Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan
The Eastern District of Michigan recently completed a series of prosecutions against American citizens acting within the United States as agents of the Iraqi Intelligence Service during the reign of Saddam Hussein. All three defendants not only assisted a hostile foreign regime in its intelligence efforts, but they also put at risk individuals and groups who were opposed to Saddam Hussein by sharing their names and activities with the Iraqi government and its brutal dictator.
On August 19, 2011, Issam Hamama, a U.S. military translator, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after his conviction at trial on three counts of false statements relating to his activities on behalf of the Iraqi government. A jury found that Hamama had lied to the FBI when he denied that he had served as a source for the Iraqi Intelligence Service and that he had received compensation from the Iraqi government. The jury also found that the defendant had lied on his security clearance applications in 2003 and 2005 when he failed to disclose his work for the government of Iraq. The defendant was serving as a translator and cultural advisor for the U.S. Army in Iraq at the time of his arrest in 2008.
Evidence was presented at trial that Hamama had provided information to the Iraqi Intelligence Service about individuals and groups in the United States that were opposed to Saddam Hussein. The evidence further showed that Hamama, who was known to the Iraqi Intelligence Service as “Code 6129,” traveled to the Washington, D.C. area to report to the Iraqi Intelligence Service and to receive payment.
Hamama was one of three men convicted in the Eastern District of Michigan for various crimes relating to their roles as agents of the Iraqi Intelligence Service under Saddam Hussein. Additional defendants were prosecuted in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis on similar charges. Their illegal conduct surfaced after U.S. military forces entered Iraq in 2003. U.S. troops seized Iraqi government documents, including files of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Among the files were source files, including identifying information about Americans acting as sources for the Iraqi Intelligence Service, as well as the intelligence information that sources reported to the Iraq spy agency.
Another defendant, Najib Shemami, was sentenced to 46 months imprisonment in the Eastern District of Michigan after pleading guilty to providing information to the Iraqi Intelligence Service in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. In that case, Shemami admitted that he had traveled to Iraq and met with officers of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in December 2002. Shemami reported information relating to the activities of Iraqi expatriates in the U.S., potential candidates for political office in Iraq, and U.S. military activities he had observed in Turkey before the U.S. entry into Iraq in 2003. A former official of the Iraqi Intelligence Service testified at an evidentiary hearing that the information Shemami reported regarding U.S. military actitivities was so significant that it was brought to the attention of Saddam Hussein.
Ghazi Al-Awadi also entered a guilty plea in the Eastern District of Michigan to acting as an agent of a foreign government. At his plea hearing, Al-Awadi admitted that he had collected information about individuals and groups in the U.S. opposed to Saddam Hussein, and had traveled to Iraq and provided that information to representatives of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
These cases represent the work of the FBI along with the Department of Defense to exploit documents obtained from the government of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Their work to translate and categorize the documents led to the investigations and convictions of American citizens who assisted a hostile government on the brink of war with the U.S. Their work also exposed the undisclosed background of a U.S. military translator embedded with troops in a sensitive position. This kind of cooperative effort between law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the military serve us all well to protect the national security.