CIA meets with Arab-American, Chaldean leaders in Southfield

Senior CIA leaders met Wednesday night with about 30 Arab-American and Chaldean advocates to discuss ways to improve their relationship.

Held over dinner in a Southfield hotel, the meeting included Scott White, associate deputy director for the Central Intelligence Agency, and about half a dozen other CIA directors and officials, according to those who attended the meeting.

During the meeting, Scott talked about misperceptions of the CIA and said he was pleased to meet with local Arab Americans, said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who attended the dinner.

“It was a constructive meeting,” Hamad said. “We want to be partners and engage in a professional dialogue and relationship.”

Scott sought to dispel the stereotype that the CIA is just a spying agency, saying the agency offers a wide range of job opportunities.

“It removed some of the images people may have from seeing Hollywood movies … the mystery of it,” said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab-American News, who also attended the meeting. “They’re trying to reach out and change the perceptions of the CIA in the minds of Arab Americans.”

The meeting also included Chaldean leaders with the Chaldean Federation of America and the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce. It was the biggest meeting held between local Middle Eastern leaders and the CIA in recent memory, say those who attended.

In recent years, the CIA has worked to recruit more Arab Americans and other Arabic speakers given its shortage of employees fluent in key languages. The CIA often advertises in local Arab-American outlets and sponsors some Arab-American events in metro Detroit.

“We always welcome relations that engage our community,” Siblani said. “We would like our community to get involved with all government agencies … this is part of being an American citizen.”