ARAB-AMERICAN HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF IN MASSACHUSETTS
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) — On the popular television show “24,” there always seems to be a mole at the Counter Terrorist Unit. This season, fans are suspicious of a new female character with a Middle Eastern background named Nadia Yassir.
Yassir complains to her co-worker that she is hamstrung in fighting terrorists — in this case Arabs who have detonated a suitcase nuke near Los Angeles, California — because of restrictions placed on Arab-American employees. He lets her use his log-on to get around the computer access issues.
In the past on the show, it has been unwise to stick out one’s neck for a co-worker. Viewers are left wondering if Yassir is one of the good or bad guys.
The show is fiction.
In real life, Juliette Kayyem (pronounced KIGH-em) says she relates well to Yassir’s tricky position. On January 22, Kayyem, a 37-year-old Lebanese-American, became the Homeland Security chief for Massachusetts. She is the only American with Middle Eastern roots to head a state’s homeland branch.
“The truth is I’ve been in national security for over a decade now, well before September 11,” she told CNN recently. “I spent most of my legal career in the [intelligence] field, and it’s been a little surprising the reaction.”
She says many Arab-Americans are looking for people to help other Americans understand that they love this country too.
“I want to be that bridge,” Kayyem said. “Arab-Americans are in all parts of our society helping to protect America, love America and are part of America and America’s security.”
Many people were pleased by her selection, including Arab-American groups.