[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]
In her memoir, Uncompromised: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of an Arab American Patriot in the CIA, Nada Prouty cites this passage from Malcom X’s Autobiography to describe her excitement as she felt herself adopting her new nationality:
Yes, one only truly becomes an American through a kind of conversion, and that conversion arises out of a desire to join in a common hunger for the rule of law, for equality for all, and for the benefits of cultural heterogeneity.
I found it a striking choice for an American immigrant to describe what it means to be American. Malcom X had such troubles achieving this American dream. But as it turned out, Prouty has had to fight to get America’s promised rule of law and equality, too.
The book describes how she escaped the Lebanese civil war by enrolling in college in the US. To gain the ability to work her way through school, she entered into a “Green Card marriage.” A number of years, several accounting degrees, and a “real” marriage later, she joined the FBI as one of its rare recruits with native Arab fluency and the sangfroid acquired from surviving a civil war. While at the FBI—and, later, at the CIA—she investigated a range of al Qaeda and Hezbollah attacks, including the Cole bombing and 9/11.
Yet none of her efforts in the war on terror put her, an Arab-American (though not a Muslim), beyond the suspicions of Detroit-based FBI agents investigating her Lebanese-American brother-in-law. When they failed to make a tax evasion investigation against him into a terrorism charge, they turned to trumping up a case against Prouty, ultimately using her “Green Card marriage”—which she had disclosed to the FBI—to get her to plea to a charge of unauthorized computer access and immigration fraud, which DOJ then spun publicly as a terrorism charge.
This book is Prouty’s attempt to tell what really happened—partly in hopes to regain her American citizenship.
At one level, Prouty’s life story—before the FBI targeted a woman who had done so much for the Agency—reads like a classic, exceptional, immigrant success story. But so much of what the government used against her has been used on Muslims and other Arab-Americans without the means to fight back:
National Security Letters
Threats of deportation (which in her case would have been lethal) and to family members
Border exception searches
Badly managed informants (in this case, Prouty’s own brother)
Trial in the public sphere
And that’s why the book—a national security expert exposing the problem with such techniques—serves an important lesson for Malcom X’s vision of America.
Prouty ends her book with this warning.
Suspicion and fear mingled with threats of punishment are not hallmarks of a healthy civil society.
My prosecution brought into stark relief the possibility that the politicizing of the war on terror would create similar “internal enemies” [as existed in Lebanon during its civil war] here in America. Such enemies are, more often than not, patriotic Americans who happen to have what some, in their ignorance, see as “different” names and faces.
Let’s hope this lesson, coming from someone who worked so hard to defeat those who had attacked the US, will be heard.