If the FBI Asks, Do You Answer?

 

I was a student traveling in an airport when three men with FBI credentials stopped me and asked me about a foreign national I had just spoken to. I explained that he was a professor at my university whom I had happened to run into. I was running a personal server in the late ’90s when I received a call from an FBI agent regarding a fraud complaint related to my domain name. I provided the agent with the details of the DNS features I used to assure that responsible ISPs will block email using my domain name but originating from an unauthorized IP address. The agent took copious notes and I never heard any more about the matter. And then there was the time they called to ask me questions about a coworker who tried to blackmail me using baseless accusations.

While I have never been naive about the FBI, in each of these occasions, I was presented with natural law enforcement concerns and engaged the situation respectfully and constructively. I am not sure I could do that today. The sheer dishonesty of the FBI’s public conduct suggests any trust in the FBI pursuing its law enforcement mission is misplaced.

So, if the FBI asks, do you answer? Do you tell the truth? Do you dummy up? Do you lawyer up?

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  1. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    Short of preventing a nuclear attack on America, I would tell them nothing.

    • #1
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Hell, if I am ever questioned about something incidental, I will assume that they are assessing me rather than seeking answers — talk to my lawyer.  

    Naturally, this still depends.   If it’s obvious, well then, case by case.  

    • #2
  3. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Sisyphus: So, if the FBI asks, do you answer? Do you tell the truth? Do you dummy up? Do you lawyer up?

    Unless there is a drastic change of coarse the RCMP will someday come for me… My plan is not to engage, lawyer up.

    • #3
  4. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    This recent Powerline post speaks to your question.

    • #4
  5. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Al French (View Comment):

    This recent Powerline post speaks to your question.

    I agree, but do the Ricochetti believe that that is now the pervasive reality that would color their own expectations in a personal encounter?

    • #5
  6. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    You make a reasonable point.  Which is horrifying.  But reasonable.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I’ve been interviewed before regarding people using me as a reference for security clearances.

    I don’t know if I’d agree to do that anymore. The FBI has ceased to be benign to law-abiding citizens.

    Keep the technical forensics support. Pink-slip the rest.

    • #7
  8. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Al French (View Comment):

    This recent Powerline post speaks to your question.

    Will read later.  Long time no see, I think!

    • #8
  9. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Percival (View Comment):

    I’ve been interviewed before regarding people using me as a reference for security clearances.

    I don’t know if I’d agree to do that anymore. The FBI has ceased to be benign to law-abiding citizens.

    Keep the technical forensics support. Pink-slip the rest.

    For clearance questions, I would say do both of these: tell the whole truth, and support good people.  You can put different levels of effort into the truth without omitting or adding to it.  

    • #9
  10. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    • #10
  11. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Ten years for identifying the Shell station as being on the east side, not the west side of the street. I’ll send you cookies.

    • #11
  12. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    If there were no reasons given for the request I wouldn’t volunteer anything. The reason for contact would likely be information already mentioned publicly or else they wouldn’t have shown up.

    That said, if there were a missing person case and I had some relevant info, I’d call them. Even though I’d do this, I’d still reflexively think of Richard Jewell, yet another FBI abuse of power.

    • #12
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Not a word. 

    • #13
  14. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Chris O (View Comment):

    If there were no reasons given for the request I wouldn’t volunteer anything. The reason for contact would likely be information already mentioned publicly or else they wouldn’t have shown up.

    That said, if there were a missing person case and I had some relevant info, I’d call them. Even though I’d do this, I’d still reflexively think of Richard Jewell, yet another FBI abuse of power.

    I wasn’t even thinking of the Jewell case. Wow. Randy Weaver, yes. Try to force an honest man to break the law so that you can blackmail him into becoming an informant. Then shoot and kill his wife who was carrying a baby in her arms. Our tax dollars at work.

    • #14
  15. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    I would ask them for their contact information, and that of their immediate superiors, and tell them my lawyer would be in touch. That’s all.

    • #15
  16. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Trust has been completely broken. I would not trust any Federal employee, if I can help it.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Ten years for identifying the Shell station as being on the east side, not the west side of the street. I’ll send you cookies.

