Lawsuit Alleges Security Clearance Revoked Due to Bias Against Muslim Charity

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November 14, 2011

A budget analyst is suing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), claiming his security clearance was revoked because of his wife’s employment at an Islamic charity. His wife is a program associate with Islamic Relief USA, a global nonprofit involved in international humanitarian relief efforts.  Mahmoud M. Hegab filed the suit in early October 2011 seeking the restoration of his security clearance and for damages lost while being unable to work due to its revocation. It is widely believed to be the first case where a security clearance was revoked because of a spouse’s ties to Islamic organizations. The Justice Department is expected to respond to the suit in early December.

According to the lawsuit, the issues that prompted the security clearance revocation included his “spouse’s attendance and graduation from the Islamic Saudi Academy,” and belonging to “one or more organizations which consist of groups who are organized largely around their non-United States origin and their advocacy of or involvement in foreign political issues.” According to the Washington Post, Hegab’s wife, Bushra Nusairat, is a native of Fairfax, Virginia and studied international diplomacy and Islamic studies at George Mason University. She was also the leader of an on campus group called, Students for Justice in Palestine. 

Hegab began working at NGA in January 2010. In November, after learning that his security clearance had been revoked, he was barred from NGA facilities and placed on unpaid administrative leave. Afterwards, Hegab requested the information NGA had used to make its decision to revoke his security clearance. The information he received from NGA included a statement saying, in part, that Nusairat “now works for a non-profit organization called ‘Islamic Relief’ which supports ‘humanitarian relief efforts.’” It also included a photograph of his wife “taken at an ‘anti-war occupation protest in Washington’” near the Washington monument.

An NGA spokesman declined to comment and referred questions to the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria.
A spokeswoman for Islamic Relief USA confirmed Nusairat’s employment but said she could not comment further on the case. “We have not received any complaints from any of our organization’s employees about discrimination when it comes to obtaining security clearances,” Islamic Relief USA said in a statement. “In fact, because of the nature of our work, we do work closely with many federal and local agencies on a regular basis, and anti-Muslim discrimination has not been a concern.”