The United States has been dealing with foreign agents in its midst following the arrest in New York last week of an Egyptian-American accused of spying on exiles opposed to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s repressive regime. His case has lifted the curtain on a ‘significant’, but little noted national security issue: the recruitment of US state and local police by foreign intelligence agencies.
From the Australian Spectator and the SpyTalk article in the Tweet above:
Pierre Girgis, a dual Egyptian-US citizen in Manhattan, worked at the ‘direction and control’ of several Cairo agencies to advance the regime’s interests in the United States from 2014 through 2019, according to a federal indictment handed down on January 6.
Girgis, who worked as a Capital One bank vice president and who openly promoted interchanges between Egyptian officials and American police, had a secret helper according to the Justice Department: a source in local law enforcement. FBI wiretaps overheard Girgis and Egyptian officials talking about exploiting the (unnamed) police officer for private information on anti-regime activists here.
Below the Indictment you will see how other, even shadier players are embedding inside our local forces.
The Indictment read:
Thursday, January 6, 2022
Man Arrested for Acting in United States as Agent of Egyptian Government
A New York man was arrested today on criminal charges related to his alleged acting and conspiring to act as a foreign agent in the United States.
According to court documents, Pierre Girgis, 39, of Manhattan, acted in the United States as an agent of the Egyptian government, without notifying the U.S. Attorney General as required by law. Girgis operated at the direction and control of multiple officials of the Egyptian government in an effort to further the interests of the Egyptian government in the United States. Among other things, at the direction of Egyptian government officials, Girgis allegedly tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. As alleged, Girgis also leveraged his connections with local U.S. law enforcement officers to collect non-public information at the direction of Egyptian officials, arranged benefits for Egyptian officials who were visiting Manhattan, and coordinated meetings between U.S. and Egyptian law enforcement in the United States, including by arranging for Egyptian officials to attend police trainings.
“The Department of Justice will not allow agents of foreign governments to operate in the United States to pursue and collect information about critics of those governments,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen. “Working at the direction of the Egyptian government, Girgis agreed to target its perceived critics located in the United States. This indictment begins the process of holding him accountable for his actions in contravention of our laws and values.”
“As alleged, Pierre Girgis failed to meet his requirements to register as a foreign agent in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “At the behest of Egyptian officials, Girgis’s alleged prohibited conduct included attempting to covertly gather non-public intelligence about the activities of political opponents of Egypt’s president, and attempting to gain access for foreign officials to attend law enforcement-only trainings in Manhattan. This office will continue to strictly enforce foreign agent registration laws, which remain critically important to ensuring that our government is not secretly influenced by foreign governments.”
“Agents of foreign countries are required to register with our government for a good reason – they often act in their home country’s interests and against those of the United States,” said Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “We allege Mr. Girgis sent non-public information back to Egypt for the benefit of the Egyptian government. Mr. Girgis broke our laws, and we must hold him accountable.”
According to the indictment, on or about May 7, 2018, Girgis discussed his status as an agent of the Egyptian government with an Egyptian official (Egyptian Official-1) using an encrypted messaging application. During the conversation, Egyptian Official-1 expressed frustration that Girgis had met with personnel from a different Egyptian government agency during a recent trip by Girgis to Egypt, warned Girgis that “it is not possible to open with all the agencies,” and stated that Egyptian Official-1 was “letting you [Girgis] open with us only.” Later in the encrypted messaging exchange, Egyptian Official-1 advised Girgis that other Egyptian government agencies “want sources for themselves, and you [Girgis] have become an important source for them to collect information.” Girgis responded, “I know and I see and I learn from you,” and then informed Egyptian Official-1, “it will not be repeated again.”
Approximately one year later, on or about March 8, 2019, in the course of Girgis’s continuing operations as an Egyptian agent, Girgis and Egyptian Official-1 discussed an upcoming trip of certain Egyptian officials to the United States. During that telephone conversation, Girgis stated, “Tell me what you want me to do,” and Egyptian Official-1 responded by inquiring about Girgis’s relationship with a particular U.S. law enforcement officer. Egyptian Official-1 then instructed Girgis “to ask [the U.S. law enforcement officer] for something. We want you to find out if there are any police trainings happening in Manhattan in the coming days, and if so, who are the people in charge of these trainings? We would like to attend.” Later in the conversation, Girgis again asked, “What you want me to do?” Egyptian Official-1 directed Girgis, “Make follow up, Ok?” and Girgis agreed by responding, “Ok.”
Girgis is charged with one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and New York Field Office are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elinor L. Tarlow and Kyle A. Wirshba for the Southern District of New York and Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control section are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Girgis case is hardly atypical, law enforcement sources say. The full number and disposition of such cases in recent years was not readily available from the Justice Department, but according to former FBI counterintelligence chief Frank Figliuzzi and other former national security officials, efforts by foreign spy agencies to recruit US state and local police is a persistent problem. Figliuzzi said he had personally encountered cases of Chinese, Cuban, Turkish and Israeli agents cultivating local American police. As the Girgis case demonstrates, friendly but autocratic regimes, not just US adversaries, are aggressive in recruiting contacts among American police departments. One tool is through ‘police tourism,’ offering paid junkets for US state and local police to tour historic sites, all the while cultivating useful contracts in a relaxed, often boozy, setting. Turkey and Egypt are particularly aggressive suitors, both Figliuzzi and Evanina say.
Bill Evanina, a former top US counterintelligence and counterespionage official told Jeff Stein in the Spectator article that ‘The Chinese have perfected it, coming over here and offering partnerships with state and local law enforcement to do training and [to] understand their systems and capabilities. And then they kind of co-opt someone who’s usually in the administrative department to get access to records and data.’
Likewise, the Russians take a long range approach to penetrating our local police, Evanina said. The Russians have been ‘very good at seeding their people’ – sons and daughters of immigrants – ‘in police departments in the Sun Coast of Florida, New York and DC,’ where there are sizable Russian communities, Evanina said.
The Russians have been ‘very good at seeding their people’ – sons and daughters of immigrants – ‘in police departments in the Sun Coast of Florida, New York and DC,’ where there are sizable Russian communities, Evanina said.
The Russian infiltration of police departments also has ‘organised crime purposes,’ including ‘white slavery,’ trafficking women as sex workers, especially through strip clubs. ‘There’s one part of Florida that’s just Russian town after Russian town, right? They get in as a lower level police officer or trainee or administrative aide and then, ten years later, they’re in a position of prominence.’
The FBI has spent ‘two decades trying to warn state local law enforcement,’ Evanina said, with the help of national law enforcement organisations. But it’s been an uphill battle, with some 18,000 police departments across the country, most with little clue to the designs of foreign adversaries or the resources to vet them. They’re easy prey for foreign agents pretending to be regular, friendly police officers.