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Students appear wary about FBI interviews

If any Portland State students have given voluntary interviews to the FBI about possible knowledge relating to terrorism, they seem reluctant to talk about it.

A PSU staff member who asked not to be named, said, “I think it will be difficult to get people in the community to speak up considering the current political climate and privacy invasion issues that are going on.”

Wajdi Said, director of the Muslim Educational Trust, revealed this is not a popular topic among Muslim students.

“They are sick and tired of these interrogations,” he said. “It’s all a very horrible experience.”

Said maintains an office in the Campus Ministry building. He said what is needed is a study of what is really going on in the Muslim community and what current events mean to its members. He said the fallout from the events of Sept. 11 have had a terrible impact on American Muslims.

Dawn White, director of International Educational Services, said of the proposed interviews, “We have never been told of any.” Her office sent e-mails to all students who might be affected. It emphasized that any interviews would be entirely voluntary and that her office offered any assistance students might need.

“Nobody asked for assistance,” she said.

Arguments about the propriety, or even necessity, of such interviews date back to late last year. Portland police announced then they would not cooperate with efforts by the FBI to interview as many as 200 young male students from several Middle Eastern countries. As a consequence, the state police and FBI said they would conduct the interviews themselves.

At that time, federal authorities and police officials stated there were only two dozen men on the list of desired interviewees located within the Portland city limits.

It was emphasized from the beginning that the interviews would be entirely voluntary. It was part of a federal plan to interview an estimated 5,000 young men across the country. The men were to be asked if they had any information that could help the national investigation of terrorism.

At that time, the government emphasized these 5,000 men were not considered criminal suspects. The whole plan, however, drew questions from the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

The Oregonian in late November quoted David J. Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon, as stating that he was skeptical of government assertions that the interviews were nonthreatening.

At that time, Wajdi Said told The Oregonian he was disappointed by Hardy’s opinion and he applauded the police decision. The police also were backed by Mayor Vera Katz, who emphasized the city is committed to the fight against terrorism but within the provisions of the law.