By Samantha Flom
A lawsuit filed on Dec. 15 by government watchdog group Judicial Watch alleges that the FBI violated the constitutional rights of FBI analyst Marcus Allen by falsely accusing him of holding “conspiratorial views,” revoking his security clearance, and suspending him from duty without pay.
The complaint (pdf) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Allen, a Marine veteran who was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, joined the bureau in 2015 as a staff operations specialist. Among other duties, he has provided analytical support to the FBI Charlotte Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force, receiving the FBI Charlotte Field Office Employee of the Year Award in 2019.
However, on Jan. 10, 2022, the FBI informed Allen via letter (pdf) that his Top Secret security clearance had been suspended.
“The Security Division has learned you have espoused conspiratorial views both orally and in writing and promoted unreliable information which indicates support for the events of January 6th,” the letter states. “These allegations raise sufficient concerns about your allegiance to the United States and your judgment to warrant a suspension of your clearance pending further investigation.”
As a basis for the suspension, the letter cited “Adjudicative Guideline A,” which states, “The willingness to safeguard classified or sensitive information is in doubt if there is any reason to suspect an individual’s allegiance to the United States.”
Some conditions the guideline specifies as potentially disqualifying include: “involvement in, support of, training to commit, or advocacy of” acts of sabotage, espionage, treason, terrorism, or sedition against the United States; and “association or sympathy” with those who commit or attempt to commit such acts or those who “advocate, threaten, or use force or violence” to overthrow the government.
The suspension, the letter added, would remain in effect pending a review of Allen’s “fitness for duty” and his “compatibility with holding security clearance.”
On Feb. 17, Allen received another letter notifying him that he was being placed on administrative leave without pay due to his lack of security clearance. In May, he was asked to appear for an interview and has received no word since on the status of the FBI’s investigation.
“The interview request came only days after FBI Director Wray was confronted by Members of Congress over concerns that the FBI was weaponizing the security clearance process to target politically conservative employees,” Judicial Watch adds in its Thursday complaint.
In the complaint, Judicial Watch challenges the FBI’s claims, asserting that Allen “never ‘espoused conspiratorial views’ and does not support the ‘events of January 6th.’”
Noting that the FBI has not identified any specific statements or actions from Allen to support its claims, the complaint further challenges the bureau’s use of Adjudicative Guideline A to justify Allen’s suspension.
“Plaintiff’s allegiance is to the United States, as he has demonstrated during his years of exemplary military and law enforcement service to his country,” the complaint states.
The filing further states that Allen was not involved in the events of Jan. 6, did not support them “in any material way,” and has expressed no views that could be reasonably construed as supportive of or sympathetic toward any illegal activities that occurred on Jan. 6.
Another argument Judicial Watch makes is that the language of the guideline is vague and overbroad, excluding specific definitions for prohibited activities and thereby encompassing many protected under the First Amendment.
Additionally, the complaint asserts that Allen was denied any attempt to clear himself of suspicion and that, despite being placed on unpaid administrative leave, he is required to obtain the FBI’s approval for any outside employment.
Sole Source of Income
Allen, who is a father to three young children, is the sole source of income for his family.
“To this end, Plaintiff authored a prayer journal and sought permission from the FBI to sell the journal,” the complaint notes. “After initially engaging with Plaintiff, the FBI has ignored his request for approval of outside employment, reaching no decision on whether he is permitted to sell copies of the prayer journal.”
Arguing that the bureau violated Allen’s First Amendment right to free speech and his Fifth Amendment right not to be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” the lawsuit seeks the restoration of Allen’s security clearance and active employment with the FBI.
“The FBI can’t purge employees based on political smears,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Judicial Watch seeks to remind the FBI that it is not above the law with this civil rights lawsuit for Mr. Allen, a decorated Marine veteran and highly regarded FBI employee.”