Defense officials say the arrest of a former FBI special agent and CIA officer for supplying secrets to the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah is another black eye for the bureau, which continues to struggle at developing an effective counterintelligence capability.
“This was a Hezbollah mole, and all you have to do is look at her clearance to see how bad this is,” said a U.S. defense official involved in intelligence matters.
Lebanese-born Nada Nadim Prouty, who obtained U.S. citizenship by fraud, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges she illegally obtained classified information on Hezbollah, which is considered the most deadly Islamist terror group after al Qaeda.
Federal officials seeking to limit the negative publicity on the case say it appears mainly related to Hezbollah fundraising efforts in the U.S. that involved millions of dollars going to the Lebanese-based international terror group.
But the damage could be extensive because of Miss Prouty’s access to classified information contained in both FBI and CIA databases. She held a “top secret-SCI” clearance, for “sensitive compartmented information,” among the highest-level clearances in government.
Officials said if it is determined that classified data was passed to Hezbollah, the losses could be extremely damaging and include the compromise of both recruited agents as well as electronic intelligence-gathering.
Court papers in the case did not say Miss Prouty passed information to Hezbollah.
The FBI still is recovering from two very damaging spy cases: The case of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was a longtime spy for Moscow, and Katrina Leung, who worked for decades as a supposed FBI asset, but who eventually was found to be a Beijing spy.