Readers of this e-zine may recall a troubling warning issued on these pages last November by David Horowitz and me (an editorial entitled “Why We Are Publishing This Article” that accompanied a long essay entitled “A Troubling Influence”). What made the warning so troubling was not just that its subject -- a political influence operation being mounted during wartime by Islamist organizations against the Bush Administration and U.S. government. Of particular concern was the help it documented that such entities have received from a prominent and well-connected conservative activist, Grover Norquist.
It now appears that Mr. Norquist’s help has extended beyond facilitating high-level access and influence for various Muslim-American and Arab-American entities with troubling ties to, or at least sympathy for, radical Islamofascists – and even terrorists. Reportedly, his association also helped someone affiliated with such a group to gain a political appointment to an exceedingly sensitive post: “policy director” of the Department of Homeland Security’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division.
As the title of this position suggests, its occupant would have access to highly sensitive information about the vulnerability of, among other things, U.S. ports, transportation infrastructure, chemical plants, oil refineries and nuclear power plants to terrorist attack. The incumbent is a 32-year-old lawyer named Faisal Gill.
It is unclear what qualified Mr. Gill for such a post. In response to press inquiries, a DHS spokeswoman declined to describe his qualifications or background so it is not known whether he has any prior experience with intelligence or, for that matter, with security policy.
What is known is that Gill’s political patrons include Grover Norquist, who was listed by Gill as a reference on employment documents. After all, Gill had been a spokesman for the Taxpayers Alliance of Prince William County, Virginia, which is affiliated with Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform. Gill had also worked in 2001 as director of government affairs for the Islamic Free Market Institute (also known as the Islamic Institute), whose founding president was Grover Norquist.
Interestingly, news articles published after September 11 described Gill in another capacity – as a spokesman for the controversial American Muslim Council (AMC). The AMC was founded and controlled by a prominent Islamist activist, Abdurahman Alamoudi. Alamoudi was indicted last October on terrorism-related money laundering charges. While in jail awaiting trial, he has reportedly engaged in plea-bargaining by confessing to participating in a Libyan plot to murder the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
For some reason, Gill is reported to have failed to list his work with the AMC on his “Standard Form 86” national security questionnaire. This is a potential felony violation of the full and truthful disclosure required by law of all applying for clearances.
According to two recently published articles in Salon.com, the FBI raised concerns last March about Gill’s non-disclosure of his ties to Alamoudi’s AMC. At the time, he was reportedly briefly removed from his position at DHS.
Curiously, however, Gill is said to have been reinstated within days. According to a DHS spokesman, the Department had conducted a "thorough investigation" that found Gill "exceeded all requirements" for his job.
Fortunately, on 23 June, after news reports revealed Gill’s omission, attendant suspension and subsequent reinstatement, the Homeland Security’s Inspector General, Clark Kent Ervin, announced that he would be launching an inquiry into how Gill received a security clearance, despite the omission. For some reason, though, the IG’s report is said to require as much as six-months to complete.
Several questions cry out for answers:
o Why does an intelligence office require a “policy director”?
o Given Gill’s seeming lack of qualifications, how did Gill secure this sensitive position in the first place?
o If, as appears to be the case, he did so simply through political connections, did such connections subsequently trump security and legal concerns? Was he permitted to be swiftly reinstated and allowed to this day to have access to very sensitive information – even though he apparently failed to live up to his obligations to disclose a work history that might well have disqualified him?
o Will political connections also prevent the Inspector General from performing a rigorous and fullsome review of the Gill Affair?
o How on earth could it take as long as six-months to answer these and related questions? If there are, in fact, grounds for believing Gill should not continue to serve in the DHS intelligence organization, it is imprudent in the extreme to have this investigation drag on – especially if he is going to be permitted to remain in place during the interval.
Gven the sensitivity of Faisal Gill’s position and the information to which it has access, this matter must be addressed and resolved at once. A failure truthfully to complete security clearance forms is a serious – and, normally, a disqualifying – offense, particularly if the information withheld is material to decisions about whether the applicant can be cleared.
At the very least, until such time as the Inspector General’s report is completed, it would seem both responsible and consistent with standard operating procedures to suspend without prejudice and with pay the object of the investigation from his position. Who could possibly object to that?
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is President of the Center for Security Policy in Washington. He formerly held senior positions in the Reagan Defense Department.