(Updates with FBI response)
By Elvina Nawaguna
WASHINGTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Hundreds of employees with foreign ties working for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are subjected to what they say are unfair aggressive background checks that have forced some to cut contact with family members abroad, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
All FBI employees are subject to security screening, but according to the story, those with foreign language skills and who have families or friends abroad find themselves facing more rigorous and more frequent security interviews, polygraph tests and reviews of personal travel, electronic communications and file downloads.
In response to Reuters' request for comment, FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said he would let his comment to the New York Times stand. He told the newspaper that the FBI seeks to protect sensitive and classified national information while taking into account any impact on an employee.
The FBI created the Post-Adjudication Risk Management program, or PARM after the September 11, 2001, attacks. The move was prompted by concerns that employees and contractors with ties abroad could be coerced by foreign spies or organizations labeled as terrorist to reveal classified national security information.
Workers placed under PARM include Muslim and Asian workers who were hired as linguists or for other counterintelligence and counterterrorism roles. By 2012, the FBI ramped up its hiring of linguists by 85 percent, with Arabic, Chinese and Farsi considered among the high priority languages.
Angry FBI employees say the program is biased and keeps them from advancing in their careers, and is often used to punish them, leaving them with little recourse.
FBI officials referenced in the story said the program protects the nation as well as the employees, and does not discriminate against those workers or hinder their careers. (Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Gunna Dickson and Jonathan Oatis)