Nada Nadim Prouty, the suspected Hezbollah spy in both the FBI and CIA, had told friends and acquaintances as far back as 1999 that she was a Druze, but FBI sources tell me that she is actually a Shi'ite Muslim.
This is an important difference, as many Druze of her home country of Lebanon were allied with the Christians (and many Israeli Druze serve in the Israeli military), while most Lebanese Shi'ites identify with Hezbollah.
Hezbollah or its precursor was responsible for the 1983 truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, in which more than 240 Marines were killed; and the bombing that same year of the American Embassy in the Lebanese capital, killing 63. The Beirut Memorial Online says that the entire Middle East contingent of the CIA was wiped out in the blast.
Nada Nadim Al-Aouar, as she was known by her maiden name, arrived in the US at about age 19 in 1989 on a student visa. I met her in 1999, when she was one of only seven FBI special agents who spoke fluent Arabic. She was married to her second husband, a colleague of mine who was a former Marine. He has not been implicated in any wrongdoing. At the time, she had said that she was Druze and that she was not Muslim.
This distinction is important, and it underscores why religion can be an important factor in a full background investigation of an individual seeking a US government security clearance. It's not a question of discrimination, but of protecting the government from individuals with divided loyalties.
US counterintelligence generally does not assign Jewish agents to watch and counter Israeli Mossad operations that negatively affect American interests. At least one intelligence agency is said not to assign Catholic agents to monitor the Vatican's quiet diplomatic and intelligence operations. (As a Catholic I have no problem with it; the policy not only safeguards against divided loyalties, but it also keeps individuals above suspicion.) So too must the FBI ensure that it is not unduly affected by people with ethnic or religious loyalties that might reasonably be suspected of being divided when it comes to terrorist movements.
That's why knowing the religious affiliations of a person being issued a security clearance - and knowing the cultural context of a government agent's religion - is so important. Our ignorance of the issue, and the political correctness that prevents us as a nation from understanding it, has struck us again.
How did Nada Nadim Al-Aouar burrow into the FBI and CIA the way she did? (I know some of the story, but it's of a prurient nature that I'll leave to the sensationalists to break.)