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Denying Islamists Federal Security Clearances
by David J. Rusin
Federal departments and agencies tasked with safeguarding the U.S. must first safeguard themselves against Islamist infiltration. Recent news items about Muslims having security clearances rejected or revoked suggest that at least some government entities are forgoing political correctness and taking this problem seriously. More need to follow suit, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is determined to make life difficult for them.
The disclosures began last June when the Investigative Newsource (IN), then called the Watchdog Institute, published a report in the Orange County Register describing how a multiagency probe had led the Department of Defense (DoD) one year earlier to remove the secret-level clearance of Rahim Sabadia, president of Sabtech Industries, a California-based company that manufactures electronics and computer systems for military use. This kept his firm from completing work on a classified contract for the U.S. Navy. Apparently the Pentagon had expressed concerns about Sabadia's "charitable contributions."
IN's findings indicate that Sabadia, through his family foundation, "is a frequent donor to Muslim and international charities." Only one Islamic beneficiary is identified: CAIR has received upwards of a million dollars from Sabadia over the past decade. The IN researchers also note that Omar Zaki, the former executive vice president of Sabtech, has sat on CAIR's national board. In addition, Sabadia is linked to the Council of Pakistan American Affairs (COPAA), which often teams up with CAIR and other Islamist groups on various initiatives, events, and letters, though the IN piece does not mention any financial backing of it by Sabadia.
As is typical, the government has provided few specifics about why Sabadia lost his clearance. It is conceivable that his COPAA affiliation could have been viewed as placing him too close to Pakistan, but the defense contractor's generous funding of CAIR is particularly intriguing as a potential cause. Surely it should have raised red flags for the DoD, given CAIR's well-documented radicalism and its status as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), whose bankrolling of Hamas resulted in 108 guilty verdicts. This prompted the FBI to cut off contact with CAIR. A judge later ruled that "the government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR … with Hamas."
Hussam Ayloush, head of CAIR's Los Angeles chapter (CAIR-LA), played the victim card in response to Sabadia's woes. "It would be very unusual if it has anything to do with CAIR," he insisted, because "you're talking about the Muslim community's NAACP." Denying CAIR's connections to Hamas, Ayloush opined that "the whole situation we're dealing with is part of an attempt to smear the American Muslim community by targeting its organizations and business leaders."
One important aspect of the Sabtech case — and another example of how Islamists walk through doors opened for them — is the role of Congressman Gary Miller, a Republican from California. Miller, who has collected significant campaign contributions from Sabadia and his employees, "set aside $9.6 million in defense contract earmarks exclusively for Sabtech" since 2008, according to the IN article. Miller pleaded ignorance about any charitable donations that could have led to Sabadia's clearance troubles, adding, "If Sabtech was taken off that list, shame on them."
Yet it is unlikely that Sabadia's massive support of CAIR would have perturbed Miller, given his own record of friendly relations with the group. Not only has Miller attended at least one CAIR-LA banquet, in 2004. He also dispatched a sugary letter to the 2008 event, extolling CAIR-LA for its supposed ability to help "ensure that our great country continues to be the world's beacon of freedom and democracy" and for "playing a vital role in the integration of the Muslim community into American society in an effort to promote patriotism and pride in their home country." To this day, CAIR's national website carries a quote from Miller's encomium.
The 2008 CAIR-LA banquet took place more than a year after CAIR's designation in the HLF case. Additionally, CAIR-LA is quite problematic itself, due to the radical views of Ayloush, its executive director. Readers who wish to ask Miller if he stands by his earmarks for Sabtech and praise for CAIR-LA may reach his office here.
Another revocation of a Muslim's security clearance — one previously spotlighted by Islamist Watch — emerged several months ago in a federal lawsuit filed against the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Though budget analyst Mahmoud M. Hegab's legal complaint argues that the loss of his credentials amounts to religious discrimination, the real issue appears to have been the Islamist links of his new wife, Bushra Nusairat, whom he married after passing his original screening but before starting work in January 2010.
Nusairat's past — including her leadership position with the radical Students for Justice in Palestine during college and her prior graduation from Virginia's Islamic Saudi Academy, which has a history of using violent, bigoted textbooks and whose 1999 valedictorian conspired with al-Qaeda to assassinate President George W. Bush — drew the NGA's attention as it reevaluated Hegab. However, his complaint indicates that the deal breaker for his clearance was Nusairat's "current affiliation with one or more organizations which consist of groups who are organized largely around their non-United States origin."
