The Keymaster

The FBI’s king techie, Zalmai Azmi, is an Afghani-American who got the job after gigs as an auto mechanic, military intelligence in the Marines, the DoJ and the Patent and Trademarks Office:

Zalmai Azmi is CIO of the FBI. He was born in Afghanistan, but emigrated to Germany with his family as a teenager in the early 1980s… He attended a vocational business school, which helped him find a job as an auto mechanic. Azmi joined the Marines in 1984, working in the IT-intensive areas of radio communications and military intelligence. He served for seven years. [Link]

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p>Azmi talks about how people looked at him differently after 9/11:

Have you found your Afghan background to be a deterrent or a problem in any way?‘They were showing pictures of the terrorists on TV and they looked something like me’

… I’ve probably experienced that kind of problem less than five times since I’ve been here.

One of the toughest times was just after 9/11. I put a taskforce together to go to New York and help get our offices there back on line. I spent ten days there, and all the time they were showing pictures of the terrorists on TV and they looked something like me. My face was a constant reminder.

That was probably the only time I noticed that people were looking at me differently, and fortunately it didn’t last long. [Link]

Azmi is currently wrestling with the FBI’s complete inability to send email or do simple document searches (thanks, Ennis):The FBI claims it can’t afford to provide e-mail addresses for some of its employees

Two weeks ago, the FBI’s chief information officer admitted that the bureau couldn’t afford to provide e-mail addresses for 8,000 of its 30,000 employees…. agents can’t point and click to add a record to their digital files. Instead, they have to tab through 12 different functions on a pre-Windows-era green screen. Pictures of suspects can’t be scanned in. And complex searches are impossible–don’t bother looking for “aviation” and “schools” at the same time. Many agents stay away from Automated Case Support and stick with paper. The 100,000 tips that came in during 2002′s Washington, D.C., sniper case were circulated by fax. [Link]

A fix is on the horizon:

Azmi recently signed a $425 million deal with Lockheed Martin to develop Sentinel, the software the Virtual Case File never grew to be. The company has four years to deliver, not 22 months. The software will rely on commercial components, like Oracle databases, and it will be rolled out in increments rather than a single chunk. [Link]

Every time I hear of someone like Azmi or Gen. John Abizaid, an Arab-American involved in running the Iraq war, I’m reminded of one of the greatest things about being an American: that you can become one, truly, madly, deeply.

44 thoughts on “The Keymaster

  1. You have to wonder about a government “on the cutting edge” of the last century…

  2. Peter, you beat me! I’ve been wanting to be the first to post a comment….

    Every time I hear of someone like Azmi or Gen. John Abizaid, an Arab-American involved in the Iraq war, IÂ’m reminded of one of the greatest things about being an American: that you can become one, truly, madly, deeply.

    This is yet another example of how one can aspire to be a “model minority” in the US (pulling a Bobby Jindal is another route).

  3. IÂ’m reminded of one of the greatest things about being an American: that you can become one, truly, madly, deeply.

    But when are you guys going to use meters and Kilograms like rest of the world ;-)

  4. wtf?!?!

    That’s right, Razib. I stand by my comment. You’re not going to bust out with some long exegesis on hunter-gatherer societies in order to refute my assertion, are you? ;)

  5. I’m getting alarmed, Razib… 3 minutes have already passed and you haven’t posted anything yet. You’re busy typing a really, really, really long response, aren’t you?

  6. i know i’m not the atheist you were hoping to see, CHEAP ASS DESI…

    but just wanted to say i heart your comments on here, especially your political views, cos lordy knows us crazy kids have got to stick together in a world full of ‘sensible’ ‘conservatives.’

    i know i’m gonna morph into one of them after i graduate and see how shite-y life really is, but til then model minority conspiracies and crazy rants about human rights are a for awesome accordin to me :-)

    btw lockheed martin – didn’t that guy watch bowling for columbine? it would seem the bush administration really is awesome at gettin those truly madly deeply new americanos on their side.

    as someone who lives in a country so small the us doesn’t even bother to piss on us, seeing people like the guy above (or worse) condoleeza rice and colin powell is so pathetically ironic there’s not much you can do except shake your head from side to side like your granny used to…

    ps can someone please tell me why mr powell chooses to pronounce his name as COLON, the part of your intestine thathelps turn your food into poo, vs the logical sounding COLL-IN.

  7. No, there is an explanation I heard his Mum make once but I can’t find out much about it online (although I’m quite lazy). It was something like he was actually christened a normal ‘Colin’ but at about the age of nine he met some man who he admired a lot who pronounced his name coalin and he started calling himself that. Or the other way round, his friends started calling him coalin in school as a joke and it stuck. I don’t know. I realise I’ve given two entirely unrelated explanations, but the bottom line is clear – he should actually be a normal Colin, but something changed later in life.

    Still, who the f*ck wants to be called Colin? It’s one rung above Nigel and Norman.

  8. he should actually be a normal Colin, but something changed later in life.

    Polyps?

    (fwiw, the “normal” American Colin isn’t the same as the normal British one. Just as we call U2′s frontman Bawn-o not Bone-o.)

  9. In the US, Colin is pretty rare. I knew only one Colin growing up in NYC, and he was half-british. I’d never met a black Colin, or heard of one, until Powell.

  10. hmmm Papal Mehta re: US and British accent

    then it would be:

    CAWL-IN instead of COLL-HIN

    some people call me Tash (as in hash…;-)) and some Tarsh …

    the accent still doesn’t explain the intestinal COLON that puzzles me so.

    v true about ‘nigel’ and ‘norman’ as gumby names though.

    although i do know these two polynesian twins called ‘citizen’ and ‘wellington’. also my mum had a polynesian student called ‘new world’ (a supermarket chain) and i know a girl called ‘administration.’

    so these are strange name-times we live in. makes me appreciate my neocolonial whitey name just that l’il bit more.

  11. I know a Colin. And his last name sounds like Powell… which he hates. I sometimes call him Col-in by mistake (maybe not really by mistake) and he gets mad. jumps out of the chair! “it’s COLON!” he’ll exclaim! my, my! you can tell he’s done this dance before. but I appreciate the sanctity of a name. god knows i’ve been through my share! so instead… i call him Powell .. cuz the laugh is worth it. and its kinda nice to see a white boy get it ;)

  12. seeing people like the guy above (or worse) condoleeza rice and colin powell is so pathetically ironic there’s not much you can do except shake your head from side to side like your granny used to…

    as they say, there’s still one openly persecuted, racially-targetted minority…

  13. This is yet another example of how one can aspire to be a “model minority” in the US (pulling a Bobby Jindal is another route).

    That’s right – cause anybody can a double major at Brown, become a Rhodes Scholar, be the head of Department of Health & Hospitals for Louisiana, an Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, plus the youngest president of the University of Louisiana System, then get elected to Congress – all by the age of 35.

    But hey – he’s a Republican – so that means he’s not down with the peeps. He forgot to keep it real.

  14. as they say, there’s still one openly persecuted, racially-targetted minority…

    If you’re an American, you should be allowed to believe in whatever political ideology you choose, regardless of color. I wish for the day when people and policians who represent them de-couple color from party affiliation. Voting on issues makes more sense, and holding both parties accountable only makes the system better, instead of straight ballot voting for on party or the other and becoming a ‘lock’ vote.

    seeing people like the guy above (or worse) condoleeza rice and colin powell is so pathetically ironic there’s not much you can do except shake your head from side to side like your granny used to…

    Thanks for reminding us that you’re not an American, therefore not as likely to ‘get it’. This isn’t a case of poor [insert your minority here] rising up to the ranks by selling out our becoming the white man’s servant. Its about these people rising to these powerful positions on their merit, despite the odds against them. I also find it how people are so dismissive of another’s viewpoint, particularly those that lean to the right.

    Good for Zalmai Azmi. The man worked his way to the top, old school.

  15. Rather convincingly put KXB.

    although i do know these two polynesian twins called ‘citizen’ and ‘wellington’. also my mum had a polynesian student called ‘new world’ (a supermarket chain) and i know a girl called ‘administration.’

    Those are excellent. I collect odd names. Nigerian nurses are a favourite – the usual Honesty, Chastity etc. But the best was Memory. Can’t beat Administration! That’s insane! I knew three British Chinese brothers whose parents called them:

    Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

    Maybe they went to college in the States.

  16. indonesian woman named firstly surtojojo :)

    re: “model minority,” sometimes i feel that some people who compain about brow model minoritism wish that browns in the USA exhibited more social pathology. i had a chinese american friend who was an asian american activist who became an encyclopediac repository of all that was wrong with the asian american community and how “the man” screws them over.

  17. re: “model minority,” sometimes i feel that some people who compain about brow model minoritism wish that browns in the USA exhibited more social pathology. i had a chinese american friend who was an asian american activist who became an encyclopediac repository of all that was wrong with the asian american community and how “the man” screws them over.

    Chris Rock joked about that early in his career, “They say Asians are good at math. I would love it if I heard, ‘Hey, let’s cheat off the black kid in class.’ Another stereotype if that Jews are good with money. I pray for the day when I can hear, ‘Yup, I got myself a n***** accountant.’”

    Basically, the aversion that some people have to the model minority label is that nobody wants to be thought of as a nerd.

  18. Basically, the aversion that some people have to the model minority label is that nobody wants to be thought of as a nerd.

    Not to mention that it’s highly rewarding for certain self style community leaders to point out to the “community” just how badly they need to be, uh, led. In our post modern era, Victimhood is rather monetizable.

  19. Have you found your Afghan background to be a deterrent or a problem in any way?‘They were showing pictures of the terrorists on TV and they looked something like meÂ’ IÂ’ve probably experienced that kind of problem less than five times since IÂ’ve been here. One of the toughest times was just after 9/11…I spent ten days there, and all the time they were showing pictures of the terrorists on TV and they looked something like me. My face was a constant reminder. That was probably the only time I noticed that people were looking at me differently, and fortunately it didnÂ’t last long

    Maybe if he had been wearing a turban….

  20. the aversion that some people have to the model minority label is that nobody wants to be thought of as a nerd

    The people who detest model minorties are usually in “protected” professions with little risk, and hence little reward. Jealousy is a natural outcome of such a situation, and that’s what turns them into sermonisers.

    M. Nam

  21. The people who detest model minorties are usually in “protected” professions with little risk, and hence little reward. Jealousy is a natural outcome of such a situation, and that’s what turns them into sermonisers.

    What? That makes no sense. People who are in “protected professions” hate “model minorities”?

  22. CAD,

    Model minorities(Indians/Asians etc) are usually in High-Risk/High Reward professions like Investment Banking, Repeat businesses (Restaurants(very high failure rate), delis/grocery stores), businesses where returns are way out in future(Motels etc), Software consultancies, etc etc.

    Their critics are more often than not in the Women’s studies department of a Government (read: taxpayer) funded university.

    M. Nam

  23. M. Nam:

    Model minorities(Indians/Asians etc) are usually in High-Risk/High Reward professions like Investment Banking, Repeat businesses (Restaurants(very high failure rate), delis/grocery stores), businesses where returns are way out in future(Motels etc), Software consultancies, etc etc. Their critics are more often than not in the Women’s studies department of a Government (read: taxpayer) funded university.

    Your clarification is obscure and illogical. Your comment still doesn’t make sense. Maybe you should unpack what you mean. Do you intend to say that people who criticize the “model minority” paradigm are non-professionals with “low reward, low risk” occupations and Woman studies at “Government funded university”???? What exactly do you mean by this? And usually, “Woman studies” are mostly found at private (read: not funded by taxpayers); at least in the US.

