Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Working for the US government-- A nightmare|
|12/01/00 at 17:53:11|
|WENDY GHANNAM'S SPEECH FOR THE ISLAMIC ASSOCIATION FOR PALESTINE DELIVERED AT THE 4TH ANNUAL IAP CONVENTION SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH IN CHICAGO|
One American citizen's experience of being married to a Palestinian and working for the US government.
By Wendy W. Ghannam <email@example.com>
Thank you all very much for allowing me to join you here today at this annual conference. I am delighted to be considered one of your speakers.
Compared with the other speeches presented here today at this annual conference by the two highly esteemed gentlemen sitting next to me, the events in my life that bring me here to speak with you are not that complex, yet they are emphatic to the point of what is being unleashed inside the United States today as we all live and work trying to support our families, support our communities, and worship our God. As Arab-Americans you all know about the high volume of discrimination content affecting and impacting your own community and its ramifications. What some don't realize, however, is that these views and misconceptions are also being perpetrated against individuals like myself, Americans have partnered into the Arab/Muslim culture and landscape--individuals like myself who can definitively attest to the framework of bigotry and prejudice conveyed against us because--as in my own case, I am a born American and my husband (Shaban Daoud Hamdan Abu-Ghannam) is a Moslem Arab born and raised on the Mt. of Olives--East Jerusalem, Palestine--and I lost my US federal career because of this fact back in 1996.
My story starts out simple enough--born and raised in Southern Tier New York State, my husband and I met, married in college in Pennsylvania. Over the 28 years of our marriage, God has allowed us to live, work and travel together in the Middle East and the eastern U.S., as well as raise two beautiful children together (my firstborn, I have just introduced you to). I began my federal civil service career in 1975 in Washington D.C. As the years transpired, I did not encounter any problems because of my husband's religion or ethnicity--that was true throughout the 70's and 80s. However, with the American fear of unwarranted terrorism and ongoing threats made against our country as we approached the last decade, seemingly the work environment began to change for me--and I suddenly found myself on the other side of the fence beginning in 1994.
Therefore, my story and my reasons for being here with you today really stem from my affiliation with the Clinton/Gore Administration, and the work environment I was subjected to while performing administrative duties inside the Agency for International Development. This agency, USAID, is a premier foreign affairs agency for the Third World alongside the US State Dept. in Washington, DC which distributes funding to supposedly combat poverty. In retrospect, I can honestly say that from my work exposure situation on a daily basis, the partisan politics and sublime egotism which the USAILD Foreign Service espouses along with US Dept. of State, as well as the recount of my story in depth with you today, all of what I speak about should alert and re-awaken you. I have also taken the liberty to bring along with me and present to this conference documents which I believe all of you should be further aware of and involved in regarding funding implementation programs in the Middle East--esp. the West Bank/Gaza program, as administered by USAID. I present these documents as a concerned American because I personally feel that after experiencing my own mistreatment--ethics and scrutiny should be undertaken here.
Furthermore, I am here to relate significant details regarding the fact that I am the first American federal civil servant, the first American woman, and the first American woman married to a Palestinian Arab/Moslem to litigate the Agency for International Development, or even the entire U.S. Gov't for that matter, under the Inspector General's Act of 1978. From that perspective, it is my understanding that my case holds a precedent in federal law, as I base my allegations on the following while being employed at USAID for over eight years:
To begin with, the Inspector General is the supreme legal political appointee of the President of the United States designated for certain agencies to oversee, investigate, report to the President, and matter-of-factly eradicate perceived mis-management and criminal activities going on inside the agency or department which is his/her domain--this person is also in office to listen to and protect employees who come forward to discuss prohibitive practices and mismanagement activities going on inside the agency. I happened to be considered the latter individual while working there.
Just before I received an audience with the Inspector General, a Mr. Jeffrey Rush, however, I was made subject to arduous, offensive, and unscrupulous interrogation/investigative sessions which were clearly outlined to me to be the catalyst to bring about my departure from my employment because of my husband's ethnicity and religious affiliation.
In the beginning, I was told that the questioning was routine and would not necessitate me to bring along any legal counsel--as it was the agency's IG mandate to administer such questioning sessions upon any employee's five-year tenure with the agency--failure to do so accordingly would earmark me for dismissal. I was also told at the outset that all questions would pertain to my family and the outside activities off the scope of my job--thus one afternoon would probably suffice.
After four days of ruthless questioning and the apparent stockade of our FBI and IRS files compiling many years on the IG investigator's desk, which he personally alluded to, I can hereby share with you some of the many questions posed to me concerning my married life:
1. How long have you and your husband been married?
2. Do any of his family members live with you?
3. Has anyone traveled from the West Bank/Palestine, or any other Arab nation to visit you since your marriage? Names and relationships and years they visited please.
4. Have either of you signed immigration paperwork to initially bring any relative of your husband into this country since your marriage? Names and relationships please. Where are these relatives now?
5. How often do you speak to your in-laws in West Bank/Palestine--e.g. Jerusalem area? Who calls who? Do you speak Arabic--can you understand when your husband speaks?
6. In what religion are you raising your two children?
7. How often does your husband attend his mosque?
8. Which mosque does he go to in No. Virginia? Do you realize that many mosques in this country are harboring and aiding/abetting dissidents to the American way of life?
