SYRIA -- January 3, 2012 at 1:33 PM ET
Are Syrian Spies Operating on U.S. Soil?
UPDATE Jan. 12. We post a special report with a series of audio, text and video responses from Syrian Americans who responded to our Public Insight Network query.
UPDATE Jan. 9: Newshour Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan hosted a live video chat with Syrian- American Malek Jandali, who is profiled in the below story, as well as other Syrian Americans who believe the Syrian Regime is operating in the United States
Syrian spies are operating in the United States, keeping tabs on Syrian-Americans who oppose President Bashar al-Assad, according to a federal indictment filed in October and PBS NewsHour interviews with Syrian-Americans.
Anti-Assad protesters in the United States have long suspected they were being watched by Syria's spy agency, the Mukhabarat. When Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid of Leesburg, Va., was indicted in October of gathering intelligence on those who oppose the Syrian government, those fears were further documented.
The indictment below alleges that Soueid "would collect video and audio recordings" of people who "protested against the government of Syria and President al-Assad and provide those recordings and information to the government of Syria ... all at the direction and control of the government of Syria and Syrian officials." It also alleges that others were acting at Soueid's direction.
Soueid's original defense team, who resigned in November after their client became indigent, filed this motion after he was denied bail. They claimed that the U.S. Attorney "engaged in deception" in arguing before a federal judge in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom.
The NewsHour repeatedly asked officials in the Syrian Embassy in Washington for a response to claims in the federal indictment that Embassy staff were directing Soueid's spying efforts. We wanted to give Ambassador Imad Moustapha*, or any Embassy official an opportunity to address the charges against him and his staff point-by-point, on camera.
In mid-November we called Moustapha directly and repeatedly on both his cellphone and office line. We received no response. On Nov. 17 we emailed Moustaph and called the embassy but again, received no response. We then contacted Roua Sharbaji, the press attaché for the Embassy. On Dec. 8, Sharbaji emailed us the following document:
By mid-December Moustapha had been recalled to Damascus and would later be named Syria's ambassador to China. it became clear that neither he or anyone else from the Syrian embassy in Washington would be sitting for an interview. We then contacted the office of Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations in New York. His press attaché suggested we send him an email, which we did on Dec. 21. We have yet to receive a response.
If you are a Syrian-American and feel that you have been or are being watched by the Assad government, we want to hear your story. We'd also like to hear from those in the Syrian-American community who support the Assad government. Just click this link and fill out the form. All of your information will be kept strictly confidential.
- At 2 p.m. Jan. 4, this story was changed to reflect the fact that Moustapha is now the Syrian Ambassador to China.