New Tools, New Rules
Home Search Our Site About Venable Venable Library Recruitment Press Technology Law Site Map


Venableís Letter to The Customs Service Regarding the Interrogation of Philip Zimmerman

Mr. Homer Williams Acting Assistant Commissioner Office of Internal Affairs United States Customs Service 1301 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20229

Dear Mr. Williams:

I write on behalf of our client, Philip R. Zimmermann, of Boulder, Colorado, to register a strong objection to the treatment given Mr. Zimmermann at Dulles International Airport on November 9, 1994, when he returned from a trip to Europe.

Mr. Zimmermann was invited to Europe to speak on issues of public policy. When Mr. Zimmermann returned to the United States, he was diverted from the normal Customs processing, subjected to an individualized luggage search, and then interviewed extensively by Customs Special Agent Michael Winters. The questions posed to Mr. Zimmermann make it very clear that this encounter was not a routine, random interview, but was a pre-planned encounter. The interview was not restricted to matters relating to Mr. Zimmermannís re-entry into the United States and any proper subjects of inquiry regarding the personal effects he was bringing back with him, but ranged extensively over Mr. Zimmermannís European itinerary and public-speaking activities, as well as prior overseas trips he had taken. Of particular concern to us is the fact that Agent Winters questioned Mr. Zimmermann about possible exportation of PGP, a cryptography program developed by Mr. Zimmermann.

This interview was conducted in the absence of Mr. Zimmermannís counsel, despite the fact that Agent Winters was very much aware of a pending criminal investigation involving Mr. Zimmermann who was advised in 1993 by an Assistant United States Attorney in the San Jose, California office that he was a target of a grand jury investigation concerning possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act related to PGP. Agent Winters made specific reference to this investigation in the course of his interrogation.

This encounter is deeply troubling for two reasons. First, having such an interview in the absence of counsel when Customs is fully aware of the pending criminal investigation and the fact that Mr. Zimmermann is represented by counsel raises fundamental concerns about Government insensitivity to the constitutional rights of citizens, particularly citizens who are a target of an ongoing criminal investigation. The second major concern is the fact that Agent Winters told Mr. Zimmermann that he should expect to be subjected to the same search and interrogation upon every re-entry into the United States, at least until the criminal investigation is concluded. It is difficult enough for any individual to be the target of an open-ended criminal investigation that seems to have no clear direction, goal or foreseeable conclusion. It is quite another thing to be subjected to official interrogation, in the absence of counsel, about these matters.

On behalf of Mr. Zimmermann, we ask that you make appropriate inquiries to determine who authorized this interrogation and why it was continued after Mr. Zimmermann expressed objection to being interrogated in the absence of counsel. With respect to Mr. Zimmermannís future re-entry into the United States, we would expect the Customs Service to strictly limit its contact with him to the conduct of such interviews, declarations and inspections as may be appropriate under 19 CFR Part 148 to determine whether he is subject to payment of any import duties upon his re-entry. As an American citizen he has a constitutional right to return to the United States and it is most improper to use such occasions as an excuse for conducting interviews that would not otherwise be undertaken in the absence of counsel or appropriate judicial process.

I am sending copies of this letter to Agent Winters, the Assistant United States Attorney in charge of the criminal investigation, and Mr. Philip Dubois, Mr. Zimmermannís lead counsel in the investigation. If you require any additional information in order to respond to this request, please contact me directly. We would hope to resolve this matter quickly.

Cordially,

Kenneth C. Bass, III

cc: Mr. Phillip R. Zimmermann Mr. Michael B. Winters Philip Dubois, Esq. William Keane, Esq.

To the Top


About Venable  |  Library  |  Recruitment  |  Press  |  Technology Law
Site Map  |  Search  |  Home


Disclaimer: The materials on this Website have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. You should not act on the basis of these materials. They are not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from your own lawyer. Browsing this Website or contacting us through it does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you contact us through this Website, please do not send us any confidential information.