Arab Americans meet at White House


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Arab-American leaders had their second meeting with top Obama White House officials.

A July 29 statement by the Arab American Institute said the meeting, July 23, included officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the White House Office of Health Reform, the National Security Council (Israel-Palestine affairs and Gulf affairs), the FBI, and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security.

“The two-hour briefing covered many topics of interest: the expectations at NSC about next steps in U.S. Middle East policy and the roles of Senator George Mitchell, Dennis Ross and other major players; background on some recent high profile cases involving FBI informants and surveillance policies and the impact on community trust; and concerns about non-immigrant visa delays at DHS,” the statement said.

“New details about security clearance procedures for intelligence agency hires were laid out, including lifting the automatic dismissal of applicants with dual nationality and or foreign relatives, allowing non-minority applicants to be tracked using ‘heritage’ options on application forms, sponsoring a new ‘affinity’ group for agency employees with origins in the Middle East and North Africa, and scholarships for national security majors at Wayne State University in Michigan.”

Clearance for intelligence agency applicants has also been a concern of Jewish civil liberty groups. U.S. citizens with relatives in Israel have reported harassment and rejection in recent years.

In addition to the Arab American Institute, other groups attending included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Task Force for Lebanon, the American Task Force for Palestine, the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, the United Palestinian Appeal, and the Moroccan Club of Washington, D.C. A similar meeting took place in April.

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