Son of former Iraqi diplomat appears in court, attorney denies charges
U.S. alleges man failed to register as agent of another government
From Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The son of a former Iraqi diplomat appeared in federal court Tuesday to face charges that he illegally aided Iraqi intelligence officers inside the United States.
Raed Rokan Al-Anbuke's attorney denied the charges and suggested that his client might have been pressured to gain information -- possibly about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs -- from his father.
"My position is, if he was an agent of anybody, he was an agent of us," said defense attorney Thomas Nooter.
Al-Anbuke did not enter a plea before U.S. Magistrate Frank Maas, who detained Al-Anbuke and set a May 15 preliminary hearing for the government to produce its evidence, unless it persuades a grand jury to bring an indictment first.
Al-Anbuke, 28, is formally accused of failing to register with the Justice Department as an agent for another government.
He allegedly assisted five agents for the Mukhabbarat, the Iraqi Intelligence Service, covertly posted to the Iraqi mission to the United Nations as counselors or guards.
The defendant's father, Rohan Al-Anbuke, was in recent years Iraq's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, a position that enabled Al-Anbuke and three of his younger siblings to enter the United States on a G-1 State Department visa.
The children were required to show their faces at the Iraqi mission every month to prove they had not defected, Nooter said. Two Iraqi envoys defected on July 4, 2001.
According to the criminal complaint, a videotape of a mission party honoring Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's birthday two years ago showed Al-Anbuke socializing with some of the alleged Iraqi spies.
Al-Anbuke allegedly helped them locate four Iraqi dissidents living in the United States "to send a tangible message ... to desist from opposition activities," according to the complaint.
One Iraqi intelligence agent even planned to kill a former Iraqi government official but never carried out the plot, the complaint says.
"He had a social contact with these people, but I deny that in any way, at least knowingly, he assisted them in intelligence gathering or locating dissidents," Nooter said.
FBI agent Ian Vabnick said in the complaint that Al-Anbuke admitted being asked to buy one Iraqi spy a miniature camera the size of a cigarette lighter typically used for target surveillance and to let another agent use his cellular telephone to evade electronic monitoring.
Nooter said Al-Anbuke never purchased the camera. Al-Anbuke once went to an electronics store to purchase a tape recorder for one of the operatives, who lost interest in the item upon learning it cost $80, Nooter said.
The elder Al-Anbuke returned to Iraq in August 2000, while the son, two brothers, and one sister remained, overstaying their visas and living together in Brooklyn. Three other Al-Anbuke children lived in Iraq.
The FBI met with Al-Anbuke "several times" in the past 21 months, according to the complaint.
"Those contacts have been constant and numerous. ... They sought and received his cooperation," Nooter said. "If they wanted to kick him out of the country, they had a year and three-quarters to do it."
Back in Iraq, Al-Anbuke's father served as a liaison to the U.N. weapon inspectors, Nooter said.
In 2000, he was detained by the Saddam regime for seven months, he said, adding that FBI agents wanted to learn more about him.