This passage likely refers to her job with Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), the country's most prominent Muslim charity. While IRUSA collaborates with federal bodies on humanitarian projects, it also distributes millions of dollars per year to an international partner immersed in jihad, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). A NEFA Foundation analysis states that IRW helped launch the Union of Good, designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for being a Hamas-financing coalition. In 2006, the Israeli government announced the arrest of an operative of "IRW's Gaza branch" who had "worked to transfer funds and assistance to various Hamas institutions and organizations"; on his computer were photos of "senior Nazi German officials" and Osama bin Laden. Furthermore, several IRW leaders have been tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.
A third controversy involving Muslims and clearances came to light in a heavily redacted letter to the DoD from Amara Chaudhry, civil rights director of CAIR's Philadelphia office (CAIR-PA). Dated November 30, 2011, it is written on behalf of a client "in response to your agency's tentative denial of his eligibility for access to classified information based upon your concerns regarding his susceptibility to 'foreign influence.'" A summary on the CAIR-PA website describes him as "a federal employee with over three decades of service" who "was offered a merit-based promotion which required a top-level security clearance." It states that "his recent pilgrimage to Mecca caused him to have 'contacts with persons in places in the Middle East,'" thus sparking the rejection. CAIR-PA's claims cannot be independently verified at this time.
At the core of the dispute is Guideline B of the U.S. government's Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, which declares that "foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern if the individual has divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization, or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by any foreign interest." An important consideration is whether the foreign country in question "is known to target United States citizens to obtain protected information and/or is associated with a risk of terrorism."
Chaudhry uses an accompanying blog post to lament that "in practice, the contacts which create such a 'heightened risk' are contacts in Muslim-majority countries" — no surprise, given the radicalism and terror being exported by many of them. She goes on to reason that due to their "disproportionate negative impact on American Muslims," the provisions of Guideline B are "motivated, in whole or in part, by anti-Muslim bias and enacted with discriminatory intent." Warning of a potential lawsuit, Chaudhry's letter demands not only that the DoD grant her client his clearance and promotion, but also that the government water down Guideline B.
Denying federal clearances based on support for suspect organizations, a spouse's dealings with these groups, or contacts in nations of concern is nothing new; it was a common occurrence during the Cold War. Without a doubt, an employee's links to those who back the jihad should worry the U.S. government no less than did links to communist fronts half a century ago. After all, both Islamism and communism are totalitarian, utopian ideologies that seek to build their "paradises" on the ashes of Western liberal democracy — and both utilize stealth and subversion to advance their goals.
Howls of "anti-Muslim bias" cannot obscure the history of Islamist-aligned insiders abusing their posts to obtain confidential information for illegal ends. A 2008 piece by Daniel Pipes collates numerous examples, including Nada Nadim Prouty, who as an FBI special agent searched restricted files on Hezbollah to determine whether family members had been tied to the group, and Weiss Rasool, a police officer in CAIR's orbit who alerted the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation to data that had a "disruptive effect" on the case. The trend continues. Last October, Mohamed Elibiary, a Khomeini-honoring Islamist who inexplicably serves on an advisory council for the Department of Homeland Security and had been given unique access to law enforcement intelligence records, was accused of downloading materials and shopping them to the media in hopes of furthering the "Islamophobia" narrative.
Despite the aforementioned positive signs at the DoD and NGA, much remains to be done to combat Islamist penetration. Confidence in the overall integrity of background checks for federal security clearances took a hit following a 2011 report about investigators "submitting forms saying they conducted interviews or verified official documents when they never did"; these bureaucratic holes need to be plugged. Additionally, the Elibiary saga demonstrates that various parts of the U.S. government are still largely blind to stealth jihad and all must be more proactive in rejecting Islamists before they do damage. With CAIR-LA's Ayloush having boasted that "many of our members … end up working for the defense industry and the State Department" and columnist Daniel Greenfield having identified several Muslim defense contractors with unsettling associations, redoubled efforts to weed out Islamists cannot come soon enough.
Muslims should not be excluded from holding sensitive government jobs just because they are Muslims. However, the multifaceted conflict with radical Islam and the inescapable fact that every Islamist is a Muslim first make it imperative for agencies on the front lines to jettison political correctness, realistically appraise the threat, concentrate limited resources, and apply the greatest possible scrutiny to Muslim employees and partners. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but that vigilance is most effective when properly focused.