Arab-born nuclear physicist Abdel Moniem Ali el-Ganayni is suing the U.S. government for revoking his security clearance due to his Islamic faith and criticism of the war in Iraq, the New York Times reports.
Ganayni, 57, worked 18 years at the government-financed Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin, Penn., which is operated by Bechtel National. The Bettis lab designs and develops advanced naval nuclear propulsion technology and provides technical support for the operation of all existing naval reactors.
In May of 2007, Ganayni had his security clearance revoked by the Department of Energy, causing him to lose his job. The DOE declined to give a reason for the revocation of the physicist's security clearance, citing "national security.”
“Our contention is that the reason the DOE invoked national security here was to relieve themselves of the responsibility of having to tell us what's going on," Ganayni’s lawyer, Witold Walczak, tells the Times
Ganayni migrated to the United States from Egypt in 1980 and earned a master's degree and a doctorate. He was naturalized eight years later and soon after began working as a senior scientist at the Bettis atomic power lab.
In his lawsuit, Ganayni says his rights to free speech and religion, and to equal protections, were violated after comments he made at a local mosque in 2006 were “recorded by students paid to tape anti-America statements,” the British newspaper, The Guardian, reports.
Ganayni, a Muslim, subsequently was questioned by the FBI and DOE about his religious beliefs, and about money he sent overseas and his criticism of America’s presence in Iraq.
"What I said about the Iraq war, many Americans have said, and many senators," Ganayni admits.
"But when I said this, I became like a traitor. That’s not right."
The energy department declines to discuss the investigation and resultant lawsuit. It has, however, issued a statement that reads, "This is a personal security matter as to which the department has no public comment."
Ganayni says investigators looking into the matter never charged him with any security breaches while performing his duties at his job and asks only to have a chance to contest the revocation of his security clearance before an impartial hearing officer.
His former employer, the Bettis Laboratory, has said it will rehire him if his clearance is restored.
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