Buried among last week’s deluge of reporting on the Israel-Hamas war was a startling revelation in the world of security clearances: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security employs an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas former spokeswoman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
As The Daily Wire first reported, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hired Nejwa Ali in 2018 to adjudicate asylum cases – just after the White House had ordered the closure of the PLO’s office in Washington, D.C., where Ali worked as a public affairs officer in 2016 and 2017, according to a screenshot of her now-deleted LinkedIn profile. The organization has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States since 1987, but was previously operating a Washington, D.C. office under presidential waiver.
When it hired Ali, USCIS was either unaware of or unconcerned about not just her past employment, but also a lengthy history of alarming social media posts calling into question her eligibility for a security clearance and suitability for the role of (impartially) “applying immigration laws and regulations to asylum applications.” The posts amplified in intensity following the Hamas attack, with recent comments attributed to Ali glorifying the violence, asserting that “Israeli, American privilege is disgusting,” and making anti-Semitic references.
Now, USCIS has placed Ali on administrative leave and members of Congress are demanding answers. Among the uncomfortable questions awaiting USCIS leadership: what did Ali disclose about her past employment with a designated terrorist organization during her background investigation? Did the agency not know about her extremist views or simply not care? And, what efforts are being made to re-examine Ali’s cases – both for any evidence of bias against Jewish/Israeli asylum applicants and any evidence that Palestinian applicants were inappropriately approved or insufficiently vetted?
Ali, for her part, told a reporter that whether she disclosed her PLO employment to DHS was “none of your f***ing business,” but insisted that her views on Israel do not impact her ability to do her job. That’s difficult to imagine given the vitriol evident in her social media activity. But even assuming Ali was somehow able to maintain impartiality at work, the security implications of her employment are undoubtedly causing serious heartburn at DHS – and a mad scramble at damage control inside USCIS’s internal security watchdog, the Office of Security and Integrity (OSI). The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), which conducts the background investigations for USCIS, may also find itself in the hotseat, depending on whether (and how) Ali’s past employment was known and vetted or if USCIS opted to adjudicate the case favorably despite clear red flags present in the investigation.
Ali’s case stands out for the red flags in employment history that should have been obvious even without utilizing social media as part of the background investigation process. But it also comes at a particularly sensitive time – just months after the case of alleged online classified information leaker Jack Teixeira – for government security officials already on their heels over the plodding, seven-years-and-counting implementation of internet checks as part of the background investigation process. Time will tell whether this is finally the catalyst for fully incorporating internet checks, or whether the piecemeal, intelligence-community-centric adoption we’ve seen to-date continues.
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