In response to recent reports, Agudath Israel of America has protested the Navy’s denial of security clearance to Dr. Gershon Pincus based on his “ties to Israel.” Dr. Pincus’ plight was the subject of a letter written by Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director, to Secretary of the Navy, Raymond Mabus.
Dr. Pincus, a 62-year-old dentist from Far Rockaway, NY, had applied for a part-time job as a dentist at the Naval Health Clinic in Saratoga Springs, NY. The Navy refused to grant him a security clearance, claiming the risk that his loyalties are divided between the United States and Israel. Historically, this charge has been used to question the patriotism of American Jews and to deny them employment in government and military positions.
In his letter, Rabbi Cohen noted that an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) interviewer concluded that Dr. Pincus showed no signs of being “vulnerable to blackmail, extortion, coercion or duress.” Even when a second OPM interviewer concurred, the Navy still refused to grant his security clearance out of concern that he might be subject to potential foreign influence or preference.
Agudath Israel also pointed to what it sees as the remarkably weak reasons for the denial. First, Dr. Pincus’ mother, brother and sister live in Israel. He has visited Israel for several family occasions. He sends rent to his mother’s landlord in Israel through her U.S. bank account. Finally, each week, he calls his mother and brother, who, together with his sister, “may have contact with neighbors in Israel.”
Rabbi Cohen stated that the Navy’s accusation hits home for Agudath Israel constituents. He pointed asks the Secretary: “A significant percentage of our community has relatives studying or residing in Israel and has similar ties to the country as Dr. Pincus. Are we then presumed to have the kind of ‘divided loyalties’ that make us suspect in our government’s eyes?”
Son of a World War II Air Force veteran, Dr. Pincus has said that he applied out of a sense of duty and a desire to serve those who have served this country. Factor in the mammoth commute between Far Rockaway and Saratoga Springs – 200 miles each way for three days each week – and Dr. Pincus’ devotion is clear, the Agudath Israel letter asserts.
The case is currently under review. But in 105 other cases that were reported over the past decade potential contractors for military positions were denied a security clearance due to the fear of divided loyalties. The problem is greater than these statistics suggest, as these are only the cases where denials were appealed and include only contractors, not direct military personnel.
In his letter, Rabbi Cohen argued, “These heinous charges of disloyalty to country have brought death and destruction to the Jewish people for many centuries. That it is evinced today within our government’s mindset is both alarming and chilling. It is a blot on our democracy.”
Finally, Rabbi Cohen called for a full review of the Pincus case, and for the government to fully investigate the scope of the problem, how long it has been festering, and what can be done to “remove the ‘dual loyalty’ calumny from American minds – inside the military and out.”