To illustrate the growing important of FBI Bassem Youssef's case, below is today's
New York Times article that further elaborates how close he came two months
before the attack to interviewing a witness with information about bin Laden -- and
how he was thwarted by his own department.
July 19, 2003
Arab - American FBI Agent Sues Agency
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 6:45 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A high-ranking Arab-American FBI agent is taking the bureau
to court, accusing it of racial discrimination for freezing him out of the Sept. 11
The suit described agent Bassem Youssef as the only polygraph examiner qualified to
conduct interviews in Arabic, with extensive experience and Middle Eastern contacts
culled from his days with the FBI in Saudi Arabia.
Yet, the complaint said, he was kept away from any substantial investigations related to
the hijacking attacks on New York and Washington.
``No other non-Arab FBI employee with similar background and experience in
counterterrorism was willfully blocked from working 9-11 related matters,'' according to
the complaint. ``In fact, numerous non-Arab FBI employees with far less experience and
expertise in counterterrorism were assigned to 9-11 related work.''
Calls to the FBI and the Justice Department were not returned Saturday.
Youssef's attorney, Stephen Kohn, said his client was sidelined for no good reason.
``What you want is the most qualified person and the most qualified person was not
permitted to work on the most important criminal prosecution in American history,''
The lawsuit was filed Friday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Youssef alleges the agency has a ``glass ceiling'' regarding the promotion of U.S. citizens
born in Arab countries. Youssef, a naturalized American citizen, was born in Egypt.
His work with the agency began in 1988. The lawsuit said he received an ``exceptional''
performance review for his work in Saudi Arabia, a coveted counterterrorism honor
called the Director of Central Intelligence Award, and praise for his investigative efforts
during congressional testimony from former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
However, the complaint said, Youssef became aware of the alleged bias after returning
from Saudi Arabia in 2000. Youssef, who is a currently a unit supervisor at FBI
headquarters in Washington, contends he has been prevented from reaching the higher
management level of officials who run day-to-day operations solely because of his
Beyond the allegations of bias, the lawsuit claimed that the treatment of Youssef
undermined counterterrorism efforts before the 2001 hijacking attacks.
For example, the complaint said, two months before Sept. 11, a ``walk-in'' at one of the
FBI's field offices said he had significant information about terrorist leader Osama bin
Laden. The lawsuit said the field office requested that Youssef debrief the walk-in
because of his expertise, but he did not end up handling the interview. The possible
informant left without revealing whatever information he may have had, according to the
Kohn said the FBI has to ``aggressively root out bigotry in the agency and not further
retaliate against Youssef.''
His client is seeking monetary damages and placement in higher management at the
agency. Youssef also wants an injunction against any reprisal actions by the FBI.