Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

University of Wisconsin Will Not Aid in Interviews

by Joshua Orton

Citing a lack of specific criminal information, UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley announced in a written statement Thursday that UW Police will not assist the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the questioning of international students.

“University officials, including me, believe the criteria to select individuals for interviews … is broadly based and appears to consist of people who are not suspected of any crimes or suspicious activities,” Wiley said.

Wiley’s announcement came after recent reports that two or three UW-Madison students had been questioned in conjunction with terrorism investigations ordered by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to interview 5,000 Middle Eastern men who have entered the country since Jan. 1, 2000.

In addition, university officials say they will maintain a policy of only providing federal officials with already public information, unless legally bound to do otherwise.

UW-Madison University Communications spokesperson John Lucas said that to the best knowledge of UW-Madison administration, any contacting of students by federal authorities thus far has been “obtained in a manner other than [through] a records request to the UW.”

Other local authorities are taking similar positions. For instance, Madison Police Department Public Information Officer Larry Kamholz said police would not assist federal authorities questioning individuals unless there is a specific suspicion of criminal activity. Kamholz cited departmental concerns regarding the use of racial profiling to question individuals.

“We’re not going to start violating people’s rights just because of their ethnic background or wherever they’re from,” Kamholz said. “Just on that basis, you won’t see involvement from this department.”

Cathy Fahey, a spokesperson for the Milwaukee field office of the FBI, also denied Thursday having conducted the reported student interviews.

In addition, Grant Johnson, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, who is overseeing Justice Department investigations in Madison, denied that student questioning was related to Ashcroft’s orders regarding the list of Middle Eastern men.

Johnson would not comment on who might have conducted the interviews or for what reason, only saying that the reported student interviews “[have] nothing to do with the list of people that we’re supposed to interview at the direction of the attorney general through the District Terrorism Task Force.”

The UW-Madison Office of International Student Services, which originally reported the questioning of students, did not respond to media inquiries Thursday.

According to Lucas, the questioned students originally saw an adviser in the Office of International Student Services after being sought for interviews.

The identity of the questioned students, as well as who questioned them, still remains unknown.

Johnson said he was aware that “some” of the men on the list were university students, who have yet to be questioned. He said his office was taking the list given to it by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and cross-matching it to local public directories, such as UW-Madison’s student directory, in order to find accurate contact information.

Outlining the procedure for interviewing individuals, Johnson said agents from his office, or cooperating local officials, would visit individuals at home. If no contact was made, a note would be left directing the individual to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Once contact was made, he said, agents would ask if the individual would like to be interviewed, and would also explain what was wanted from the interview.

If the individual declined to answer questions, agents would “smile and say ‘thank you,'” Johnson said. If personal legal counsel was requested by the interviewee, both individual and counsel would be directed to the assistant U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Attorney assigned to the task force.

“We’d figure out what they wanted to do and move on with life,” Johnson said.

“This is truly a voluntary program.”

Micabil Diaz, the legal director of the Wisconsin American Civil Liberties Union, said students should not answer any questions without the presence of a lawyer.

“If any of these investigatory agencies approach you, seek a lawyer,” he said.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future