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DOJ Announces The Arrest of Hezbollah Sleeper Agent, A Naturalized U.S. Citizen

Michael W. Cutler, Senior Special Agent, INS (Ret.)

On September 19, 2019 The Department of Justice issued a news release, New Jersey Man Indicted for Terrorist Activities on Behalf of Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization.  The subtitle of that news release stated, Alexei Saab Allegedly Was Trained by Hizballah’s External Terrorist Operations Component in Bomb-Making and Conducted Intelligence-Gathering in New York City and Elsewhere in Support of Hizballah’s Attack-Planning Efforts.

The DOJ press release also included links to the federal Criminal Complaint and Criminal Indictment that are worth reviewing to gain an in-depth understanding of this disturbing case.

Before we go any further, we must put all of this into real-world context.  The United States is at loggerheads with the radical regime of Iran over its nuclear aspirations.  Since the U.S. withdrew from the “deal” struck by the Obama administration which would virtually guarantee that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have ratcheted up.  Most recently Iran is accused of carrying out a significant drone strike against Saudi oil refineries.

Here is why the deteriorating situation with Iran is relevant to the terror case disclosed in the DOJ press release which serves as the predication for my commentary today—Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is funded and directed by the Iranian government.  For years there have been a string of hearings in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about how Iran, through Hezbollah, has been working in close coordination with human traffickers and narcotics smuggling organizations, throughout Latin America, to flood the United States with narcotics and illegal aliens.  Frequently both activities are controlled by the same criminal organizations in Latin America.  These criminal activities provides Hezbollah with huge sums of cash, essential to carry out terrorist operations, and also provides Hezbollah with ample opportunities to smuggle sleeper agents into the United States.

I wrote about one of those hearings in my article, Congressional Hearing: Iranian Sleeper Cells Threaten U.S. So many hearings, so little action.

Alexei Saab, the individual who was arrested by the FBI meets the definition of a “sleeper agent” if the allegations prove true. 

A “sleeper agent” is an alien who, in one way or another, manages to enter the country—legally or illegally, maintaining an extremely low profile, hiding in plain sight while gathering intelligence and conducting other preparatory functions for a terror attack when contacted by his/her handlers.

For nearly 20 years Saab moved freely around the United States, scooping our potential terror targets and allegedly, traveled to the Middle East repeatedly to receive training and be debriefed by his Hezbollah handlers according to another member of Hezbollah who had been arrested by the FBI and became a cooperating witness.

According to the information that has been made public, Saab began his affiliation with Hezbollah in 1996 and then entered the United States via the legal immigration system in 2000.  There is no information about the kind of visa he used to enter the U.S. with his Lebanese passport.  In 2005 he applied for United States citizenship and was naturalized in 2008.

His background investigation apparently failed to disclose his involvement with Hezbollah.

Saab is also charged with entering in a fraud marriage to apparently provide another sleeper agent with U.S. citizenship.

The 9/11 Commission, to which I provided testimony, identified marriage fraud and the application for immigration benefits such as Green Cards and U.S. citizenship as key embedding tactics employed by terrorists.

Here is an excerpt from the DOJ press release:

In 2004 and 2005, Saab attended explosives training in Lebanon during which he received detailed instruction in, among other things, triggering mechanisms, explosive substances, detonators, and the assembly of circuits.

In 2000, Saab lawfully entered the United States using a Lebanese passport.  In 2005, Saab applied for naturalized citizenship and falsely affirmed, under penalty of perjury, that he had never been “a member of or in any way associated with . . . a terrorist organization.”  In August 2008, Saab became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

While living in the United States, Saab remained an IJO operative, continued to receive military training in Lebanon, and conducted numerous operations for the IJO.  For example, Saab surveilled dozens of locations in New York City—including the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and local airports, tunnels, and bridges—and provided detailed information on these locations, including photographs, to the IJO.  In particular, Saab focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction.  Saab’s reporting to the IJO included the materials used to construct a particular target, how close in proximity one could get to a target, and site weaknesses or “soft spots” that the IJO could exploit if it attacked a target in the future.  Saab conducted similar intelligence gathering in a variety of American cities.  The FBI recovered photographs from Saab’s electronic devices reflecting his surveillance activities, including photographs of New York City landmarks.

In addition to his attack-planning activities in the United States, Saab conducted operations abroad.  For example, Saab attempted to murder a man he later understood to be a suspected Israeli spy.  Saab pointed a firearm at the individual at close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the firearm did not fire.  Saab also conducted intelligence-gathering for Hizballah in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Saab is hardly the only such alien sleeper agent to be arrested in the United States.  There have been many others and a number of them received their education in the United States, frequently in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines that provide them with the technical skills to carry our deadly attacks.  Furthermore many also succeed in concealing their terror ties to acquire U.S. citizenship which helps them to move freely around the U.S. and the world.

I wrote about other such cases in my articles, Hezbollah Sleeper Agent Convicted Of Plotting U.S. Terror Attacks: Lebanese-born terrorist was a naturalized U.S. citizen and Iranian Agents Charged With Targeting U.S. Locations: Sleeper agents/assassins in our midst?

Meanwhile the “leaders” of our nation refuse to take immigration law enforcement seriously and the “Looney Left” has created “Sanctuary Cities,” “Sanctuary States” and now demands an end to immigration law enforcement altogether as Iran Threatens U.S. And Its Allies With “Drugs, Refugees, Bombs And Assassination.”

We don’t know what we don’t know, for example how many more “sleeper agents” unknown to our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are waiting their orders to strike in the United States, while our “leaders” continue to hit the “snooze” button” and even openly obstruct immigration law enforcement?

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