Greetings from the ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia!

I had the good fortune yesterday to attend a presentation at which Bassem Youssef , FBI whistleblower, spoke.  Mr. Youssef is the highest ranking Arab American at the FBI and oversees the department that monitors National Security Letters. He is a decorated agent who was  a trusted and respected expert in the politics and culture of the Middle East.  Shortly after the implementation of the Patriot Act Mr. Youssef noticed a dramatic change in his work environment. He believes that he has been discriminated against by the FBI because he has questioned their counter terrorism recruiting process, particularly the lack of Arabic speaking agents, and the unfettered use of National Security Letters by untrained FBI officers in the field. Before the Patriot Act National Security Letters had to be approved at the very top level of the FBI, following the passage of the Patriot Act they may be generated and served for nearly any reason.

Mr. Youssef spoke at our conference with his lawyer by his side because the FBI had forbidden him to speak about the case. It was determined, however, that audience members could as “spontaneous questions”, the assumption being that such questions can not be censored. Mr. Youssef was actually very forthcoming regarding his personal feelings about the culture at the FBI which is one that discourages dissent, new ideas, and any input by experienced agents. He feels that the unfettered use of National Security Letters is wrong. He also continues to encourage the agency to recruit more Arabic speakers. His case of discrimination against the FBI is pending as he continues working at the FBI. I was stuck by Mr. Youssef’s bravery in coming before the public to speak about his dissent and left the meeting hopeful about the future, especially with a change of administration in Washington. Your ALA councilor,

Nancy Wilson