Score another for the blogosphere -- all the folks who responded vociferously. Tonight the Los Angeles Office of the FBI released a statement (see below) in an attempt to explain its ham-fisted interrogation of Pomona College Professor Miguel Tinker Salas and his students. Pomona College President David Oxtoby also released a statement saying that earlier in the afternoon he received a phone call from the agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, who reportedly "apologized" for the disruption to the college community. (Note that the written statement includes no such apology.)
I'm not sure this FBI statement clears the air. The point isn't simply that their goonish emissaries were inept in their interviewing methods. What "information" were they seeking? Who authorized it? Why in the world was the FBI Joint Task Force on Terror investigating a matter remotely concerning democratic Venezuela (where's the yellow cake connection)? How could the Dudley Do-Right career agents at the FBI be so duped or goaded into having their domestic operations so blatantly hijacked and transparently politicized? Why exactly would a terror task force be seeking information about Professor Tinker Salas's personal life? The claim that "no intimidation was intended" smacks of complete disingenuousness (read: lying): A professional law enforcement official in the Los Angeles area doesn't just go around "routinely" asking persons for their immigration status, especially if such officials have no clear business doing so (i.e., the Sheriff's department ain't the INS). Why would they even raise that issue in Professor Tinker Salas's case? Why make a special trip out to Claremont to ask such questions? The FBI must think we are arrant fools: Of course the whole affair was meant to have a demonstration effect. But Professor Tinker Salas called them on it, and the FBI and the Sheriff's offices became bombarded with citizen and media inquiries. The interviewing agents weren't merely seeking "information" -- they were seeking inappropriate information, and to make a point. And they were asking Professor Tinker Salas's students about what he was teaching in the classroom -- that was NOT "routine information"-gathering. The objectionable part of their sordid activity WASN'T the "timing and location" of the interview -- that was bad enough -- but the problem was also the CONTENT of their probe. The FBI statement completely sidesteps the most important issues, an exercise in misdirection. Note that the FBI statement comes on the same day that the Los Angeles Times published a front-page article on the U.S. administration's attempt to block Hugo Chavez's growing influence.
Does it take too much to connect these two dots? Who ordered Professor Tinker Salas's interrogation? On what grounds? Does the Los Angeles Office of the FBI really take all of us to be such gullible chumps? Does the Bush administration, after so many disinformation campaigns, really believe that they can demonize Chavez as a terrorist monster and silence potential critics who dare suggest otherwise?
FBI - 11000 Wilshire Blvd. - Los Angeles, Ca 90024 - 310-996-3804,3343 - Fax: 310-996-3345
For Immediate Release
DATE: March 10, 2006
FBI STATEMENT REGARDING INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW OF
POMONA COLLEGE PROFESSOR
Agents of the FBI and its state, local and federal task force partners routinely conduct interviews in the course of daily activity. Being interviewed by FBI Agents or Task Force Officers should not suggest wrongdoing on the part of the interviewee. The FBI takes great pains to avoid publicity when interviews are conducted.
The FBI and its task force partners in state, local and federal agencies are mindful of the need to respect the circumstances that might surround the timing and location of an informational interview. When requested to participate in interviews, individuals are free to indicate a preference regarding these issues.
With regard to the interview of the professor, the purpose of the interview was to seek information. There was no intent on the part of the FBI, regarding the timing or location, to place the professor, his students or Pomona College in an uncomfortable situation.