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After 25 Years, Army Civilian Still Awaiting Response to Substantiated Anti-Semitism

David Tenenbaum
David Tenenbaum, an engineer with the U.S. Army-Tank Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), was falsely accused of spying on behalf of Israel in 1992.

Nine years ago the Department of Defense Inspector General substantiated allegations that a civilian Army engineer was discriminated against and improperly investigated because he was Jewish. Now Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) are asking Defense Secretary Mattis to finally provide him relief, according to a letter provided to the Project On Government Oversight.

“DOD’s lack of a remedy ... sends a message that DOD is not concerned with even the most egregious cases of discrimination.”

David Tenenbaum, an engineer with the U.S. Army-Tank Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), was falsely accused of spying on behalf of Israel in 1997. No charges against him were filed. But when Tenenbaum wanted to sue the Army for discrimination, the Army was able to get the case dismissed by asserting the “state secrets privilege.” Those privilege claims, the Senators wrote, “remain unclear and unverified.”

A subsequent Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) investigation, done at the request of then-Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), substantiated that the investigations were driven by anti-Semitism. “We believe that [Dr.] Tenenbaum was subjected to unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith and ethnic background, a practice that would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination,” the DoD IG wrote. At the time, POGO raised concerns that the report had been delayed by an attorney who had previously represented the Army in the case and was acting as Counsel for the Inspector’s General office.

Tenenbaum’s security clearance was subsequently restored and upgraded, but otherwise he’s been in a “professional stalemate.” “DOD’s lack of a remedy in accordance with the Inspector General’s findings sends a message that DOD is not concerned with even the most egregious cases of discrimination and employee retaliation,” the Senators concluded. “This inaction may also discourage employees form reporting other concerns, which has serious implications for waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Individuals will only come forward to report abuse if they think there will be meaningful action in response. Dr. Tenenbaum’s case, unfortunately, may be teaching others the wrong lesson about accountability for wrongdoing.

Photograph of Mandy Smithberger

By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project

Mandy Smithberger is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.

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