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FBI seeking information from Libyans living in U.S.

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
  • NEW: CAIR suggests Muslims have an attorney present
  • Federal agency wants to know if Americans will be endangered
  • Official believes thousands could be interviewed

Washington (CNN) -- The FBI has begun interviewing Libyans who are living in the United States in a hunt for any possible threats to Americans, according to a law enforcement official.

The official described this as a "proactive effort" spurred by the revolt in Libya and said the FBI has no specific intelligence to indicate Libya is planning terror attacks.

"We are making contact with Libyan visitors to determine whether there is a threat to Americans here or abroad," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record. The FBI would not comment.

The FBI began doing interviews this week and will concentrate on the parts of the United States with the highest population of Libyans. The official said the FBI is seeking voluntary cooperation from Libyans in the United States and thinks ultimately the FBI could talk to thousands of people living or visiting here.

The FBI's initiative was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said investigators also hope to gather intelligence that could be helpful to allied military operations. The law enforcement official could not confirm that, but said if during the course of the interviews Libyans offer information that could be helpful to the coalition the FBI would willingly accept it.

According to the source, while meeting with Libyans the FBI also is going to inform them of their civil rights "in case they feel threatened because of their ethnicity" during this time of war. The official said the FBI has not received any such reports so far.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reacted to the FBI interviews by issuing a statement reminding American Muslims they are not required to talk to the FBI absent a legal subpoena. CAIR did not tell Muslims to refuse to speak to the FBI, but suggested they consider having an attorney present.

CAIR also told Muslims if they are aware of any criminal activity going on in their communities it is their "religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies."