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Muslim air safety expert sues government over suspension
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Muslim air safety expert sues government over suspension 


Copyright Observer News

NEWARK, New Jersey, Sept 15, 2006 

An Egyptian-born aviation security pioneer is suing the U.S. government, claiming he was wrongly suspended from his job at a Transportation Security Administration technical center based on a classified FBI file the government will not let him see.

Wagih H. Makky, who lives in Maryland, filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Newark, claiming he was harassed and discriminated against at work after the Sept. 11 terror attacks based on his nationality and his Muslim religion.

The lawsuit claims Makky is one of the world’s leading experts in designing and evaluating technology to prevent explosives from being smuggled onto airplanes and rail cars.

‘‘In many instances, the dangers of the post-Sept. 11 world require a careful balance between two compelling but competing interests: American values and the security of the American people,’’ his lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. ‘‘In this case, these interests are perfectly aligned. Dr. Makky has devoted his career as a TSA engineer to protecting the American people from terrorist attacks.

‘‘Dr. Makky’s suspension not only betrays the core American values of equal treatment and fair process, but also compromises the security of the American people by depriving them of the expertise of one of their ablest security technicians,’’ they wrote.

The lawsuit names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Michael Chertoff, and other government agencies and individuals as defendants.

A Homeland Security spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Makky, 55, came to the United States 30 years ago and has since become a U.S. citizen. Following the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people in 1988, Makky was chosen to create a special technical unit within the Federal Aviation Administration to focus government efforts on preventing terrorist attacks on American airliners.

He has written numerous books on aviation security, and has lectured at conferences around the world on the topic. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He most recently worked as an electronics engineer at the TSA aviation center outside Atlantic City.

According to the lawsuit, when a new supervisor took over in 2002, the first question he asked Makky upon meeting him was about his ethnic background. On the day in March 2003 that the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq, the supervisor placed him on administrative leave and told him not to come to work.

The action was based on a classified FBI file that the supervisor kept locked in a safe, and would not show to Makky, according to the lawsuit. Although Makky had held security clearance for 15 years, including ‘‘top secret’’ clearance for 10 years, he was informed in January 2005 that his clearance was being revoked.

In August 2005, Makky was suspended without pay, and remains suspended.

Makky asked for the entire FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act, but only received limited portions of it, according to the lawsuit. He does not know what derogatory information could be included in it, but noted that he had participated in peaceful demonstrations against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Although the Egyptian government refuses to recognize renunciation of citizenship by its nationals who become citizens of another nation, Makky considers himself solely an American, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges several instances of bias against Makky.

‘‘Dr. Makky was later told by the very person who hired him that it was a mistake to hire someone of Arab descent,’’ his lawyers wrote. ‘‘Another supervisor, speaking with several employees, including Dr. Makky, about the possibility of a terrorist attack by Islamic fundamentalists, opined that ’Muslims have no brains.’’’


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