Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, the FBI agent who allegedly refused to tape a fellow Muslim, has been reinstated. Did he really refuse to tape a Muslim? He says he was misunderstood. From MSNBC, with thanks to LGF:
Overturning the action of its senior disciplinary officer, the FBI has reinstated a high-profile Muslim agent who had been fired last year amid a swirl of controversy over allegations of conflicting loyalties in the war on terrorism, NEWSWEEK has learned. . . .
But congressional aides noted that it comes at a time when the bureau is under fire for its failure to recruit more Muslim and Arabic-speaking agents. The move also comes barely two months after Abdel-Hafiz filed a lawsuit against a current and former FBI agent, as well as ABC News for making statements in a December 2002 broadcast that left viewers with the impression he was a “sympathizer to terrorism and other religious fanatics.”
Until only a few years ago, Abdel-Hafiz had been one of the bureau’s prized counterterrorism assets, winning promotions and commendations for his work on such cases as the bombings of the Khobar Towers military barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and the Navy destroyer USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in October 2000.
Promoted to the post of deputy legal attachÃ© in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in February 2001, Abdel-Hafiz was a pivotal figure in the investigation into the September 11 terror attacks. He also extracted a crucial confession that led to the arrest of the so-called Lackawanna 6″”six Buffalo, N.Y.-area men who had attended an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, a case that has been publicly touted by top Justice Department officials as one of the Bush administration’s biggest successes in the war on terrorism. “You couldn’t ask for a better job by an FBI agent,” Paul Moskal, the FBI spokesman in Buffalo, told NEWSWEEK last fall about Abdel-Hafiz’s work on the Lackawanna 6 case.
But Abdel-Hafiz’s career turned sour in the fall of 2002, when a fellow FBI agent in Chicago, Robert Wright, accused him of refusing to cooperate in an earlier 1999 case targeting fundraising by the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Wright claimed that Abdel-Hafiz, who was then assigned to the bureau’s Dallas field office, had refused his request that he wear a hidden wire in a meeting with a suspect in the case on the grounds that “a Muslim does not record another Muslim.” Abdel-Hafiz has insisted that his comment was misunderstood and that his reluctance to wear the wire stemmed from his concerns that it could undermine his effectiveness in the Muslim community and jeopardize his family if word got out that he had done so. In any case, Abdel-Hafiz pointed out that his supervisor at the time, Danny Defenbaugh, then the special agent in charge of the Dallas office, made the final decision that Abdel-Hafiz should not wear a wire in the Hamas investigation.
Wright’s allegations, first made at a Washington press conference and later repeated in his December 2002 interview with the ABC News show “Primetime Live,” led to increased scrutiny of Abdel-Hafiz’s work in Riyadh. By then, Abdel-Hafiz’s chief supervisor, Wilfred Rattigan, had converted to Islam. When both Abdel-Hafiz and Rattigan flew off to Mecca for the hajj, a top FBI official in Washington complained and an auditing team was dispatched to review the office’s work. During the course of the audit, Abdel-Hafiz told NEWSWEEK, the chief inspector from headquarters concluded that there was too much “clutter” in the office and ordered the “shredding” of over 2,000 documents related to the September 11 terror investigations. Although most of the documents were duplicated in the FBI”s computers, a small number were not, according to Abdel-Hafiz. These consisted of between 50 and 100 letters written by Saudi security officials responding to FBI requests for information about terror suspects. When the FBI was forced to ask the Saudis for new copies of the letters, the Saudis””who were being severely criticized in Congress for failure to cooperate on terrorism cases””complained to senior U.S. officials.