When the 'gummint' comes a knockin' and they're askin' lots of questions, about you or people you know, consider this statement made to me years ago..."When you go to THEM with a problem, they may be your friend, but when they come to talk to you, they are NEVER your friend. Be leery of them."

Consider the information below as a public service message. Stand up and ask some questions.
Good input from a lawyer friend, about the following questionnaire--

"There's nothing wrong with asking those questions, but there's no requirement in the law that they all be answered. I don't think you could ever require a public servant disclose his or her residence address when acting within the scope of their job. Office address, yes."
"It is kind of meaningless to ask them if they will uphold the Constitution, since even if they answer "yes," whether they are acting within the Constitution is a legal question for a court to ultimately decide if the agent's conduct becomes an issue. They took an oath of office already, and that oath requires them to support and defend the Constitution. They're not going to say, "no." And if they do violate their oath, the signed questionnaire answer will be superfluous."
Questions as to whether cooperation is voluntary or mandatory, and consequences for not answering, are good ones. I suspect few agents will give you a direct answer unless they know they can charge you for obstruction of justice, etc. If you really don't want to talk, it makes sense to ask whether the agent thinks you must talk, or else."
"You really can't require agents to disclose third parties, and information they've obtained from them, as a general matter. Think about a criminal investigation. You can't have a witnesses' testimony tainted by telling them what another witness saw or heard, for example."
Of course, no public servant is going to sign such a questionnaire. But as a general matter, it wouldn't hurt to have the list handy to ask some of the questions orally. If the agent refuses to answer the important ones, then my attitude could well be less cooperative than if they were forthcoming with me."

by Daniel J. Schultz

Key Points

An American does not have to speak with a government agent unless the citizen has been arrested.
Americans have a right to privacy, to be left alone. The PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 (Public Law 93-579), empowers citizens to require full, written disclosure from a government official who seeks information.
You may insist on complete disclosure as a precondition to speaking with any government official.

Limits On Federal Power

Law-abiding citizens are sometimes visited by agents of the Federal government for no apparent reason. It is helpful, at the time of these visits, to recall that unless a citizen has been placed under arrest (either because a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe the citizen has committed a crime or because the officer has in his possession an arrest warrant issued by a judge who believes there is probable cause the citizen has committed a crime) a citizen does not have to entertain the company of government agents.
Citizens also have the right, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, not to testify against themselves. Thus, when 'the government' comes knocking on one's door, you have the right to simply say, "Please go away." Unless the government officer places you under arrest (there must be probable cause, or an arrest warrant based on probable cause), the officer must obey your wishes.

Be Helpful....On Your Terms

Of course, citizens also have a vested interest in assisting 'the government' in its role of crime-solver. Most of us understand the need to help 'the government' to apprehend criminals. But it is also helpful, when 'the government arrives at your place of employment or at your home, to know how to find out why government agents have appeared on YOUR doorstep.
A handy little questionnaire that I came across years ago will do the trick. It's called the "Public Servant Questionnaire." A version accompanies this article. The "PSQ" was developed by Lynn Johnston, author of Who's Afraid of the IRS? (Libertarian Review Foundation: 1983, ISBN 0-930073-03-7).
The PSQ is based on the requirements placed upon the government by the Privacy Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-579), an amending law to Title 5, United States Code, Section 552, and is included as Section 552a.
If a citizen chooses to cooperate with government officials who are seeking information, BEFORE questioning begins, the citizen should politely inform the government agent or agents that a prerequisite for the citizen's cooperation with "the government" is the agent's cooperation with the citizen.

Do It Right, The First Time

The questions should then be put to each agent, and the citizen should enter the answers onto the questionnaire. Copies should be provided to each agent, either at the time of the questioning or by mail to the agent after the visit. The questionnaire informs the government agent that the citizen knows his rights and knows which limited powers the government agent has been granted by the people.
Most probably some government agents will not want to fill out or sign the PSQ. That's fine. They can then be sent on their merry way. They may need to explain to their superiors, and a court of law, and a jury, on another day, why they refused to cooperate with the reasonable questions of the highest officeholder in the land, a citizen.


Insert link to PDF file, here. If you don't have the PDF, I can upload.

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