FBI ‘used Google Translate’ to indict alleged Syrian spy, claims lawyer

Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid

Mohamad Soueid

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The lawyer of a Syrian national accused by the United States of spying for Syria has accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of resorting to Google to prepare the case against his client. Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid was arrested last summer and charged with conducting political espionage against Syrian and American citizens participating in demonstrations against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The alleged espionage appears to have been organized by members of the Syrian embassy in Washington, DC. A few weeks prior to Soueid’s arrest, the US Department of State had communicated to Syria’s ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, “a number of […] concerns with […] reported actions of certain Syrian embassy staff in the United States”. The concerns centered on confirmed sightings of Syrian diplomats conducting technical surveillance against Syrian opposition activists in several US cities. Soueid was subsequently arrested for allegedly gathering intelligence on protesters and planning an extensive intimidation campaign. But Soueid’s lawyer, Haytham Faraj, told the court last week that his client’s name, as transcribed in the FBI indictment, had been wrongly transliterated into English using Google Translate. He also wrote in a court filing that the prosecution had “demonstrated a serious deficit in its ability to translate recorded conversations from Arabic into English”. Soueid’s defense also argues that federal prosecutors appear “to have taken extensive liberties with a playful [telephone] conversation” between the accused and his wife back in Syria, eventually producing an English-language translation “that has no basis in fact”. In one case highlighted by the defense, the accused allegedly told his wife that the Syrian intelligence agency was monitoring telephone calls; but in English, the phrase was changed to say “this phone belongs to intelligence agency”. Read more of this post

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New CIA TV ads try to recruit Arab-, Iranian-Americans

CIA ad

CIA ad

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The CIA is preparing to launch two new television commercials in an attempt to increase Arab-American and Iranian-American CIA recruits. The commercials will specifically target US cities with significant Middle Eastern populations, such as Detroit and Newark. They will be premiered at a private screening on November 18 in Dearborn, Michigan, which is often described as “the heart of Michigan’s large Middle Eastern community”. The move follows a recent public-relations visit to Michigan by CIA director Leon Panetta, aimed at improving the tense relations between the US intelligence community and Muslim groups in the state. Read more of this post

US spy agencies still lack foreign language experts

Urdu script

Urdu script

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A US media outlet has finally followed up on the warnings, made by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last July, about the lack of trained foreign-language speakers in the US intelligence community. Following similar warnings by the US House intelligence panel in June, the Senate Intelligence Committee used the opportunity of its authorization (.pdf) of the 2010 intelligence budget to draw attention to “the continuing lack of critical language-capable personnel in the Intelligence Community, and the need to address this shortage”. According to The Washington Times, which noticed the Senate Committee’s brief but critical alert, US intelligence agencies remain “woefully short” of foreign-language speakers, let alone experts. Read more of this post