Venableís Letter to The Customs Service
Regarding the Interrogation of Philip
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
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
Kenneth C. Bass, III
cc: Mr. Phillip R. Zimmermann
Mr. Michael B. Winters
Philip Dubois, Esq.
William Keane, Esq.
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