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FBI Interviews at Special Events

Responding to Your Concerns
FBI Interviews at Special Events

08/18/04

We’ve gotten a fair amount of coverage lately about our actions, past and future, at this summer’s political conventions in Boston and New York. In fact, we’ve been part of security at special events like these for many many years—our Special Event Management Program was approved in 1978, and we participated in our first “special event” at the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Over the years we’ve been part of the security team at Olympics, at Super Bowls, at conventions and high profile meetings, you name it—anywhere a lot of damage could be unleashed by just one or a few violent extremists. And we really take pride in the fact that our work at these events—both at home and abroadhas prevented violence, prevented acts of terrorism, and kept people safe.

At the same time, we have always followed the rules, sensitive to Americans’ constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, always drawing the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity. It’s an understandably controversial area, though, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to answer a few specific questions we’ve been asked.

Q: Who is the FBI interviewing?
A: First of all, we are NOT interviewing “protestors”—rather, we conduct very limited interviews of individuals when we receive specific intelligence that they are either planning to conduct violent illegal activity or are aware of a plan to conduct such activity.

Q: Does the FBI have the right to conduct interviews before any large-scale protest that has the potential of violence?
A: Again, only when we receive specific intelligence that concerns incidents that violate federal criminal laws. The FBI stays focused on the threat of violence.

Q: What sort of violence are you concerned about?
A: We are concerned about large-volume water guns (Super-Soakers) filled with ammonia, bleach or urine; projectiles such as rocks and bottles; incendiary devices such as Molotov cocktails and pyrotechnics; and even improvised explosive devices such as pipe bombs. For example, at the November 2003 protests at the Free Trade of America conference in Miami, police were attacked with marbles and bolts launched from sling shots and wrist rockets, with rocks, with sticks embedded with razor blades and nails, and with bleach and urine.

As always, it is our obligation to respond to credible threats of violence, and we intend—we vowto protect Americans and all people from the violent acts of extremists.