“Throughout its history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has used its expansive powers to investigate, monitor, and surveil First Amendment-protected activity. As early as 1924, public concern about the FBI’s violation of First Amendment rights and other civil liberties spurred official attempts to check the FBI’s power. This report covers FBI surveillance of political activity over roughly the past decade. We find that the FBI has repeatedly monitored civil society groups, including racial justice movements, Occupy Wall Street, environmentalists, Palestinian solidarity activists, Abolish ICE protesters, and Cuba and Iran normalization proponents…
…Read the report to understand how pervasive and persistent FBI surveillance is, then take action!”—Chip Gibbons, “Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse.” RightsAndDissent.org. October 2019.
The National Lawyer’s Guild has a “pocket-sized know-your-rights booklet…designed to be a practical resource for people dealing with law enforcement. The 16-page primer advises people of their rights when confronted by FBI agents or the Department of Homeland Security. It also includes information for noncitizens and minors.
“You, dear readers, know my advice about talking to the FBI: don’t. If the FBI — or any law enforcement agency — asks to talk to you, say ‘No, I want to talk to my lawyer, I don’t want to talk to you,’ and repeat as necessary. Do not talk to them ‘just to see what they want.’ Do not try to ‘set the facts straight.’ Do not try to outwit them. Do not explain that you have ‘nothing to hide.’
Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up…”
—Ken White, “Everybody Lies: FBI Edition.” Popehat.com. December 4, 2017.
The key point is that our communication styles and habitual ways of thinking do not line up well when the focus becomes capital T “Truth”. We’re fallible human beings that frequently do not know the truth about ourselves, the world around us or even the truth about all the relevant context of events in which we take part.
Imagine, for example, the CIA operative that was involved in clandestine operations in South American countries in the 1980’s. Should this person be teaching college-level history courses based on their subject knowledge, particularly because they are acquainted with what was happening “behind the scenes”? Or, does his subjective experience compomise his ability to convey the truth in a more complete way?
I’d argue being involved in something compromises both our ability to explicitly know the truth of it, and there is also always an implicit knowledge informing our understanding that we cannot communicate in an explicit way that makes all communication false on some level.
In most social circumstances, this ambiguity and imprecision helps us all get along, allowing us to rationalize or interpret things how we wish. But, in the context of a law enforcement interview, this flexibility is how cases are built against people.