Muslim sues over loss of security clearance
Charging violation of his constitutional rights to free speech and religion, equal protection and due process, nuclear scientist and prison spiritual leader Moniem El-Ganayni filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy and its acting deputy secretary, Jeffrey F. Kupfer.
The action last week stems from the loss of El-Ganayni’s security clearance, and hence his job, at Bettis Laboratory in West Mifflin, Pa., based on unspecified grounds of ”national security.” It does not seek to overturn the revocation, but rather the right to see the alleged evidence against him — he doubts any exists — and the chance to contest the decision ”before a nonpolitical, neutral arbiter, as mandated by DOE regulations.”
”The government has offered no factual details in this case. All they’ve done is to parrot boilerplate language from the DOE,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is representing El-Ganayni along with several Philadelphia lawyers.
The suit says El-Ganayni was damaged by the government’s actions and, in addition to a hearing, seeks affirmation of his rights as a U.S. citizen, plus costs and attorneys’ fees.
National security, the suit alleges, was invoked ”solely to shield the agency from having to disclose the unconstitutional retaliatory and discriminatory reasons” for its action. In reality, it says, the decision was made ”because he is a foreign-born Muslim who has spoken publicly and critically about U.S. foreign policy and the FBI’s treatment of Muslims.”
”Many (native-born) Americans say what I say about the war,” El-Ganayni said. ”But when I say it, I become a traitor. I want to show that the laws apply to me the same as to any other citizen.”
The 29-page complaint sets out a scenario of post-9/11 suspicion and harassment against local Muslims, and El-Ganayni’s opposition to it. It says he was visited by government agents at his home, asked to inform on other Muslims (he refused) and denied boarding passes on routine airline flights when his American-born wife went right through.
El-Ganayni came to the United States from Egypt in 1980, became a U.S. citizen in 1988 and started work at the Bettis nuclear propulsion research facility in 1990. He earned his advanced degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, co-founded the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and ministered to prisoners in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
He contends that he never had a clearance problem at work until he began speaking out against the Iraq war and FBI efforts to recruit informants at local mosques.