United States charges New York man with spying for Egyptian government

Egyptian embassy in WashingtonA RESIDENT OF NEW York has been charged by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation with engaging in espionage operations on behalf of the government of Egypt, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday. The FBI claims that the spy “tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents” of Egypt’s ultra-authoritarian president, retired General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi took power in Egypt in a military coup d’etat in 2013, which was followed by heavily staged election in 2014. With most of the opposition refusing to participate, the election resulted in a victory for the Egyptian strongman with 97% of the vote.

The alleged spy is 39-year-old Pierre Girgis. He is charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign state without notifying the government of the United States —which is standard legal terminology used to convey acts of espionage. According to the FBI, Girgis’s Egyptian handlers tasked him with spying on US-based critics of President el-Sisi. The documents suggest that Girgis attempted to “covertly gather non-public intelligence” about Egyptian expatriates, and sought to secure access to law enforcement-only training sessions in Manhattan for Egyptian government officials.

In doing the above, Girgis operated “at the direction and control of multiple employees of the Egyptian government”, according to the FBI. One of those employees is alleged to have sent Girgis an encrypted message in 2018, praising him for doing “a lot of good things” and for having “become an important source [of] information collection” for the Egyptian government. The method by which the FBI was able to gain access to the contents of this encrypted communication exchange is not known.

Girgis reportedly surrendered to US authorities on the morning of Thursday, and appeared before a Manhattan federal court later on the same day. The embassy of Egypt in Washington, DC, declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson for the US Department of State said simply that Girgis’ case was “an active law enforcement matter”, which prevented the Department from commenting on it.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 January 2022 | Permalink

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