    Better not, or they’ll be coming for you next!

    • #17
  18. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Ten years for identifying the Shell station as being on the east side, not the west side of the street. I’ll send you cookies.

    Better not, or they’ll be coming for you next!

    Oh, I am completely on their radar, already. I even have a fan or two, here and there. 

    • #18
  19. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Ten years for identifying the Shell station as being on the east side, not the west side of the street. I’ll send you cookies.

    Better not, or they’ll be coming for you next!

    Oh, I am completely on their radar, already. I even have a fan or two, here and there.

    Remind me to tell you of my experience looking at the Pentagon through binoculars, and seeing a guy looking at me through binoculars.  He had a well-armed friend.   Now I just call those guys my personal sniper team. 

    • #19
  20. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Yeah, Mike Flynn could give a class on that…

    • #20
  21. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    BDB (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Ten years for identifying the Shell station as being on the east side, not the west side of the street. I’ll send you cookies.

    Better not, or they’ll be coming for you next!

    Oh, I am completely on their radar, already. I even have a fan or two, here and there.

    Remind me to tell you of my experience looking at the Pentagon through binoculars, and seeing a guy looking at me through binoculars. He had a well-armed friend. Now I just call those guys my personal sniper team.

    I’ve been on the wrong end of a federal barrel myself. Memorable. And all perfectly correct and justified, if a little enthusiastic.

    • #21
  22. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    If they called, I’d hang up. If they came to my door for any reason I’d tell them they’re trespassing and they need to get off my property before I call a state trooper on them. 

    • #22
  23. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    For workplace purposes:  certainly.  I don’t think that is likely all things considered, as I do not work with FBI related stuff, but still I would be expected to answer.

    Outside of work,  “I’ll get back to you after consulting with a lawyer.”

    I am curious – could an agent ask me a questions about something random without identifying himself as a Fed, then prosecute me for issuing a false statement?  That whole law on false statements needs to be torched.

    • #23
  24. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I listened to Mike Lindell describe his encounter with the FBI. I would not say a word, other than I will call my lawyer. 

    • #24
  25. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I listened to Mike Lindell describe his encounter with the FBI. I would not say a word, other than I will call my lawyer.

    One problem is, they probably wouldn’t let you hold onto the phone until then.

    • #25
  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    At this point all law enforcement and military has to be considered as hostile to conservatives.  Answer no questions, limit any cooperation as much as possible.

    It would also be smart to register as Democrat

    • #26
  27. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    If an FBI agent asks me anything – even directions to the nearest gas station – my response is, “I need to speak to my lawyer and have him present before I answer any questions you ask.” Too much chance of getting sucked into a perjury trap otherwise.

    Ten years for identifying the Shell station as being on the east side, not the west side of the street. I’ll send you cookies.

    Tain’t funny McGee.

    • #27
  28. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I listened to Mike Lindell describe his encounter with the FBI. I would not say a word, other than I will call my lawyer.

    But see an earlier Gestapo raid where they tricked the victim into unlocking his strongly encrypted phone by letting him make the call to his lawyer, then grabbing the phone before he could lock it again.

    • #28
  29. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    I think there are a number of different considerations here. If the FBI agent wanting to speak to you is from DC, I would be reluctant to speak to him or her regardless of the reason.

    On the other hand, I don’t see the FBI agents outside DC as being as tainted.

    If I were to decide to speak to the agent, I would insist that the conversation be recorded. The FBI hates that. If they say that I may not record the conversation, I don’t speak to them.

    If it is obvious that I am not a target of the investigation (although they are good at concealing that), I have a natural inclination to want to help them catch actual criminals. That said, the safest course of action is due on the side of caution and declined to speak. Of course, there are times when not speaking could get you into more trouble than speaking. I’m thinking about the OP’s conversation with the FBI about the false ISP problem. If @Sisyphus had not spoken to the FBI at that time, @Sisyphus probably would have received subpoena and suffered far more inconvenience. Sometimes, it is a tough choice. The default, though, is maintain one’s silence and privacy.

    • #29
  30. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    People need to carry a throw-down cell phone. A second line is cheap. Maybe under a different name. Think of it as insurance.

    • #30
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