THE CARNAGE in Syria grinds on: More than two dozen protesters were reported shot and killed by security forces on Thursday and at least 11 more on Friday; a United Nations human rights official said that the total death toll has passed 3,000.
But the crimes of the regime of Bashar al-Assad are not confined to its own soil. On Tuesday the FBI arrested a Leesburg man who has been charged with conspiring to collect information on people protesting against the Syrian government in Washington and elsewhere in the United States for delivery to the regime’s intelligence services.
The operation allegedly conducted by Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was not a low-level or rogue initiative: On a visit to Damascus last summer, he met in private with Mr. Assad, according to the FBI. On returning to the United States, he allegedly recruited people to make audio and video recordings of protesters here and in Syria and turned them over to Syrian intelligence.
Mr. Soueid appears to have been part of a global operation. According to a report by Amnesty international, more than 30 activists in at least eight countries say that they have faced intimidation from embassy officials or that family members in Syria have been harassed, arrested or even tortured. Several of the cases documented by Amnesty are shocking: The elderly parents of Malek Jandali, a pianist and composer, were beaten, and their home in the city of Homs was looted, after Mr. Jandali performed in a July demonstration in front of the White House. The couple has since fled the country. The brother of an activist in Spain was arrested, tortured and forced to call his brother to tell him to stop demonstrating.
The Assad regime and the Syrian embassy in Washington have loudly denied that they are spying on or persecuting peaceful protesters in Washington or elsewhere in the West. So it is important that the FBI brought the case against Mr. Soueid, who was indicted by a grand jury in Virginia this month on charges of acting as an agent of the Syrian government without notifying the attorney general; lying to federal agents; and giving false information while buying a gun. The charges show that the Assad regime poses a threat not only to people in Syria but to those in the United States and other countries who support freedom. They underline the urgency for Western governments to step up pressure on the regime and force Mr. Assad to step down.