Two Jewish organizations called for a review of U.S. security practices after a dentist who worked for the Navy was denied security clearance on account of immediate family members who live in Israel.
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Upon turning 60 in 2014, Gershon Pincus, a New York City-based private dentist, decided he wanted to do something for his country.
“I can think of no better way to experience the sunset of my career than by using my professional skills as a dentist to assist those who have chosen to serve in the United States military,” he would say later in his affidavit.
Dr. Pincus found an opening for a part-time position at an off-base Naval clinic in Sarasota Springs, N.Y. By the summer, the father of four was making the weekly commute of 400 miles from his home in Queens to the naval clinic.
When we was interviewed that October as part of a security clearance, he stated that two of his siblings and his elderly mother had moved to Israel and that one of his sons had served in the IDF. In the past decade, his own link to Israel had amounted to no more than three visits. The security investigation concluded that he posed no threat and cleared his case.
After being interviewed a second time in March however, the dentist’s security clearance was denied in September. This meant he would no longer be allowed to continue working at the naval clinic.
The “Statement of Reasons”, based on information from interviews conducted with Pincus by the Office of Personnel Management, explained: “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.”
Pincus is appealing the denial. The Orthodox Union and the American Jewish Committee on Friday called for a review.
“The notion that an American Jew, a citizen of the United States, could be accused of having ‘divided loyalties’ and therefore be denied security clearance and lose his job, simply because he has family members who live in Israel, is outrageous and offensive,” Martin Nachimson, the O.U. president, said in a statement.
“This questionable practice resurrecting the shopworn canard of dual loyalty has been taking place for years, over several administrations,” Marc Stern, the general counsel for the AJC, said in a separate statement. “For the good of the country, it is high time that it be brought to an end.”
Denial of security clearance to Jews with relatives in Israel has been reported for decades, although it seems to be applied randomly, with some applicants denied and others sailing through. In recent years, Jewish community professionals and Jews with ties to the security services have said that the practice has eased.
Notably, at least three Jews with close and longstanding ties to the Jewish community now occupy security sensitive posts: Jack Lew, the Treasury secretary; Adam Szubin, who runs Treasury’s department tracking terrorist financing; and David Cohen, the CIA’s deputy director.
Lawyers who specialize in appealing denials of security clearance say Muslims are much more likely than Jews to be denied security clearance, including those whose families live in countries allied with the United States.