Scientist, Claiming Bias, Sues U.S. Over Revoked Clearance
Posted by kandylini on June 27, 2008
Source: SEAN D. HAMILL, New York Times.
PITTSBURGH — An Egyptian-born nuclear physicist who worked in a government-financed laboratory here for 18 years filed a lawsuit on Thursday saying the Energy Department had revoked his security clearance because of his ethnicity, his Muslim faith and comments he made criticizing the war in Iraq.
The physicist, Abdel Moniem Ali el-Ganayni, 57, lost his job shortly after his clearance was revoked in May by Jeffrey F. Kupfer, the Department of Energy’s acting deputy secretary, who cited “national security” in refusing to reveal what led to the revocation.
“Our contention is that the reason the D.O.E. invoked national security here was to relieve themselves of the responsibility of having to tell us what’s going on,” said Witold Walczak, one of Dr. Ganayni’s lawyers and legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Ganayni became a naturalized citizen in 1988, eight years after coming to Pittsburgh to get a master’s degree and a doctorate. His former employer, the Bettis Laboratory, has said it would rehire him if his clearance was restored.
In the lawsuit, Dr. Ganayni, who has been married to an American woman for 26 years, claims violation of his rights to free speech and religion and to equal protection and due process. He asks that he have a chance to contest the revocation of his security clearance before an impartial hearing officer.
In a statement on Thursday, the Energy Department said, “This is a personal security matter as to which the department has no public comment.”
Dr. Ganayni’s clearance was first suspended, and he was assigned to a lower-paying job, in October 2007, after an interview with an Energy Department agent and a security officer at the laboratory, which works on nuclear propulsion projects for the Navy.
He said that during that three-hour interview and a four-hour interview with the F.B.I. two weeks later, he was asked about his religious beliefs, money he has sent overseas and comments he made in 2006 at a local mosque criticizing the Iraq war. But he said he was never asked about any security breaches at his job as a senior scientist at Bettis.
“What I said about the Iraq war, many Americans have said, and many senators,” he said, “But when I said this, I became like a traitor. That’s not right.”