A woman in the US: ‘It’s a very scary place’
On the morning of the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I was driving home in Washington, D.C., when I got pulled over by the FBI.
I was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant for being a flight risk, and was being interrogated about my travels to and from the country.
I explained that I was on a government-issued electronic travel document.
I said I had traveled in the past two years to the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Pakistan, which is in the northwest part of the country, and I had returned to the US, where I work, in a month.
I also explained that my husband is in a similar situation.
“You know, it’s a scary place,” the officer asked.
“It’s not safe for you.”
“No, I’m not,” I responded.
“Because of your actions, you have violated our law,” he continued.
“This is the fifth time you’ve been arrested on an electronic warrant.
This time you are being detained for five hours, not three.
You are under arrest and you have no right to be free.”
The officer had been watching my story for months, and he wanted to know whether I had a cell phone or a GPS tracking device.
I didn’t, and as the interrogation continued, he asked if I was the “main suspect.”
I replied, “Yes.”
“And that’s why you’re here?” he asked.
I asked if it was because of my family.
“No,” I replied.
“There are people who were not here when the attack occurred.”
“But they were here,” the man insisted.
I replied that the people I was in the country with, including my husband, were here.
“They are innocent people, too,” he said.
I told him that I had not been charged with any crime, but that I knew of two other people who had been charged.
The officer said, “I don’t care what you say.”
I explained how the FBI had found no connection between me and the other two people.
I had gone to their home, where they were living with their parents, to get their documents, and the two of them were still in jail.
I then told the officer, “So you’re saying I am innocent.”
“You don’t have a legal right to talk to me?” he said, clearly upset.
I responded, “Of course I don’t.
You’re a private citizen.”
The man asked, “Do you have any family here?”
I responded that I did.
“Do I have to give them a phone call or do they have to come over?” he responded.
I began to explain how my husband and I were not even connected to each other, and that my wife was still living in the United States.
“The government is telling me that my family is a terrorist,” he exclaimed.
“How can you tell that?”
I explained to him that my two children are still in school, and how they had to leave to get to school for the day.
I added that my son is in college and my daughter is in school.
“That’s not what I want to hear,” he told me.
“Your son is an American, and you’re telling me to go to the United Nations to go and kill people.”
I told the man that my children were innocent and that I didn “never” support terrorism.
“Why do you need to know what I’m doing?” he shouted.
“If you had no business being here, how can you be here?”
“I have a family,” I said.
“I was born here.”
“My family,” he repeated.
I tried to explain that my mother is from Germany, and my father is from Italy.
I pleaded with him to understand that I am an American citizen and that this is a different country than the one he and my wife left.
“But my husband was born in the U.S.,” I said, and asked him to tell the truth.
I pointed out that he had a criminal record, and also that my daughter was in school and his son was working.
“Did you know that he’s not even from here?” the officer demanded.
“He was born and raised here,” I explained.
“And he’s never been arrested.”
The officers asked me about my husband’s work, and why he had left the country so soon after the attacks.
I informed him that he worked for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which had issued him a valid work permit.
“Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do?” he demanded.
I answered that my job was to build the infrastructure for the internet, and to build a secure network.
I argued that I would be more useful in the future.
“Just because you left the U, doesn’t mean you’re innocent,” he demanded, again pointing out that I worked for him.
“So what do you do now?”
I asked. He