- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

DALLAS — Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, a 45-year-old Muslim FBI agent, fired last year ostensibly for omitting personal information on his application, has been reinstated and plans to return to his job in a matter of weeks.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, called the reinstatement “highly unusual.”

He said last week, “On one hand, they are obviously trying to infiltrate and prevent Islamic terrorism, but then they had this one agent who had been a problem and they fired him, and it became a public relations problem for their outreach into the Islamic community.”

Judicial Watch legally represents two men whose complaints against Mr. Abdel-Hafiz led to his firing.

The FBI here won’t comment, suggesting headquarters might have something to say. But headquarters did not return The Washington Times’ calls.

Mr. Abdel-Hafiz, a native of Egypt, came to New York in 1980, hoping to find a better life. Apparently, all the work he could find were jobs delivering food and busing tables.

Soon afterward, he met and married a divorced mother of two, 16 years his senior. This allowed him to remain in the United States and, in 1990, to gain U.S. citizenship. He spent most of the 1980s working at service stations and convenience stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In 1993, as the bureau began to be more involved in investigating various Islamist terrorist groups, Mr. Abdel-Hafiz was hired as a translator in New York. He was involved in a few extremely sensitive cases, one source said last week, especially the prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and his Muslim aides, who were convicted of plotting terrorist activities, particularly the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

Mr. Abdel-Hafiz was praised for his efforts, which included testifying against the suspects, and entered the FBI Academy right after the Abdel-Rahman trial in 1995. When he graduated, he asked for and was given an assignment in counterintelligence in the Dallas FBI office.

The Egyptian agent received high marks from several who worked with him, and one agent recalled that Louis J. Freeh, then the FBI director, called him personally to discuss sensitive investigations involving terrorist activities.

In 1999, a Chicago agent, Robert Wright, complained to his superiors that Mr. Abdel-Hafiz had hindered his probe into Arab fund-raising activities by refusing to tape-record an interview with a grand jury witness. Mr. Wright recalled the Dallas agent replying that “a Muslim should not record another Muslim.”

Meanwhile, unknown to Mr. Wright, a Tampa, Fla., agent, Barry Carmody, had filed essentially the same complaint to Washington, claiming that his investigation could have been affected by Mr. Abdel-Hafiz’s refusal to record a suspect in 1998.

Danny Defenbaugh, then special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office, said in the Wright case it was he who turned down the request to tape-record. He said that because “at the time he was our only Muslim agent, there was no need to compromise Gamal in that situation.”

Mr. Abdel-Hafiz eventually filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Chicago agent. Mr. Wright then received a promotion to assistant legal attache in the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

But early last year, Mr. Wright went public with his charges of disloyalty against the Muslim agent and Mr. Abdel-Hafiz was suspended by the FBI.

Mr. Abdel-Hafiz told the Dallas Morning News’ Steve McGonigle last week that he had received a letter from Assistant FBI Director Steven McCraw, telling him he had been reinstated.

“I did not do anything to be ashamed of,” he said. “Actually, the bureau should be ashamed of what they have done. Not me.”

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