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Mosab Hassan Yousef
An immigration judge in San Diego ruled today the son of a Hamas founder who converted to Christianity and spied for Israel will be granted political asylum after the Department of Homeland Security dropped its objections.
As WND reported, Mosab Hassan Yousef had been denied his February 2009 request for asylum because the department interpreted his work as a counterterror agent with Israel’s Shin Bet security agency as engagement in terrorist activity, making him a threat to U.S. security.
Judge Rico Bartolomei ruled Yousef will be granted political asylum Aug. 26 after he is fingerprinted and passes a routine background check. Yousef says he wants to become a U.S. citizen.
Yousef told WND and other reporters in a conference call after the hearing that he was surprised when department lawyers informed the judge there were “developments” in the case and they were removing their objections to his application for asylum.
“I think the judge was surprised, and everybody there was surprised,” Yousef said.
The government lawyers, however, offered no explanation for their change of mind. But Yousef acknowledged the support of members of Congress, the Israeli Knesset, Christian and Jewish groups and individuals who contacted department officials on his behalf.
Yousef, who publicized the deportation threat in a blog post last month, said the U.S. government’s belief he posed a security threat as a terrorist was based on a complete misinterpretation of passages of his best-selling book, “Son of Hamas”.
He told reporters today’s decision, for him, was “a small but very important step in a long journey.”
“The biggest victory will be when we start to see the new generation of the Middle East changing,” he said. “When we start to see our world a safer place. When we’ll be able to change the ideology that supports fanatics, fundamentalists and terrorists.”
Earlier this week, nearly two dozen Congress members appealed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a letter, arguing Yousef would be in “grave danger” if he were sent back to the Middle East.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey wrote in a letter released by Yousef’s attorney that deporting Yousef would deter others from serving as spies.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that such an action would set us back years in the war on terrorism,” Woolsey wrote. “Mosab’s deportation would be such an inhumane act it would constitute a blight on American history.”
As WND reported, Yousef worked alongside his father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, in the West Bank city of al-Ghaniya near Ramallah while secretly embracing Christian faith and serving with Shin Bet. Yousef was recruited by the agency in 1996 at the age of 18 while at an Israeli detention facility.
Since publicly declaring his faith in August 2008, he has been condemned by an al-Qaida-affiliated group and disowned by his family.
Yousef has explained his job as a Shin Bet agent required him to pose as a terrorist and participate in “terrorist meetings” with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, his father and other Hamas leaders.
“I passed on to the Shin Bet all the information I gathered during those meetings and saved the lives of many people – including many Americans,” he explained in his May blog post.
Yousef said at the time that the FBI told Homeland Security he was not a threat and advised the agency to drop the case.
“But Homeland Security shut its eyes and stopped up its ears and told the FBI, ‘You have nothing to do with this. It is our job,'” Yousef said.
The agency’s performance, he asserted in his Internet posting last month, “should worry the American people.”
“If Homeland Security cannot understand a simple story like mine, how can they be trusted with bigger issues?” he asked. “They seem to know only how to blindly follow rules and procedures. But to work intelligence, you have to be very creative. You have to accept exceptions. You need to be able to think beyond facts and circumstances.”
Today, Yousef said in a statement that his “faith in America is restored.”
“I am very grateful to the Department of Homeland Security for carefully reviewing my case and choosing to withdraw its opposition to granting me asylum,” he said.
Asked by a reporter whether the upcoming Independence Day holiday will be significant for him now that he has a pathway to citizenship, Yousef replied, “I became American when I started to fight for liberty and freedom.
“At that moment, I shared the common ground that gathers every free man and woman in this country,” he said. “I celebrated always the Fourth of July. I think independence is a great thing, but what I think is greater is the liberty that is in the heart of every individual in this country. I think this is a great country; it’s a great nation, and I will be proud to be called American.”