Washington Post reporter Al Kamen writes in today’s "In The Loop" column about an FBI diversity promotion. Kamen looked at the FBI’s web page to promote its American Indian/Alaskan Native Program. The program seeks to "Eliminate discriminatory practices," increase representation in key occupational positions (including the Senior Executive Service, SES), and "to increase opportunities for all employees to advance to their highest potential."
Kamen notices that the photo on the FBI’s web page is of Elizabeth Morris, a former FBI special agent who alleges that the FBI retaliated against her after she filed a complaint of workplace bias. "Morris," Kamen reports, "says she was fired in 2007 for filing a complaint against a supervisor for making racially insensitive remarks and for alleging that another agent sent subpoenas to dozens of businesses not under investigation with no intent of reviewing the records." Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has asked the Justice Department to report back about this.
If the FBI really wants to promote diversity, it could be looking within its own ranks for minority employees who could qualify for promotion. Bassem Youssef is another example. He is the FBI’s highest ranking Arabic-fluent special agent. Yet, the FBI sidelined him for five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In July 2006, the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that the FBI illegally retaliated against Mr. Youssef because Mr. Youssef had made whistleblower disclosures to the Director of the FBI and a Member of Congress.
The FBI failed to promote Mr. Youssef to appropriate operational positions where the FBI as well as the nation would benefit from his exceptional and unique counterterrorism experience, Middle Eastern cultural understanding and Arabic language capability.
If the FBI is really serious about building a more diverse workforce, it must first admit that there’s a gap and a problem that needs to be addressed. The FBI must protect its minority employees from retaliation. The FBI needs to allow independent reviews of its pending claims of retaliation, restore the careers of the affected minorities and take effective action against officials who retaliate.