“A security concern due to divided loyalties”

In a special Wall Street Journal column (accessible via Google here), Bret Stephens reports on the case of Dr. Gershon Pincus. Having pursued a successful general practice in New York City for some 35 years, Dr. Pincus sought to offer his services to the military. He applied for part-time work at an off-base Naval clinic in Saratoga Springs, New York and got the job last year, commuting from his home in Queens.

Several months later he had a routine interview to obtain a security clearance for civilian employees. He noted his family connections to Israel: “Two of his siblings had moved there in the 1980s, though neither worked for the Israeli government. His elderly mother, now suffering from dementia, had also moved there late in life, so her daughter could help take care of her. And one of Dr. Pincus’s children, Avi, had served briefly in the Israeli army before tragically succumbing to a drug overdose at an early age.”

The investigation found no cause not to clear Dr. Pincus, but “an unusual second interview” this past March resulted in a contrary finding. Stephens recounts what happened next:

Dr. Pincus’s security clearance was denied, meaning he would not be able to continue doing his dental work. The “Statement of Reasons” provided by the [Office of Personnel Management] explained why.

“You have weekly telephone contact with your mother and brother in Israel. You added your mother, sister and brother may have contact with neighbors in Israel. Foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern due to divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by foreign interests.”

In the lexicon of anti-Jewish slurs, “divided loyalties” has such a notorious history that it’s surprising to see it make its way into a formal government document. Avi Schick, a partner with the Dentons law firm, says that when he first heard that a Naval employee could lose his job just for having relatives in Israel, he was so skeptical that he promised to take the case pro bono if the facts turned out to be true. “And here we are,” he tells me. My own calls to the OPM and the Pentagon were not returned.

Stephens takes a look at appeals from security clearance denials in the Age of Obama:

Since the Obama administration came to office, there have been a total of 58 cases in which Israeli ties were a significant factor in the decision. Of these, 36 applicants—an astonishing 62% of the total—lost their appeals and had their clearance applications denied. For comparison, there has been just one case of a French citizen losing an appeal and being denied a clearance, and zero involving British citizens.

Stephens reports, you decide.