SF cop’s work with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force prompts citizen complaint

A citizen’s complaint was filed Wednesday against The City for the joint interview of a software engineer last year by a San Francisco police officer and an unidentified FBI agent, which is said to have violated city and department regulations.

Attorneys at the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus claim in allegations filed with the Office of Citizens Complaints that the interview, conducted in June, infringed on software engineer Sarmad Gilani’s constitutional rights. The complaint was filed on behalf of Gilani by attorneys Brice Hamack of CAIR and Nasrina Bargzie of the AJALC.

The police officer and FBI agent belong to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The complaint could result in an investigation by the Office of Citizens Complaints into the police officer’s actions and a hearing to determine corrective actions within the Police Department.

SFPD Inspector Gavin McEachern and the unnamed FBI agent are said to have visited Gilani, who moved from Normal, Ill., two years ago to work for Google, at his office to “follow up” on a Freedom of Information Act request he filed about issues with his trip to Pakistan.

In the June 4 interview, the two men questioned Gilani about the area he visited in Pakistan and his opinion on the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, to which he responded by asking to end the interview and directing McEachern and the FBI agent to his attorney.

But the task force failed to attain written authorization from command staff before McEachern questioned Gilani in an “unwarranted” interview, according to the complaint.

Gilani’s attorneys allege the interview is an example of the biased policing of “a man they perceive to be of Pakistan origin and Muslim faith.”

“Some people have delusions about being oppressed,” Gilani claims the federal agent told him. “I am not here because you’re Muslim.”

The Police Department is prohibited from participating in most federal investigations into constitutionally protected acts under the Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance, which was adopted into The City’s administrative code in 2012, after documents showed the FBI and police were together illegally spying on Muslims the Bay Area.

FBI spokesman Mike Gimbel told The San Francisco Examiner this month that members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force had a “voluntary conversation” with Gilani. Gimbel wasn’t authorized to say more on the matter.

The federal task force program is described as “a fusion of local, state and federal agencies acting as an integrated force to combat terrorism on a national scale,” according to the FBI’s website.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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