United States Department of Justice
Michael J. Sullivan
U.S. Attorney
District of Massachusetts
United States Attorney's Office
John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse
1 Courthouse Way, Suite 9200
Boston, MA 02210
Press Office: (617) 748-3139

November 12, 2003

PRESS RELEASE

GUANTANAMO BAY LINGUIST INDICTED

Boston, MA... A former Salem resident working as a linguist at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was indicted today by a federal grand jury on charges in connection with his having classified government information in his possession for which he did not have authorization.

Attorney General John Ashcroft; United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; Kenneth W. Kaiser, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New England; and Robin M. Avers, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New England, announced today that AHMED FATHY MEHALBA, age 31, was indicted by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges MEHALBA with gathering, transmitting or losing defense information and two counts of making false statements.

"The protection of classified information is vitally important to our nation," stated Attorney General John Ashcroft. "As today's indictment makes clear, the Department of Justice will prosecute those who jeopardize the nation's security by mishandling classified, sensitive information important to the war on terrorism."

"Today's indictment demonstrates our commitment to prosecute those whose actions may compromise the security of the United States," stated U.S. Attorney Sullivan. "We will dedicate the resources necessary to protect our homeland."

According to the indictment and other documents previously filed with the Court, MEHALBA was stopped by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on September 29, 2003, upon his arrival at Logan Airport. MEHALBA had returned to the United States on a flight originating in Cairo, Egypt. The CBP agents referred MEHALBA for secondary processing at which time he stated he had been visiting his father in Egypt and that he was a private contractor for the Army working as a linguist at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. When asked, MEHALBA denied he was carrying any business or government-related documents from Guantanamo Bay. The CBP agents found a compact disk carrying case in MEHALBA's luggage containing a number of compact discs, one of which was labeled in black handwriting, "Backup #3 for MO's Profile." When the CBP agents reviewed the contents of the compact disc with a computer, they found classified information labeled "Secret". Upon further questioning by FBI Special Agents assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, MEHALBA denied any knowledge of how classified government documents came to be found on the compact disc, and denied that he understood the meaning of the term "Secret" or had received a security briefing. Documents introduced at a probable cause hearing held on October 15, 2003, showed that MEHALBA had acknowledged receiving numerous security briefings on the handling of classified information.

The indictment alleges that MEHALBA had unauthorized possession or control over documents relating to the national defense, which he willfully retained and failed to deliver to authorized government officials. The indictment also charges MEHALBA with making false statements to law enforcement officials when he denied knowledge as to how the classified information came to be found on the compact disc and denied that he understood the meaning of the term "Secret" and had received a security briefing.

MEHALBA was arrested on a criminal complaint on September 29, 2003, and has been in federal custody since that time. If convicted, MEHALBA faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine on the gathering, transmitting or losing defense information charge, and a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine on each of the false statements charges.

The investigation is continuing.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force with the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Ricciuti, Chief of Sullivan's Anti-Terrorism Unit.

Press Contact: Samantha Martin, (617) 748-3139

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