If they come a knock'in...
and ask'in lots of questions...

If the gov'mint comes a knock'in and they're ask'in lots of questions, about you or people you know, consider this statement told to me year's 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 leary 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 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."

THE PUBLIC SERVANT QUESTIONNAIRE
by Daniel J. Schultz. Daniel

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.

The Limits On Federal Power

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

PUBLIC SERVANT'S QUESTIONNAIRE

Public Law 93-579 states in part: "The purpose of this Act is to provide certain safeguards for an individual against invasion of personal privacy requiring Federal agencies... to permit an individual to determine what records pertaining to him are collected, maintained, used or disseminated by such agencies...."

The following questions are based upon that act and are necessary for this individual to make a reasonable determination concerning divulgence of information to this agency.

  1. Name of public servant: _________________________________________________________________
  2. Residence address: ____________________________________________________________________
    City ___________________________________ State _________ Zip __________
  3. Name of department of government, bureau, or agency by which public servant is employed: ____________________________________________________ Supervisor's name: _____________________
  4. Office mailing address:____________________________________________
    City ____________________________________ State _________ Zip __________
  5. Will public servant uphold the Constitution of the United States of America? Yes ______ No ______
  6. Did public servant furnish proof of identity? Yes ______ No ______
  7. What was the nature of proof?
    ID No. _____________________ Badge No. _____________________ Driver's License No. _____________________
  8. Will public servant furnish a copy of the law or regulation which authorizes this investigation? Yes ______ No ______
  9. Will the public servant read aloud that portion of the law authorizing the questions he will ask? Yes ______ No ______
  10. Are the citizen's answers voluntary? ______ Or Mandatory? ______
  11. Are the questions to be asked based upon a specific law or regulation? ______
    or are they being used as a discovery process? ______
  12. What other uses may be made of this information?
    _______________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________
  13. What other agencies may have access to this information? _______________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________
  14. What will be the effect upon me if I should choose to not answer any part of these questions? _______________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________
  15. Name of person in government requesting that this investigation be made? __________________________________________
  16. Is this investigation "general?" ______ or is it "special?" ______
    Note: By "general" is meant any kind of blanket investigation in which a number of persons are involved because of geography, type of business, sex, religion, race, schooling, income, etc. By "special" is meant any investigation of an individual nature in which others are not involved.
  17. Have you consulted, questioned, interviewed, or received information from any third party relative to this investigation?
    Yes ______ No ______
  18. If yes, the identity of all such third parties?
    _____________________________________________________________________
    _____________________________________________________________________
  19. Do you reasonably anticipate either a civil or criminal action to be initiated or pursued based upon any of the information which you seek? Yes ______ No ______
  20. Is there a file of records, information, or correspondence relating to me being maintained by this agency? Yes ______ No ______
  21. Is this agency using any information pertaining to me which was supplied by another agency or government source? Yes______ No ______ If yes, which agencies and/or sources? _________________________________________________________________
  22. Will the public servant guarantee that the information in these files will not be used by any other department other than the one by whom he is employed? Yes ______ No ______

AFFIRMATION BY PUBLIC SERVANT

I, __________________________________________________, swear (or affirm) that the answers I have given to the foregoing questions are complete and correct in every particular.

______________________________________________________ Date: ____/____/____
(Must be signed & dated in ink. This signature should be witnessed by two people, if possible. Citizen may administer an oath if he or she so desires.)


Witness ______________________________________________________ Date: ____/____/____


Witness ______________________________________________________ Date: ____/____/____

Daniel J. Schultz. Daniel is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and a practicing attorney in Los Angeles, California. He is the President, and a co-founding member of The Lawyer's Second Amendment Society (LSAS), a nationwide network of pro-right to keep and bear arms attorneys. Inquiries to the LSAS may be made to 818-734-3066 or by writing to the LSAS, 18034 Ventura Blvd, No. 329, Encino, CA 91316. The email address for the LSAS is: LSAS3@aol.com