Bassem Youssef Says FBI Passed Him Over Despite Shortage of Arab Experts After 9/11
Arab-American Agent Sues the FBI
By VIC WALTER and MARK SCHONE
Sept. 14, 2010
The FBI's highest ranking Arabic speaking agent opened his courtroom battle against his employer today in a Washington, D.C. federal court. Bassem Youssef is suing the FBI for job discrimination, saying he was denied a role in counterterror efforts after 9/11 despite his resume – and what he claims is a crippling shortage of qualified Arabic speakers and regional specialists.
Youssef, born in Cairo and raised in Egypt and California, was passed over for promotion even though he was one of the FBI's few Arabic speakers and had been lauded for infiltrating the radical Islamic group whose leader masterminded the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. He filed suit against the FBI in 2003, alleging that the FBI retaliated against him after he lodged complaints against the counterterrorism unit and met with director Robert Mueller.
The FBI declined comment on Youssef's allegations of discrimination, citing the ongoing litigation. In depositions taken by the Whistleblower Center, which is representing Youssef, FBI officials have claimed that neither Arabic fluency nor regional expertise is essential to leading the FBI's counterterrorism efforts.
"You need leadership," said ex-counterterrorism official Gary Bald in a deposition. "You don't need subject-matter expertise."
In 2005, Jeff Stein, national security editor at Congressional Quarterly, asked FBI spokesman John Miller to comment on Bald's assertion. Miller said that "the executive in a counterterrorism operation in the post 9/11 world . . . does not need to memorize the collected statements of Osama Bin Laden, or be able to read Urdu, to be effective."
In a separate deposition, former FBI counterterror chief Dale Watson conceded that he did not "technically" know the difference between the two main branches of Islam.
The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, will include such witnesses as former FBI Director Louis Freeh and current director Robert Mueller, who will testify by deposition.
In testimony before Congress in 2008, Youssef said the FBI is unable to protect the United States from another major attack by al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern extremists.
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