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Virginia man charged with spying on Syrian Americans

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 ...

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 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.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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