Accused Spies Granted Bail as Secret Service Investigates
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., released two accused spies on bail Wednesday after prosecutors failed to show they were flight risks or a threat to national security.
The two men, Haider Ali and Arian Taherzadeh, had been pretending for the previous two years to be Homeland Security Department agents. FBI agents who arrested them said they carried professional-quality, forged identification cards.
“They had firearms, they had ammunition, they had body armor, they had tactical gear, they had surveillance equipment,” a legal memo from the Justice Department prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Ali, 35, and Taherzadeh, 40, have ties to Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence service, which they did not reveal to other government employees who lived in the same apartment building as them.
“They pretended to recruit other individuals to law enforcement and their fake operation … and leveraged their phony law enforcement status to ingratiate themselves to other law enforcement agents in sensitive positions,” prosecutors said in a legal memo.
Prosecutors say the two men appear to have been giving valuable gifts to Secret Service agents to help in their efforts to infiltrate the federal government. The gifts included a rent-free penthouse apartment in Southeast D.C., they said.
Ali and Taherzadeh argued during the bail hearing that the gifts were tokens of friendship rather than being part of an effort to spy on the United States.
They described their pretense of being federal agents as a “ruse” that got out of control.
Their defense attorneys argued the Justice Department “jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories possible over the most scant of evidence.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey largely agreed with the defense attorneys.
“There is no evidence of foreign ties in this case,” Harvey said in his ruling that freed Ali and Taherzadeh from jail. He ordered that they stay with relatives in the Washington area and wear GPS ankle monitors while they await trial.
The evidence showed “the defendants’ impersonation of federal officers was, as Mr. Ali said in his [FBI] interview, that they ‘just wanted to feel on the same level’ as the real federal agents,” Harvey said.
The case led to an investigation of four Secret Service agents that continues. One of the agents works at the White House. Another one was assigned to help protect First Lady Jill Biden.
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