Syed Abid Iqbal, a Florida resident, may have gotten more than he bargained for when he voluntary talked to the FBI. After tipping the agency off about some concerns, Iqbal alleges that he found himself in an interrogation room for six hours and subject to years of surveillance. He has pressed charges against the agents who he claims violated his Constitutional rights.
On December 2, 2008 Iqbal went to the Jacksonville FBI office to express “concerns about his friends and acquaintances,” according to a document from the U.S. District Court Middle District Florida. Courthouse News writes, “What Iqbal did not know at the time was that the FBI agents believed his concerns were related to their ongoing investigation of a 'planned attack,'” and believed that he might know more than he was letting on and that he sent a suspicious email to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Their claim has never been substantiated.
A few days thereafter, the FBI requested that Iqbal return to the office, at which point he met more agents. They requested he take a polygraph test. Agent Terry Wetmore interrogated him, asking about the TSA email. Iqbal denies having sent it, and alleges that Wetmore told him he failed the test and couldn't leave until he admitted to emailing the TSA. Then, Wetmore refused to let Iqbal leave, “subjected [him] to enhanced interrogation technique[s],” while threatening to “charge him with a criminal offense.” This went on uninterrupted for six hours, but Iqbal's problems didn't end there.
The court document details his claims about their actions thereafter:
FBI agents began conducting warrantless electronic surveillance of Plaintiff at his home. The agents monitored Plaintiff’s personal and business phone conversations, emails, and text messages. Plaintiff alleges that the agents additionally used his “personal phone . . . as a transmitter which permitted recordings anytime anywhere Plaintiff was present.” The surveillance lasted until January 2011, and agents confirmed that the information collected included the structure and contents of Plaintiff’s house, the content of his personal and business calls, and his travel information.
The agents' continued harassment allegedly also included threats of violence, revocation of his American citizenship, and deportation. “The physical and psychological pain inflicted by the FBI allegedly led Iqbal to lose his job as an IT professional and enter bankruptcy,” explains Courthouse News.
Judge Roy Dalton Jr. has dismissed several of Iqbal's charges, stating that his claim that excessive force was used against him failed to demonstrate a “specific constitutional right allegedly infringed by the challenged application of force.” According to Dalton, the plaintiff's claim that the FBI violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process falls short because the agents' interrogation techniques were was not so coercive that they could “shock the conscience in the constitutional sense.”
However, the case will move forward. The judge acknowledged that the “alleged warrantless intrusion into that privacy violates the Fourth Amendment” and Iqbal's right to “privacy in conversations and religion practices conducted in his own home.”