14 November 2007

Former FBI, CIA Lebanese Woman Obtains Information on Hizbullah

A Lebanese-born woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to having paid an American to marry her so she could get U.S. citizenship and then later obtain jobs at the FBI and CIA, the Justice Department said.
In a case which bared weaknesses in the US vetting of staff for its key law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Nada Nadim Prouty, 37, also pleaded guilty to having illegally obtained from FBI computers information on her relatives and Hizbullah, branded a terrorist group by the U.S. government.

According to a Justice Department statement on the case, filed in Detroit, Michigan, Prouty was helped in gaining U.S. citizenship by former Detroit restaurant owner Talal Khalil Chahine, her sister's husband who is now wanted in the United States on tax evasion, bribery and extortion charges.

The statement linked Chahine, now a fugitive believed in Lebanon, with Hizbullah leader Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, designated by Washington as a "global terrorist."

According to the statement, Prouty defrauded the United States by paying an unemployed man in 1990 to marry her after her student visa ran out. She then used the marriage to obtain US citizenship in 1994, and a year later divorced her husband.

In April 1999 she was hired by the FBI to work in its Washington office as a special agent working on crimes against U.S. citizens overseas.

The charges said that in 2000 and 2003 she probed FBI computers for records on herself, her sister and Chahine, and on a Detroit FBI investigation into Hizbullah.

She left the FBI in 2003 to join the CIA, from where she resigned earlier this month.

The statement said that she had agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as a part of a plea agreement.

The most severe charge, naturalization fraud, could bring up to 10 years in prison and a 250,000 dollar fine, as well as removal of her citizenship.

"This case highlights the importance of conducting stringent and thorough background investigations," said U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy.

"It's hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government."(AFP/naharnet)

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Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.