FBI workers with foreign ties ‘face security bias’

Report: Among the affected workers are Muslim and Asian personnel hired to fill much-needed counterterror roles

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Hundreds of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation employees with foreign ties have been subjected to what some call an unfair program of background checks to prevent espionage, The New York Times reported Saturday.

All FBI employees with access to classified information face screenings. But FBI linguists, agents and other staff with foreign skills and ties face more frequent security interviews, polygraph tests and reviews of communications, the report said.

The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment from AFP.

The agency launched the Post-Adjudication Risk Management plan, or PARM, after the September 11 attacks of 2001 to monitor newly hired linguists and reduce risks that they could be swayed by outsiders.

Since that time the program has more than doubled in size, affecting nearly 1,000 FBI employees with access to classified information, the Times said, citing angered staff.

The FBI work force includes about 36,000 employees and thousands of contractors.

Among the affected workers are Muslim and Asian personnel hired to fill much-needed intelligence and counterterrorism roles.

The Times said many scrutinized employees have had to cut all ties with family and friends abroad in order to get out of the screening program.

"This program was good for the new hires after 9/11, but for it to be used against current employees, some with 10 or 15 years' experience and who have proved themselves, is unacceptable," said Egyptian-born agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, who joined the FBI in 1994 as a linguist and was placed in the program in 2012.

He said he no longer receives all the top-secret information needed for his work.

Others told the newspaper that they faced more challenges in obtaining the best undercover or overseas assignments once they had been placed in the surveillance program.

Senior FBI officials told the Times that the program protects U.S. national security interests and it does not discriminate against workers or hamper careers.