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This re-instatement followed lengthy legal battle that took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a battle fought with patience, perseverance and undeniable faith in God, Bilal Mahmud challenged the federal government in a manner reminiscent of David and Goliath.
Mahmud, who counted the days from revocation to reinstatement; said, “It was five years, one month and three days since I was deemed officially “a threat to national security – a codeword for terrorist.” This classification by an anonymous, unnamed official is described by Mahmud as “the careless, reckless action of one incompetent, irresponsible individual in authority.”
An action that subsequently caused the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to demand that Mahmud relinquish his CDL, bearing a hazardous materials endorsement, which he held for more than twenty years without a single ticked or blemish on his record.
Being forced to relinquish his hazardous materials endorsement cost him his ability to earn a living at the standard to which he was accustomed. Throughout the course of this five year ordeal, neither the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, nor the Department of Transportation provided any clear reason for revoking his endorsement.
Stigmatized without reason or explanation, Mahmud began a long, arduous, and costly struggle to achieve some level of parity in this matter. Mahmud is an African American Vietnam veteran who has never had a violation, has never been convicted of a crime, is considered a pillar of his community and had worked for the same company for twenty years.
The course of litigation went through all phases of the American justice system, finally arriving at the Supreme Court docket, only to have that court refuse to review his appeal. Along the way there was an arbitration hearing where he was assured that things were cleared up and his license could be reinstated. Having tried all else, Mahmud made application for the hazmat certification in January of this year.
He sat for and passed the exam in May. However his application stalled at the background check which normally takes about ten days. When the period stretched from 20 to 30 days with no response and continued on to 45 days, he was assigned a special case worker. Mahmud began a routine of calling each week to see if there was a change in his status. He was repeated told that he was still under investigation.
Mahmud said he continued to ask why he was being targeted, he had submitted all documentation required of him. “Is it my name; is it my race; is it my religion; is it my ethnicity? To each question he was told no yet there was no reason for his continued denial. His inquiries raised sufficient concern for the case worker to involve her supervisor. The supervisor agreed that his case appeared to marginalize him in his profession for no reason. She said it made no sense to her and she would get back to him by the end of the week with an answer.
She called back in a couple of days to say the issue was resolved and an electronic dispatch was being sent to Georgia Department of Transportation to that effect. The GA-DOT was still reluctant when he showed up to pick up his endorsement; but after a few phone calls he got the “green light” and he was reinstated.
Asked about his ability to recover from this devastating bureaucratic ordeal, Mahmud admitted that his personal and family financial condition has been drastically reduced by the five year up-hill legal battle. His stable employment was trashed, his potential retirement package (time on the job would have been 25 years now). While he can now return to his profession, he practically has to start over.
There have been no offers of restitution from the federal government for this arbitrary abuse and Mahmud reflects on the strangeness of it all.
“When I was young and served my country, I was in Marine reconnaissance and had national security clearance. Now that I’ve served my country and I’m old, I’m considered a threat by my own government – how ironic is that.”
The possibility of returning to his previous employer is not an option Mahmud says, “There was no justification for the position they took on this; they knew me. They knew the charges were bogus; yet they turned their back on me after twenty years, without hesitation, without reservation. I have no intention of returning to them whatsoever!”
Are there additional legal remedies for him to seek? Mahmud is tight-lipped and serious. “This is by no means over. My attorneys and I are in a fact-finding mode at the present.” He admitted that they are exploring opportunities and a different legal approach. “Aluta Continua” he proclaims, (the struggle continues)