  24. Every time I hear of someone like Azmi or Gen. John Abizaid, an Arab-American involved in running the Iraq war

    Haven’t you noticed — He is White. So it is easy for people like him to integrate.

  25. Not to mention that it’s highly rewarding for certain self style community leaders to point out to the “community” just how badly they need to be, uh, led. In our post modern era, Victimhood is rather monetizable.

    I agree that this is a problem–a big problem–but, it’s also a prolem that conservative members of “the community” make invisible the 30%? 40%? of the community that don’t conform to the image of model minorities either through behavior, profession, sexuality, gender identity, or especially income and race presentation. It’s not that social pathologies (like rampant domestic violence) don’t exist in these communities–it’s that they’re ignored. Further, the argument that South Asians are model minorities ignores the sheer diversity of a community of 2 million people. Just as an example–the income demographics of Bangladeshi-Americans are probably closer to groups like Mexicans than they are to Indian-Americans.

    You could make an argument against those “self-styled community leaders” by arguing for local autonomy and organically developed leadership, rather than pretending that there are no serious problems in the community.

    For the history of the political uses of model minority, I suggest you go read the wiki on model minority. The subtext of saying South Asians are model minorities is basically “Look at us! We’re not black! We’re better!”.

  26. South Asians are model minorities is basically “Look at us! We’re not black! We’re better!”.

    To second “someone else”, Arvind Rajagopal’s Politics After Television offers gems of wisdom on this concept of the “model minority”. I quote:

    “‘Model minoriy’ may ostensibly refer to Asian Americans, but the unspoken reference is to African Americans; it is they who are the ‘model’ and the archetype of the ‘minority’: dark, unassimilated, and perhaps unassimilable” Rajagopal, 2001:249)

    Specific to the American Desi community, he writes:

    “As the constant point of reference, the proximity to blacks is reinforced even while desiring more distance. Such difference as they [Indian Americans]assert from them [African Americans] is bought with effort, by earning enough money to live in white neighborhoods, for instance, and sending their kids to white-dominated schools; without that effort, they would slide into the same pool, they fear” (Rajagopal,2001:249)

    Think about the underlying political and social dynamics as to why we call ourselves “brown” when there are some African Amerians who have the same skin tone as some Desis I’ve seen, and vice versa.

  27. Think about the underlying political and social dynamics as to why we call ourselves “brown” when there are some African Amerians who have the same skin tone as some Desis I’ve seen, and vice versa.

    This is an interesting point. Here in the UK, desis do not identify themselves in terms of skin colour, but (original) geographical origin. It’s about being (South) Asian in terms of ethnicity, not the colour of one’s skin.

  28. It’s about being (South) Asian in terms of ethnicity, not the colour of one’s skin.

    So is being Black in the United States.

  29. Someone else and Jai: -Here in the UK, desis do not identify themselves in terms of skin colour, but (original) geographical origin. It’s about being (South) Asian in terms of ethnicity, not the colour of one’s skin. -So is being Black in the United States.

    I agree with both of you. I don’t know about England, but I can speak for Italy: there is definately racism, but it is a racism that is based on “culture” and religion, not skin color (the Italians really cannot judge people for being brown/black, since they themselves spend 6 months on the beach to get “brown”/”black”). For example, Italians are quite racist towards Albanians who are 1) “white” as well, and 2) are denigrated for their “Albanian culture”. On the other hand, there are Senagalese living in Bologna that have less problems (as far as I know) than the Gypsies do. Being Amreekan, I have noticed that racism in the US tends to focus on more skin color, in contrast to Italy. In general, in the US I’d say that it’s more of skin color and class; and in Italy, it’s more of ethnicity and class. Of course, these are not clean cut differences. The degree to which class, race, and ethnicity play in diverse forms of racism is various

