The FBI arrested and charged Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, 47, a resident of Leesburg, VA, for spying on Syrian-American protesters in the Washington area on behalf of the Syrian government.
The Justice Department announced the arrest and charges in a Wednesday press release, alleging that Soueid was involved "in a conspiracy to collect video and audio recordings and other information about individuals in the United States and Syria who were protesting the government of Syria and to provide these materials to Syrian intelligence agencies in order to silence, intimidate and potentially harm the protestors."
The Syrian government has vehemently denied the accusation that it is gathering information on protesting Syrian-Americans and punishing their families back in Syria. But last month, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told The Cable that he had evidence of multiple family members of Syrian-American protesters being rounded up and tortured by the Syrian regime.
Soueid, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested on Tuesday and will appear before a judge this afternoon. He is charged with conspiring to act and acting as an agent of the Syrian government in the United States without notifying the attorney general, as required by law; two counts of providing false statements on a firearms purchase form; and two counts of providing false statements to federal law enforcement.
The indictment charges Soueid with making video and audio recordings of Syrian-American protesters, including personal conversations with them, and providing them to the Syrian intelligence services. He also provided protesters' phone numbers and e-mail addresses and also gave that information to officials at the Syrian embassy in Washington, the indictment alleges.
In June, according to the indictment, the Syrian government paid for Soueid to travel to Syria, where he met with Syrian officials and also directly with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In July, he bought a Baretta pistol but lied about his address on the registration forms. In August, he was interviewed by the FBI and allegedly lied about his activities.
If convicted on all counts, he could face a maximum of 40 years in prison.
"Spying for another country is a serious threat to our national security, especially when it threatens the ability of U.S. citizens to engage in political speech within our own borders," said Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.