Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Postscript on Iranian Couple Fired By NIOSH

It's kind of heartwarming to read about the the Afshari's faith in America after a court reversed their dismissal by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for allegedly failing some kind of background check.

Shahla Afshari said the settlement has helped restore her faith in America.

“I believe that people from the Middle East, there are so many things they go through. Most of the time they are scared and don’t say anything,” she said.

“For those people, I have a message. You have to have faith in God. If you haven’t done anything, you have to fight for your integrity. You have to fight for your rights.”
Maybe. But I'm still having trouble getting past the fact that this happened in the first place, particularly now that more information has been released, and why it went on for so long after it was obvious to everyone that the government had screwed up -- big time.

The Afsharis’ lawsuit revealed that:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigations had decided the Afsharis were not a threat long before they were fired. A local FBI agent already had conducted a routine check and closed their file.
  • A government official was forced to recant her sworn testimony about the couple. At first, she said she recommended to Howard that they be fired. Later, she said that her sworn testimony was “not consistent” with her current "recollection of matters.”
  • The government officials in Atlanta who recommended their firing never interviewed their neighbors, co-workers or supervisors in Morgantown. They never talked to the local FBI agent, either.
For two years, the federal government tried to hide behind national security concerns, Karlin said. But earlier this year, a federal judge forced them to hand over documents about the firing, which helped lead to a settlement.

NIOSH Director John Howard says the firing was a mistake, although it was done "in good faith" at the time. Huh? Good faith for whom?

I know John Howard. He's a good, decent person. So if someone like him can get swept up in anti-immigrant (particularly anti-middle eastern) fever, what does that say about this country's defenses against flagrant and unfounded violations of people's rights -- even if they don't happend to be American citizens yet?

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