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On the Outs -- Now Back In By: Christopher Lee
Washington Post | Wednesday, March 15, 2006


A Federal Bureau of Prisons employee and whistle-blower who received death threats after helping anti-terrorism investigators translate inmates' letters from Arabic to English has won a transfer to a different penitentiary.

Hikmat "Joe" Mansour, a former case manager at the U.S. penitentiary in Lee County, Va., began his new assignment this week as a senior corrections officer at a federal detention center in the Northwest. To secure the move, Mansour, who joined the bureau as a corrections officer in 1995 and had been on medical leave for more than a year, accepted a job that will pay him about $10,000 a year less.

Mansour has been on the outs not only with terrorist sympathizers but also with his own agency. The bureau denied his transfer requests after he embarrassed it by warning - in internal memos and on national television - that too many Arabic communications by inmates are unmonitored because of a shortage of Arabic translators in the federal prison system. (There are more than 100 inmates who are convicted terrorists -  including those from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing - or are believed to have links to Islamic terrorist groups.) Bureau officials denied there is a translator shortage.

Mansour, who damaged his knee in January 2004 while helping to break up a fight between inmates, said the bureau retaliated by giving him poor evaluations, switching his job and making him work in a hallway. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating.

Mansour's luck changed in December when Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) took up his cause, writing the bureau to ask why his transfer request had not been granted.

Mansour reported to his new post Monday, only to face a demand that he sign away his rights to pursue legal action against the bureau. He declined, and the agency relented.

"They need to just let him work," said Bryan Lowry, president of the American Federation of Government Employees' Council of Prison Locals.
 
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