Potential terrorists in San Francisco can rejoice: because of a 2012 San Francisco ordinance, the FBI has to ask permission from the city’s police department if it wants to question possible terrorists.
On Friday, KQED reported that South Asian and Muslim communities were furious that a San Francisco Police Department report denied that the SFPD violated the 2012 Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance when San Francisco police Inspector Gavin McEachern and an unidentified FBI agent interviewed Google software engineer Sarmad Gilani in June 2014.
The ordinance, as Stephen Frank of California Political Review notes, permits SFPD officers to participate in FBI counterterrorism investigations “only in a manner that is fully consistent with the laws of the State of California, including but not limited to the inalienable right to privacy guaranteed by Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution, as well as the laws and policies of the City and County of San Francisco and, as applicable to the Police Department, that Department’s policies, procedures, and orders.”
Last March, the Asian Law Caucus and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)–an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial, and a designated terror organization in the United Arab Emirates–filed a formal complaint accusing the SFPD of wrongdoing and slamming the FBI by stating, “Given the FBI’s prior lack of concern and familiarity with SFPD policy, and given their on-going refusal to appear at any local public hearings to address these issues and hear community concerns, SFPD command staff should have known that more active independent supervision and oversight was necessary to ensure full SFPD compliance with local law and policy.”
The 2012 ordinance forces local police working with the FBI to follow a Police Department general order that requests for investigations of “First Amendment activities” must be submitted to the city’s Police Commission.
McEachern and the FBI agent reportedly informed Gilani, a Pakistani Muslim, that they were there to ask about a Freedom of Information Act request he had filed.
CAIR attorney Brice Hamack reportedly said Gilani was targeted simply for being “Muslim and Pakistani,” adding, “When he was approached by the SFPD officer in this case, he was asked solely about his constitutionally protected activity of religious practices, traveling association and the sort.” Hamack blasted the Police Department’s annual report on counterterrorism activities last year, which did not include Gilani’s interview, snapping, “As far as we had heard, there was nothing wrong, nothing even remotely wrong. There were no indications that even approached violating the ordinance, yet that turned out to be false.”
In 2012, SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr said of the ordinance, “This doesn’t change our way of doing business. It just makes sure that it’s codified that we have to have the discussion we keep it on the front burner.”