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Immigrant, Journalist, Iraqi Spy

The strange case of an Iraqi agent caught operating on American soil. His arrest may be the first of many.

8:00 AM, Jul 11, 2003 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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KHALED DUMEISI, a newspaper publisher in northern Illinois, was surprised when federal agents showed up at a modest condominium in suburban Chicago to arrest the man known to his colleagues in Iraqi intelligence as "Sirhan."

He shouldn't have been shocked. First, the FBI, according to a complaint unsealed Wednesday in Illinois, had the goods on Sirhan. Among his offenses: supplying false press credentials for Iraqi intelligence agents; spying on Iraqi opposition leaders--at times, using a mini-camera implanted in the end of a pen--and providing the intelligence to the Iraqi regime; obtaining phone records and schedules of Iraqi opposition meetings; and training in intelligence techniques with the Mukhabarat (Iraqi Intelligence Service) in Baghdad.

Second, Khaled Dumeisi, the newspaper publisher, is "Sirhan."

The Dumeisi case is instructive because, if true, it supports claims made for years by Iraqi opposition groups that Saddam Hussein maintained an active intelligence presence in the United States. More important, according to government officials with knowledge of the Iraqi intelligence network in this country, the charges brought against Dumeisi are the first in what will be a succession of similar cases in the coming months.

The 31-page affidavit--United States of America vs. Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi--is fascinating. The charges read like the product of a crazed spy novelist. Dumeisi is a Jordanian citizen who came to the United States in 1993. Five years after he arrived, he established an Arabic-language monthly, Al Mahjar. Shortly thereafter, according to the complaint, he began working with Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations (IMUN).

The government's case is based on information obtained from at least six informants, including at least one Iraqi intelligence officer now in U.S. custody. One of them, an individual who "assisted Dumeisi in the publication of Al-Mahjar, from 1996 to 1999" and who "had significant contact with the IMUN on behalf of Dumeisi and Al-Mahjar" reported on conversations that he had with Dumeisi about his activities. According to the affidavit, this individual claims that "Dumeisi told him/her that the Iraqi Intelligence Service had trained him to use a pen which contained a hidden camera and microphone. Dumeisi showed" the informant the pen and told the informant "that he used the pen to record an interview of an Iraqi opposition member. During the interview, Dumeisi wore the pen clipped to the center of his shirt near the buttons for it to work better."
Another informant, described as a "close friend of Dumeisi's" told the FBI that she had told Dumeisi about a romantic relationship she was having with "a possible future president of Iraq." This informant, who worked for a long-distance provider, gave Dumeisi the phone records of the opposition leader--records that were later recovered from the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters in Baghdad during Operating Iraqi Freedom.

Along with those telephone records was a detailed report about how the records were obtained. Again, according the affidavit, the file reports on the activities of an Iraqi agent "code-named" Sirhan, who "is identified as having a pro-Iraqi/Arab newspaper in Chicago called Al-Mahjar." The file further details the relationships between "Sirhan," his female friend--identified by name--and the Iraqi opposition leader.

Because he did not pass classified information to the Iraqi government Dumeisi is charged only with failing to register as an agent for a foreign government. "While Khaled Dumeisi is not alleged to be an actual intelligence officer and is not charged with espionage, the charges are nonetheless serious," explained U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, in a statement explaining the charges.

U.S. authorities continue to sift through the mountains of documents recovered in post-war Iraq in a painstaking effort to piece together sometimes disparate bits of information that, taken as a whole, provide a clearer picture of the covert activities of the Iraqi regime on American soil. And the Dumeisi case is just the beginning.

According to one official reviewing the information: "There's a lot more where this came from."

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.