By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 15, 2007
An Arabic translator who used an assumed identity to get work as a contractor for the U.S. Army in Iraq pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges of possessing classified national defense documents, including sensitive material about the insurgency that he took from an 82nd Airborne Division intelligence group in 2004.
The translator obtained U.S. citizenship under a false identity before securing a job in August 2003 with Titan Corp., which supplied translators to the U.S. military to aid in fighting the war in Iraq. The man then used his false identity to get secret and top-secret clearances -- access to extremely sensitive material that is supposed to be given only after thorough background checks -- Justice Department officials said.
Authorities said yesterday in a news release that they do not even know the translator's real name and that they refer to him in court documents under several of his aliases, including "Abu Hakim" and "Abdulhakeem Nour."
The man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in New York to having several documents in his Brooklyn apartment after two deployments to Iraq. He earlier pleaded guilty to charges of using a false identity to obtain U.S. citizenship and to gain access to classified military material.
U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman could sentence him to up to 60 years in prison.
The man's federal public defender did not return calls to her office yesterday.
According to court papers, the translator illegally downloaded classified documents that "detail the 82nd Airborne's mission in Iraq in regard to insurgent activity, such as coordinates of insurgent locations upon which the U.S. Army was preparing to fire in January 2004," as well as plans for protecting Sunnis on their pilgrimage to Mecca that same month. Government lawyers also said that he photographed a classified battle map at a base near Najaf.
Officials did not say what the translator hoped to do with the information, but officials considered his efforts a dangerous breach.
Mark J. Mershon, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, said in a statement yesterday that the man has been consistent in his lies.
"Through serial deception, an eminently untrustworthy person inveigled his way into a position of trust, and he abused that trust," Mershon said.
The man had worked for Titan Corp., which in late summer 2005 became L-3 Titan Group, a subsidiary of New York-based L-3 Communications. The company has held a significant contract for linguistic services in Iraq and company officials say they have more than 5,000 linguists under contract in Iraq until mid-March. A Washington-area consortium unseated L-3 in December when it was awarded a five-year Army contract worth up to $4.6 billion to provide the linguists beginning in March.
Evan Goetz, a spokesman for L-3, declined to discuss the case involving the translator, saying, "The company doesn't comment on legal matters."
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.