Two years ago, Khalid Lyaacoubi and Yassine Bahammou, both recent Muslim immigrants from Morocco, enlisted in the Army National Guard. But as they prepared to leave Fort Jackson, S.C., they were instead questioned by military investigators who suspected them and three other Moroccan immigrants of plotting to poison fellow soldiers.
NEW YORK TIMES – For the next 45 days, they were placed under a form of barracks arrest, prevented from calling their families without sergeants present, forbidden to speak Arabic to each other and required to have escorts to the mess hall and the bathroom. No charges were filed, but their laptops, cellphones and passports were confiscated.
Only after the intervention of a Muslim chaplain were they finally allowed to go back to their homes. Last May, the Army concluded that the allegations against them — initially raised by a relative of a soldier — were unfounded. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation has kept its inquiry open, officials say. As a result, the men have been unable to receive security clearances, become citizens, deploy to Iraq, obtain concealed weapons permits or get government jobs, the soldiers say.
The handling of the two soldiers’ cases underscores the conflicted nature of the military’s relationship with its Muslim troops since the Fort Hood shootings in November 2009. A Muslim soldier, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, is accused of killing 13 people there.
Specialists Lyaacoubi and Bahammou were recruited into a program intended to put Arabic-, Dari- and Pashto-speaking immigrants in
uniform to help frontline commanders operate in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having Muslims in uniform also helped the military combat the view propagated by Al Qaeda — but also held by many Muslims — that the United States was at war with Islam. Perhaps for that reason, the Army chief of staff at the time, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., strongly defended the need for Muslim troops and warned about harassment of them after Major Hasan was arrested. (For which Casey should have been court martialed)
Despite the general’s pleas, however, Specialists Lyaacoubi and Bahammou say they were swept into a tide of suspicion after the Fort Hood shootings, which occurred midway through their Fort Jackson training.
Treated with dignity during the first half of their training, they say other soldiers ransacked their bunk room and called them “garbage” soon after the shootings. When he was initially detained at Fort Jackson in 2009, Specialist Lyaacoubi said an interrogator told him: “We are at war with Islam. And you are Muslim.”
Mikey Weinstein (another judenrat), president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit group representing the two soldiers, said his group had seen a steady increase in Muslim clients who claimed they had been discriminated against since Fort Hood. He called the Army’s Fort Jackson investigation “draconian and clearly unconstitutional.”
In recent days, the Army has begun acknowledging problems with the way it handled the soldiers at Fort Jackson. An internal review that has not been made public found that they were treated in an “overly restrictive” way because they were not allowed to
contact anyone for weeks. But the review did not find evidence of racism or harassment, Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, the Army’s chief spokesman, said in a letter.
General Lanza defended the Army investigation. “To not do so — had these alleged threats turned out to be credible, and in light of the Fort Hood shooting incident that took place mere weeks before these allegations — would have been an unconscionable dereliction of duty and leadership on our part,” he wrote.
But the Army has been unable to explain why the F.B.I. continues to investigate the men. The F.B.I. declined to comment because the case is continuing.
Specialists Lyaacoubi and Bahammou say the F.B.I. got in touch with them after they started going public with their stories recently. Both say that an agent said their cases could be closed if they passed polygraph tests. Both men remain part of a National Guard unit in Washington, D.C. But they have not been allowed to train with their company since the investigation began.
In what they consider another sign of government harassment, both men say they have been searched repeatedly after routine traffic stops. Specialist Bahammou, 27, said he was handcuffed by the Washington police for more than 30 minutes while they searched his car recently. “I never had a ticket before,” he said.
Though graduates of the 09 Lima program are eligible for expedited citizenship, Specialists Lyaacoubi and Bahammou say that is not the reason they enlisted. Both won green cards in lotteries in Morocco, allowing them to live and work legally in the United States and which must be renewed after 10 years.(Another dangerous program that invites Muslim terrorists into America)
The men say they enlisted mainly for economic reasons. Specialist Lyaacoubi, from Rabat, the Moroccan capital, had been laid off from a hotel job when a recruiter told him about the 09 Lima program. He in turn persuaded Specialist Bahammou, who hoped military experience would help him get work in law enforcement. (The perfect training and cover for attacking Americans)
Since returning to their homes in the Washington area last year, the men say they have had trouble finding permanent jobs. Specialist Bahammou said he had applied for work as a security guard but could not get a concealed-weapon permit because of the F.B.I. investigation. Specialist Lyaacoubi said a good job offer was recently rescinded when the employer, a government contractor, learned he was not a citizen. His naturalization, which he said had been approved, is halted for now because of the investigation.