in Madison. Schmitz told the AP that U.S. attorneys in Milwaukee had not yet interviewed any of the 100 men by Friday. But he said Sunday that he could not speak to how the matter is being handled in Madison. 




Hussein Ibish, communications director for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the Justice Department's requests to interview the men \both morally reprehensible and an unbelievable waste of limited resources"" because of what he said was its focus on young Arab males who have no known connections to terrorists. 




""This doesn't make any sense,"" Ibish said. He added that he does not believe those invited to interviews can expect fair treatment. 




""I think that one is taking an amazing risk to go into these interviews at this moment,"" Ibish said. ""The most minor visa violation ... will lead to [a person's] immediate arrest and detention without bond. ... I cannot advise people to walk into a situation like that."" 




""We have been urging people to cooperate with the government, until now,"" Ibish added, referring to the ""risk of indefinite detention without bond."" 




UW-Madison senior Asif Sheikh of the Muslim Students Association said he believes that people to whom the Justice Department wishes to speak would be willing to talk, provided that their civil liberties remain intact. 




""As long as it's done in an atmosphere where there's no coercion ... they'll go and be happy [to talk],"" Sheikh said. 




Ibish said that men who choose to cooperate with the Justice Department should ""at minimum"" first consult with a lawyer, make sure that the lawyer is present during all interviews and maintain the right not to answer all questions. 




""The only thing they're not asking about is people's religion,"" Ibish said.

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