FBI whistleblower trial highlights bureau’s post-9/11 transformation

The Washington Post reports that an FBI whistleblower trial has cast a spotlight on the bureau’s difficult transition from a crime-fighting agency into a counterterrorism and intelligence force, as seen through the career of its highest-ranking Arab American agent.

Over a two-week trial in Washington, a federal jury heard for the first time how Bassem Youssef, 52, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, recruited the U.S. government’s top informant in the terror cell that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993.

Youssef alleged, however, that he was sidelined during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after publicly airing concerns about the FBI’s dearth of Middle Eastern experts.

Instead, in the eight years since filing suit in 2002, the 22-year bureau veteran has played a role in exposing top counterterrorism officials’ ignorance of al-Qaeda and violent Islamist extremism in 2005 and the agency’s struggle to correct its illegal collection of thousands of phone records of Americans between 2003 and 2006. Youssef also has warned Congress of urgent vacancies in top terrorism investigative slots.

On Monday, a jury before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollyer-Kotelly in Washington ended one strand of litigation entangling the parties, denying Youssef’s claim that the FBI denied him opportunities to qualify for promotion in 2004 and 2005 because of his whistleblowing.

Nevertheless, Youssef returned to work Tuesday as head of an FBI technical unit that analyzes telephone and electronic communications for terrorism clues. He also will continue to pursue his related legal claims that bureaucratic pride led the FBI to discriminate against or ignore Arabic or Muslim experts and deny his promotion or transfer.

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