PITTSBURGH — A federal judge does not have the jurisdiction to second-guess security clearance decisions and should throw out a lawsuit by a Muslim scientist who claims he wrongly lost his clearance — and his job — at a nuclear warship plant, U.S. Justice Department attorneys said in court documents.
Lawyers for the Department of Energy contend the lawsuit filed by Egyptian-born scientist Abdel Moniem Ali El-Ganayni is an effort to publicize the security review process, which could pose a threat to the U.S.
The American Civil Liberties Union helped El-Ganayni sue this year, saying he was wrongly fired for speaking against U.S. foreign policy and the alleged mistreatment of Muslims by the FBI. The scientist, a U.S. citizen for 20 years, lost his Energy Department security clearance and then was fired in May from Bettis Laboratory near Pittsburgh, where he had worked for more than 17 years.
El-Ganayni lost his clearance because the government says it has "reliable information" that he had contact with "a saboteur, spy, terrorist, traitor, seditionist, anarchist, or revolutionist, espionage agent, or representative of a foreign nation whose interests are inimical to the interest of the United States," the filing states.
The government also says El-Ganayni "engaged in unusual conduct" that showed he was not "honest, reliable or trustworthy."
El-Ganayni sued in June so he could contest those allegations before a "nonpolitical, neutral arbiter as mandated by (Energy Department) regulations."
Bettis Laboratory works on the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a joint Navy-Energy Department initiative responsible for nearly all aspects of U.S. nuclear-powered warships.
El-Ganayni, who has been active in the Pittsburgh Muslim community, has publicly criticized U.S. foreign policy, the war in Iraq and attempts by the FBI to recruit Muslim tipsters inside mosques.
Vic Walczak, the ACLU's legal director in Pennsylvania, has said that El-Ganayni never received a negative report or evaluation from Bettis Laboratory, and that his superiors wanted to keep him even after the government began taking steps to revoke his security clearance.
The government revoked the clearance to muzzle El-Ganayni and is "hiding behind national security" to keep from acknowledging that, Walczak has said.
According to El-Ganayni's lawsuit, officials with the Energy Department and FBI questioned the scientist about speeches he made, his views on suicide bombings and the Quran, and a conflict he had with the Pennsylvania prison system, where he has ministered to Muslim prisoners.
Walczak and El-Ganayni did not immediately return phone calls to their homes Saturday.
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