Joseph Majid’s wartime service as an interpreter for Americans has now been translated into a courtroom fight for the resident of California’s San Joaquin Valley.
A U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, Majid says the FBI has been surveilling him around his Lathrop home in southern San Joaquin County, as well as bad-mouthing him to various employers. While his case may remain a long shot, a federal judge has given him some hope.
In a partial victory for Majid, the judge on Tuesday kept alive a slice of his lawsuit against the FBI. The 22-page decision out of the D.-C.-based U.S. District Court means, in effect, that Majid can keep pressing on and, perhaps, discover more about what’s been happening to him.
“Whether Mr. Majid can succeed on the underlying claims and what relief he may be entitled to are questions for another day,” U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler noted. The lawsuit seeks compensation, among other things.
Majid’s original complaint, filed last April, targeted the FBI, several unnamed California-based special agents and a former co-worker with DynCorp International, a major military contractor. The alleged problems were an outgrowth of Majid’s service as a “security linguist” in Afghanistan from July 2012 to 2014.
The explicit and implicit message the FBI sent to (Majid’s) employers was that he was a problem and that he had potential terrorist connections.
Complaint filed by Joseph Majid of Lathrop, Calif.
Starting with a salary of $184,500 per year, the Californian worked at two U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Helmand province, where, he claims, he was “treated as a second-class citizen” almost from the start.
The former DynCorp co-worker, Majid’s complaint alleged, “resented the fact that he made an enormous amount of money compared to her salary, and made misrepresentations to (officials) that he was a security risk and had ties to the Russian government.”
Allegedly squeezed out of his Afghanistan work, Majid returned to California and, he says, began experiencing employment problems he attributes to the FBI. At several points while working as an Uber driver, he claims, he repeatedly picked up a passenger who “looked surprisingly like one of the agents who had photographed him at his other employment locations.”
“The FBI (agents) have spoken to every single employer (Majid) has had from July 2014 to present, and implied in those conversations that (Majid) was a security risk. That was why they would need to be monitoring his activities and his associates,” attorney Martin F. McMahon said in the complaint.
On Wednesday, McMahon said he was heartened by Kessler’s keeping the lawsuit alive.
“We are pleased with the opinion, because it gives our client a shot at justice,” McMahon said, adding that Majid “so much believes in American values, and can’t believe why he’s being scrutinized by the FBI.”
Majid’s lawsuit claims the FBI invaded his privacy and violated his constitutional rights to due process, among other arguments. Last August, the FBI asked Kessler to dismiss the agency from the suit.
“There has been no waiver of sovereign immunity for a money damages claim,” the Justice Department said in a court filing. It further argued that Majid has “no individual right of access, to amend or to seek damages for inaccuracies in the FBI’s investigative files,” because such files in the agency’s Central Records System have been made exempt from the Privacy Act.
In her decision Tuesday, Kessler countered that “there is a major problem with the FBI’s argument” concerning potential investigative records because, she noted, some files may also be located outside of the Central Records System. This possibility keeps part of Majid’s complaint alive.
Kessler added, however, that sovereign immunity protected the FBI from Majid’s due-process complaint, while some other parts of the lawsuit weren’t addressed at all.