Can the United States really afford to toss away perfectly good physicists? A few months ago I noted the court battle of Dr. Moniem El-Ganayni, a US citizen for some 20 years and a highly respected nuclear physicist who was active in his local communities, both secular and religious. As a citizen, Dr. El-Ganayni thought he was entitled to be as outspoken as any other American protected by the First Amendment.
Ah, but the good doctor needs a security clearance for his job at Bettis nuclear propulsion labs, and last year Department of Energy acting deputy secretary Jeffrey F. Kupfer yanked that clearance for no stated reason. Maybe no reason at all. The story in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Dr. El-Ganayni's return to his native Egypt, reports that the FBI is still looking for evidence that the scientist is indeed a security risk.
If they had so much proof that I was a security risk, enough to take away my clearance and my job and never tell me why, then why are they still trying to dig up dirt as I am leaving the country?
Good question, and maybe the continuing court battle to restore Dr. El-Ganayni's security clearance will produce an answer. But without a job in the United States. the scientist and his Italian-American wife celebrated Thanksgiving among Egyptian relatives they hadn't seen for years.
I lived in Pittsburgh longer than anywhere else in my life. I will miss so many family, friends and neighbors of all religions and walks of life who supported me and showed a lot of emotion for my situation.
But in Egypt, he says, "I feel free for the first time in a long time."
Everyone who knows me knows I am a very outspoken person, but I always watched what I said because I didn't want to lose my security clearance. I criticized the government for a war based on deception ... but many Americans were saying the same thing or worse. Yet they retaliated against me.
So even though I have gained my freedom, I feel very sad that the American people have lost a good bite of their Constitution. John Adams said that once you lose your rights and liberties, it's very hard to get them back.
(Disclosure: Dr. Ganayni's appeal, which could take another 18-24 months, was filed by the Greater Pittsburgh chapter of the ACLU, of which I am a board member.)