    In all of these cases, I have noticed that racism is inextricably tied up with the issue of race, ethnicity, and class. I’d underline class, because most often than not, we tend to forget that class is an important factor. Just look at the the “model minority” concept– a “minority” who is a “model” is one that has a high socio-economic status. A minority who is not a “model” is someone of low socio-economic status. This is mostly associated with African Americans and Hispanics. This is why you also hear uppity minorities who scathingly criticize other minorities because in their mind, these “unsuccessful” minorities should “work harder”. Especially in the Desi community, there is this pervasive belief that they are extremely hard workers, they have truly merited what they have, and godammit, other disadvantaged minorities should stop complaining and start working and studying harder. That these Desis have worked hard is true, but they tend to forget that they recieved a jump start in this capitalist system, so to speak, in that they were in a better position than most other minorities in the US when they came here. They already came from a priveleged background, and they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the 1965 Immigration Act which selectively let professionals into the US. During the 1980′s and onwards, though, there has been Desi immigration of lower socio-economic status in comparision to their post 1965 counterparts (and their Ivy League offspring). I’d like to see how many Desi taxi drivers and their kids have easily attained the position that Yuppie Desis have; it certainly happens– there are always exceptions–but it is very difficult. Not suprisingly, affluent Desis in the US do not like to be associated with their poorer counterparts.These Yuppies don’t want poorer Desis ruining the image of Desis being a “model minority”

  30. For 2-ger who are going to take issue with my post (#32):

    If you yourself are “educated” (meaning, you have a BA degree, and even a graduate degree), have a good job (lets say, investment banker, doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc), and live a comfortable life, did your father work the entire day at Target and your mother work the night shift at Target to make ends meet?

    Be honest.

  31. If you yourself are “educated” (meaning, you have a BA degree, and even a graduate degree), have a good job (lets say, investment banker, doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc), and live a comfortable life, did your father work the entire day at Target and your mother work the night shift at Target to make ends meet?

    Be honest.

    CADac, I would quibble with this part a little bit as oversimplifying things. There’s structural class–which is what you’re talking about–and situational class–which is where you end up. There are, of course, lottery winners, people who work really hard and manage to be upwardly mobile (talented tenth and what not), etc. Those people are also probably doing well by income and perhaps even status standards, but in a differet way.

    But in general, let us continue to agree to agree :)

  32. CADac, I would quibble with this part a little bit as oversimplifying things. There’s structural class–which is what you’re talking about–and situational class–which is where you end up. There are, of course, lottery winners, people who work really hard and manage to be upwardly mobile (talented tenth and what not), etc. Those people are also probably doing well by income and perhaps even status standards, but in a differet way.

    Someone else:

    Oh, you’re quite right. I am oversimplifying, but that is because my post was already long enough, and I know that Mutineers have short attention spans:) But look at this:

    I’d like to see how many Desi taxi drivers and their kids have easily attained the position that Yuppie Desis have; it certainly happens– there are always exceptions–but it is very difficult.

    This is what I stated in #32. Did you read it? No one else except for “someone else” commented on it. This makes me sad.

    I like how you put a name to the distinctions between “structural class” and “situational class”. It existed conceptually in my mind, but I didn’t know how to name and define the two. Where did you get that from?

    But in general, let us continue to agree to agree :) Ditto

  33. CAD:

    This is what I stated in #32. Did you read it? No one else except for “someone else” commented on it. This makes me sad.

    don’t be sad. i read it, and i’m feeling you.
  34. pardon me. i need some more coffee. the comment above should indicate that i read CAD’s comment #32 and agree with him/her.

    peace

  35. you “get” it Cheap Ass!!!! It’s not a compliment to some, it’s a put-down to others!

