Me­dia ig­nor­ing FBI and CIA se­cu­rity breach story

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - JOEL MOW­BRAY

De­spite us­ing a sham mar­riage to fraud­u­lently ob­tain cit­i­zen­ship and hav­ing mul­ti­ple per­sonal con­nec­tions to a sus­pected Hezbol­lah fi­nancier, Nada Nadim Prouty, a 37-year-old il­le­gal alien from Le­banon, rose quickly through the FBI, then later the CIA.

While at the FBI, Prouty con­ducted unau­tho­rized searches to see what law en­force­ment had on her, her sis­ter (who is now in jail for tax eva­sion) and her sis­ter’s hus­band, a sus­pected Hezbol­lah fi­nancier, who is now on the lam. From her plea agree­ment ear­lier this month, where she pleaded guilty to three counts, we also know that Prouty il­le­gally ac­cessed top-se­cret FBI in­for­ma­tion about an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hezbol­lah.

So why are the Feds down­play­ing the case? And why is much of the main­stream me­dia play­ing along? Most im­por­tant, why is she go­ing to do less jail time than many petty thieves?

Given the ma­jor lapses ex­posed by this em­bar­rass­ing episode, the FBI and CIA un­der­stand­ably want the story to go away. With the main­stream me­dia, it ap­pears to be part of a much larger prob­lem, wherein the threat of do­mes­tic Is­lamist ter­ror­ism is largely ig­nored.

Here’s the back­story: Prouty came to Amer­ica in 1989 on a stu­dent visa. Af­ter it ex­pired the next year, she schemed to stay in the coun­try by mar­ry­ing a U.S. cit­i­zen. The two never lived to­gether and did not con­sum­mate the mar­riage. She re­ceived her cit­i­zen­ship in 1994, and di­vorced her pa­per hus­band in 1995.

When the FBI went look­ing for more Ara­bic speak­ers, Prouty was snapped up in 1999. But this is where the stun­ning se­ries of se­cu­rity breaches be­gins.

How did the top-se­cret se­cu­rity clear­ance process not pick up a phony mar­riage where she had done very lit­tle to cover her tracks? Con­sider that, ac­cord­ing to the Detroit Free-Press, she never paid her con­trac­tual hus­band the promised sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars.

It ap­pears the rea­son that nei­ther the FBI nor the CIA de­tected that the first hus­band was just a pawn in her fraud is sim­ple: They never talked to him. The FreeP­ress quoted the man’s cur­rent wife say­ing that the first they’ve heard from law en­force­ment was just a few months ago.

Prouty didn’t wait long to break the law. In Septem­ber 2000 — one month af­ter her sis­ter, El­fat El Aouar, mar­ried sus­pected Hezbol­lah fi­nancier Talal Khalil Chahine — Prouty checked the FBI data- base to see what the agency had on her­self, her sis­ter and her new brother-in-law. Mr. Chahine, as it hap­pens, had a pre-ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship with Prouty, serv­ing as her boss in the early 1990s and fil­ing a state­ment tes­ti­fy­ing to the va­lid­ity of her fake mar­riage.

Shortly be­fore she was hired by the CIA, Prouty went dig­ging into FBI files again in June 2003, this time pulling up top-se­cret in­for­ma­tion about a Detroit field of­fice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hezbol­lah.

The tim­ing was sus­pi­cious. Her sis­ter and brother-in-law, both Detroit-area res­i­dents, were al­legedly al­ready neck deep in Hezbol­lah fund-rais­ing at this point. They not only at­tended a Hezbol­lah fund-raiser in Le­banon in Au­gust 2002, but Chahine was also one of the two key­note speak­ers. The other was Hezbol­lah spir­i­tual leader Mo­hammed Hus­sein Fad­lal­lah. The two keynot­ers were even pho­tographed sit­ting next to each other.

De­spite steal­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion on Hezbol­lah while hav­ing strong con­nec­tions to some­one who has spo­ken at a Hezbol­lah fund-raiser and is now a fugi­tive from tax eva­sion charges stem­ming from a plot to fun­nel $20 mil­lion to Le­banon, Prouty is fac­ing just six to 12 months in jail, ac­cord­ing to the terms of her plea bar­gain.

What’s truly mind-bend­ing, though, is the lengths to which U.S. of­fi­cials are go­ing to por­tray this as noth­ing more than a case of fraud­u­lent cit­i­zen­ship. Prouty eas­ily could have passed sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion on to her sis­ter and broth­erin-law, two peo­ple close enough to Hezbol­lah to help lead a fundraiser for the ter­ror­ists.

No mat­ter how triv­ial the gov­ern­ment claims the case is, there are more than enough ques­tions for a me­dia feast. Yet aside from the Detroit pa­pers, the L.A. Times and Newsweek, few ma­jor print out­lets did much in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The New York Times stressed the Hezbol­lah an­gle, but buried the story on page 21. The Wash­ing­ton Post ran the story on page A3, but buried the Hezbol­lah con­nec­tion. Nei­ther famed pa­per did a fol­low-up.

As dan­ger­ous a prece­dent as it is that Prouty can get a slap on the wrist for po­ten­tially harm­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, the real trav­esty is that with­out suf­fi­cient me­dia pres­sure, the FBI and CIA might not take the nec­es­sary steps to pre­vent some­one else who might do even more dam­age.

Joel Mow­bray oc­ca­sion­ally writes for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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