FBI questioning Libyan visitors to Chicago

April 8, 2011 4:19:12 PM PDT
The fight for control of Libya took a fierce turn Friday as rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi clashed along a key supply line.

In this Intelligence Report: Libyan visitors to Chicago are being paid visits by the FBI because of fears about a terrorist attack here.

This is part of a nationwide effort to locate and speak with hundreds of Libyan students, business travelers and tourists who may have connections to the Gadhafi government, or be Gadhafi sympathizers and potential security threats.

Interviews are now under way in 10 U.S. cities. The I-Team has learned that over the past two days, in Chicago, FBI agents have started questioning about 100 Libyan visitors.

With freedom fighters now holding just one city in western Libya, allied jets Friday stepped up attacks on the Gadhafi army, blowing up tanks and troops that were trying to dislodge rebel forces.

As fighting drags on, the FBI has begun questioning people with past links to the Libyan government and Libyans in the U.S. who may have information on threats against Americans.

"The situation is very tense right now," said the FBI in Chicago's Ross Rice. "And who knows what Gadhafi may order?"

FBI spokesman Rice said that agents in Chicago, Detroit and eight other major field offices are approaching a total of 800 Libyan nationals with scripted, non-aggressive questions.

Rice says they are focused on temporary visitors who have arrived in Chicago, not Libyan-Americans.

"These are all people who are here legally, they're on a visa, and their visa is...either to go to school, or as a tourist, or for business travel," said Rice. "And, as part of the visa, they have to list where they're going to be staying and their contact information.

"The focus of the contact is twofold; first, to determine if there is a possible threat to the U.S., or the country's allies, as a result of the military actions that are ongoing in Libya; second, to determine if there might be any actionable intelligence to gather from the visitors."

Homeland Security officials in Chicago met with the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday to inform them of the upcoming FBI visits.

"It's good that they're trying to figure out and get a better understanding for what's going on in the ground in Libya," said CAIR-Chicago's Lyndsey Stemm. "And we, as a civil rights organization, want to make sure that the community is informed of their right to have an attorney present in this type of situation."

The I-Team spoke Friday afternoon with one young man from Libya who is attending a Chicago university. He was visited by the FBI Thursday and had no problem with it, but he begged not to be identified, even though he was quoted by name in previous news stories critical of Gadhafi. The student says if Libyan leaders learn that he talked to the FBI his family will be killed.