  36. re: #32:

    the football (crowd) racism against black players in italy and other parts of europe is more color-based than culture based, since a lot of these black players come from former colonies that have strong cultural ties with their former european rulers (same language, same religion). shouting at players and calling them monkey, making ape sounds are reactions more to their color not their culture. the roma are generally seen as darker skinned, and although other aspects play a part in discrimination against them, their color is a major factor. i remember a travel piece by an american, a darker-skinned caucasian, who was mistaken for a roma in Rome and verbally abused by an elderly italian woman. a few years ago italy, a half italian-half dominican republic woman was chosen miss italy. looks-wise, she took after her mother, with darker skin. even though she was beautiful and even though she came from a middle or upper-middle class background, and culturally was very Italian, there were those who said she couldn’t represent italian beauty — because of her color.

    in russia, the darker-skinned caucasians – even though they are russian – are frequently stabbed and attacked and discriminated against. i wonder if the italian attitude towards albanians – a double whammy because they tend to be muslim and darker-skinned than northern europeans — is based on the same. also, is there a difference in attitudes towards color between northern italians and southern italians?

  37. Sidd:

    pardon me. i need some more coffee. the comment above should indicate that i read CAD’s comment #32 and agree with him/her.

    Hey, are you trying to be mean?! :) You don’t have to agree with what I am saying.

    Whose God:

    Oh shit, totally forget about the Roma players, and Deniz something-or-other (the former Miss Italy). My bad. You are right. I think I was talking about my own personal experiences and those of the immigrants I knew (I lived in Italy for years). About the southern Italians, no, I have to disagree with you here. It is not based on race, since there are northern Italians who can be as dark as the Southern Italians, and there are southern Italians who are blond and blue-eyed. Even those who are blond, fair skinned, and blue eyed, still get discriminated against as soon as they open their mouths because one call tell from the dialect and/or accent where an Italian hails from.

  38. “About the southern Italians, no, I have to disagree with you here. It is not based on race, since there are northern Italians who can be as dark as the Southern Italians, and there are southern Italians who are blond and blue-eyed. Even those who are blond, fair skinned, and blue eyed, still get discriminated against as soon as they open their mouths because one call tell from the dialect and/or accent where an Italian hails from.”

    actually CAD I was more asking than making a statement. thanks for the insight. it seems it’s like india in some ways, with dark-skinned people also being found throughout the north and fairer-skinned people also being found throughout the south as well. but you’re right, even when you open your mouth in india, you pinpoint where you come from and, regardless of skin color, can be discriminated against because of it.

  39. Whose God:

    Oh, sorry, I misunderstood, thought you were making an assertion. Yes, it’s very interesting in Italy because it is a very mixed population and one cannot tell where the other is from simply based on physical appearances, ie dark skin, light skin. It’s insightful that you point out that it is similar to India. Actually, come to think of it, there is also the similarity with the name game, ie the last name says it all. So last names in Italy can indicate which part of Italy one is from.

    Another thing is that in Italy, there is “campagnellismo” = regionalism. To this day Italians continue to strongly identify themselves with their regions. The most racist regions that engage in explicit racism, such as calling black Roma soccer players “monkeys”,etc, are Lazio and the Padania. Not to say that racism doesn’t exist in other places (it does in Bologna, where I lived).

    Re: Albanians, no, they are not darker than other Italians; indeed, the second generation, which is for all purposes Italian (ie speak Italian w/o an accent), blend in quite easily and it is impossible to identify who is Albanian unless the person volunteers such information. In addition, historically the Albanian culture and language had a huge impact on certain parts of Italy; in Puglia, for example, one of the reigional dialects is actually an archaic version of Albanian. The racism directed towards them in the North is a result of the religious difference and the fact that they are of lower socio-economic status.

    Lastly, there are people from Sicily who to me look completely North African. But to Italians, both North and South, they are considered Sicilians and there is no racism against how they look. The situation seems a bit confusing when Northerners refer to Southerners as “Marocchini” which means “Moroccans”; but this term of abuse is levelled at ALL Southerners who, as I pointed out, can be Scandinavian looking.

  40. Whose god:

    Yeah, sure, no problem. ‘m sure you didn’t need to know all of that.