D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The First Muslim FBI Agent

Gamal Abdel-Hafiz was a successful counter-terrorism agent. Then he was called a traitor.


Gamal Abdel-Hafiz was born and raised in Cairo, moved to the United States, was naturalized a U.S. citizen, and recruited by the FBI after he’d worked on a team translating evidence of the 1993 World Trade Center attack. As an agent, he was credited with getting confessions out of Al Qaeda members responsible for the USS Cole bombing in 2000 and members of a terrorist cell in Buffalo, New York. But then it all fell apart for him.

Two fellow agents accused him of being a traitor, saying that he’d refused to wear a wire to record other Muslims. An ABC News report and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly painted him as disloyal, implying that his actions had obstructed an investigation that could have prevented the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. He was suspended from the FBI (for unrelated accusations made by his former wife).

When Todd Bensman wrote about Abdel-Hafiz in the March 2007 issue of D Magazine — one of our 40 greatest stories — the agent had already been reinstated to his job but questions were raised by one former agent about how well Abdel-Hafiz would be accepted back into the culture of the bureau, given the shadow of having been called a traitor (however unjustified) that he’d continue to carry with him. “He’s a man without a country,” the source said.

The defamation lawsuits Abdel-Hafiz filed against ABC News and its reporters, Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, and those two FBI agents came to an end in the fall of 2008 when the Supreme Court of Texas declined to weigh in on the appeals court’s rulings against him. Abdel-Hafiz and his lawyers had been unable to prove what the law requires in claims of libel or slander, that the defendants acted with “actual malice” — either knowing their statements were false or not caring — in their reports.

Seven years later Abdel-Hafiz is still working in the Dallas office of the FBI.

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