9. How much money does he give for Zakat--which is charity monies?
10. Does he pray daily, does he fast over Ramadan?
11. Where are your in-laws that you know of at this sitting, and where do they live in this country? How often do you visit them?
12. How do you feel personally about the State of Israel? Do you realize that your answer to this question hinges on your ability to remain employed in this Agency?
13. How do you feel about Palestinian rights?
14. How much do you really know about the history era of that land?
15. Do you speak of pro-Palestinian issues with your co-workers here at USAID?
16. How often do you access the State Dept. for work assignments?
17. How do you feel about the concept of a Palestinian State?
18. Do your children attend the mosque with your husband? Which one or do both attend?
19. Have you converted to Islam? Do you intend to?
20. Has anyone of Arab extraction given you or your husband money to hide in any way or in any manner since your marriage?
21. How much education do your children have? What schools do they attend? Have they ever attended Arabic-influenced/mandated schools?
22. If your son is a Moslem, are all of his friends and acquaintances Moslem as well?
23. Does your husband stay after mosque prayers for any clandestine meetings and/or activities? How do you honestly know he is home when he says he is?
24. Are any relatives of your husband--have they ever been in an investigative stance or has anyone been under Israeli incarceration since your marriage?
25. Please tell us about the entire educational backgrounds of each of your husband's family here in U.S. and where they work today?
26. We are worried about Hamas and Hizbollah affiliation, does anyone in your husband's family fully support any of these groups?
27. Do you intend to retire in West Bank/Jerusalem area when you are older?
28. Do you realize most mosques fully support terrorist activities and their operations around the world, this includes the US?
29. Do you understand why USAID would have problems with your continued employment under these circumstances? Don't you feel you should consider it your civic duty to leave the employment spectrum at this time in your life?
30. Why did you ever marry a Moslem? Did you not know these problems would arise for you down the road?
31. Does your husband have any outside accounts without your knowledge and/or signature on?
32. Do you drive a car into work each day, or take public transportation? If you drive, where do you park?
33. Did it ever occur to you that you have totally become an outcast in American society because of this marriage?
34. Do you realize that your employment career may be over with inside the U.S. Gov't because you are too closely tied into the Islamic world?
After four days of high-intensity questions, I was told that considering my answers I presumably posed no real threat to the Agency for Int'l Development. He even said that a report would be rendered to the Inspector General and to the Agency's Administrator absolving me of any guilt or a terrorism threat--esp. since my husband had lived in this country since 1966 and we were both model citizens and taxpayers! Yet, he became very honest with me and told me emphatically that he doubted it would do any good. He said that the agency had given him the clear- cut directive to use any and all info against me to assist them in releasing me in any manner possible--and that the five-year follow-up was really just a ruse in my situation! The agency had presumably wanted to knock me out from under months earlier, probably at the 3 or 4 year juncture. However when confronted, he told me that he informed agency hierarchy that this action in itself was against the law! These were his own words--I am not exactly paraphrasing here. He finally suggested that I remain very low in the organization (another illegal infraction on my person and career), otherwise the agency would definitely take care of me and escort me out of there once and for all.
Following this horrific situation, I was also a witness and a clear-cut victim of USAID's further abuse and mismanagement on another matter working in the agency--a matter which was/is so egregious that it was/is considered a uniform violation of workplace law--even today. Thus in 1995, I tried to obtain a meeting with the Agency's Inspector general and was unable to do so until a year later--the same exact year I was finally fired. This meeting proved to be the "last straw" adding to my confirmed demise--I am sure.
I met with the IG himself, Mr. Jeffrey Rush--with another USAID employee on May 28, 1996 (six weeks before I received my pink slip). In this meeting I brought forward my whistle-blowing concerns and documents which I previously shared with Sen. Jesse Helms and his high-ranking personnel, as he was then Chief of the US Foreign Affairs Committee--due to Mr. Rush's adamant failure to see and talk with me. I might add that I was warmly received by Sen. Helms and his staff--they actually forced USAID's inspector general to receive me personally.
So when that meeting between us did occur, he refused to protect me for what I had witnessed. He even admitted that he knew all along what was going on within the realm of USAID's human resources and he saw no reason to become involved. He also said that he felt his job was not to oversee specific instances of supervisory abuse and mismanagement in USAID--this proved to be a bold-faced lie! He offered to send my situation to Special Counsel's office instead. At the time, I did not realize that he in effect would never follow up with Ms. Koch's office in my my behalf afterwards either. In fact, the Inspector General, Jeffrey Rush, threatened me and my friend as well. He also made crude remarks about my affiliation to my husband and the Arab people. He also told me that I would be losing my job later that year--so why should he bother himself with me?
As I said earlier, my case sits in federal court today in Washington, DC--it is 99-656. I believe the Agency and its Inspector General, as well as his staff colluded and conspired to make my life a living nightmare. But I am here today to speak of my losses as well as my insights, and my personal gains--as a true testament to the American spirit and fortitude presented to me for all of you to see, accept and learn from--as we are all God's people and we should be treated as such. Thank you very much for the time you have allotted to me for relating my story to you.
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