Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The FBI Questions a Teenage Employee

     "They must really be desperate," my lawyer said, shaking his head.  "And no wonder.  They haven't got a thing on you."
     "Is that what you think?"  I asked.
     "Jeez, they're on a big fishing expedition," he answered and forced a puff of air through his pursed lips in disgust.
     He's right, of course.  But why did they go to so much trouble to interrogate a young woman who, after two years of employment, had just said her sentimental good-byes at our office--and was the brink of college?  I remembered the photos in her dazzling prom gown.  I was proud of her super-high grade-point average.  And her mother's sushi was to die for.
     Kiki was in a panic.  She called us immediately after the FBI agents telephoned her at school.  She called when they arrived.  She called three co-workers at Colasante Clinic right after the interrogation, seeking consolation.
     "What happened?" I asked her today.
     "I was in English class," she said. "And there were two FBI agents by the door when I came out with my friends."
     Kiki is attending summer classes in Tallahassee, to get a head start on the fall semester of college.  Her family emigrated from Burma and like so many hardworking people from East Asia, they've staked everything on her success.
     "Then what happened?" I asked.
     "Well, they held up their badges.  One of them had blond hair"--that must be Carissa Bowling, one of the lead agents who raided my office last year.  "The other's was brown," Kiki said.
     I guess when you're eighteen and FBI officials confront you, the first thing you do is memorize their hair and clothes.  FBI uniforms are drab, unflattering.  (Why do they give the impression of hermaphrodites?) The badges are boring, too--but they sparkle!  The only accouterment left for creative flair is the agents' hairdos--but there must be a government prohibition against dreads and pink frizz, afros, wigs and bleached bouffants, because I haven't seen any of those.
     "They told me we needed to sit down somewhere and talk.  But I explained I didn't want to talk to them."
     "Really?  Good for you, Kiki!"  She knew her rights.
     "Yeah, but then they told me that if I didn't talk...they'd sub-sub--"
     "Subpoena you?" I offered.
     "Yeah, whatever that word is.  I don't understand this stuff.  And they said, if, if...if I didn't talk to them they'd make me get in front of a 'Grant Jewelry', which would be a lot worse."
     "They're pretty good at intimidation," I agreed.
     "I asked them how they found me!" she reported, with her childlike enthusiasm.
     "And how did they find you?"
     "They just said, 'What do you think this is?  We're the F--B--I.'  Like...they know everything."
     "Aha," was all I could remark.  I don't wish to taint Kiki's faith in America.  It really is a great country--isn't it?  At least we don't stone people for infidelity, in the manner of certain extremist regimes.
     "They asked me what I thought about you," Kiki said.  "And they asked some other weird questions."
     "Like what?"  My lawyers would inquire about the topics of interrogation.  They're trying to figure out what they need to defend.
     "They wanted to know if you ever asked me to do 'special projects.'  And they wondered if you had given bonuses for doing 'special projects.'"
     Then she described for them her clinic duties, none of which represented fraudulent or irregular activity, and she told them she got a raise for good performance.  In fact, Kiki had been given several raises, because she acquired many useful skills and was kindly attentive to patients.  She also got bonuses at the end of each month, as did every employee--until the government raided the clinic and demolished its bank account.
     I was anticipating that Kiki's FBI encounter might lift the veil on some really big government secrets about me--otherwise, why frighten and embarrass a young woman like that?  But the story was a bland disappointment.
     I recapitulated it for my lawyer, and he said, "The FBI has power."
     "They sure do," I agreed.
     "But they still have to be right," he continued.  "They've got to have something on you.  They need a compelling case, and they don't have one."
     "They create a lot of drama," I said.  "It's like on the TV shows."
     "Yeah," he replied, "but not nearly as good."


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