A 67-year-old Maryland restaurateur, known by the code name "Adam," pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to spying for the Iraqi government - including Saddam Hussein's regime - since 1989.
According to court documents, Saubhe Jassim Al-Dellemy used his Laurel restaurant to gather information about nearby U.S. agencies and their employees, including where military officers lived. He gave the data to Iraqi Intelligence Service members and officials, who sometimes met at the restaurant.
Reached by telephone yesterday at the restaurant, Gourmet Shish Kebab, Al-Dellemy declined to comment. He could face a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and deportation. Sentencing is scheduled for March.
"The FBI is committed to rooting out and prosecuting those individuals who enjoy the benefits of residing in this country but who are acting on behalf of hostile foreign intelligence services," Amy Jo Lyons, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office, said in a statement. Since coalition forces invaded Iraq in 2003, the U.S. Justice Department has charged at least a dozen people with acting as intelligence agents for Hussein's government.
During yesterday's hearing in Baltimore, Al-Dellemy looked more grandfather than spy, his silver hair carefully combed. He has diabetes and high blood pressure, he told the court. A 2007 Sun story about Iraqi refugees seeking safety in America featured him as a benevolent uncle who had opened his home to a grandniece and her son.
He stood calmly before Judge Richard D. Bennett, sometimes conferring with an attorney before answering questions.
"They explain to me everything," he said of his attorneys. "We go through every paragraph."
Much of the proceeding, including the conditions attached to Al-Dellemy's release pending sentencing, was conducted in private at the judge's bench. But as part of his plea agreement, Al-Dellemy signed a three-page statement of facts that outlines his secret-agent role, which wasn't discovered until decades after he had moved to the United States.
Born in Iraq, Al-Dellemy came to America in the 1980s as a student, his education paid for by the controlling Iraqi Baath party. In exchange, he promised to provide his home government with information about the United States, including identities and activities of those "opposed to Saddam Hussein and his regime, and specifics regarding United States policy and actions toward the Iraqi government."
He became a legal permanent resident of the U.S. in 2000. Several years later, after the Iraq invasion, U.S. military discovered Iraqi Intelligence Service documents that described the work of someone called "Adam," later identified as Al-Dellemy. They showed he had been passing along U.S. information since 1989 and was paid for his efforts.
He shredded incriminating documents at the Iraq Embassy in 1990 and organized social gatherings. He used his restaurant to gather information about Fort Meade and the National Security Agency. And he lied to FBI agents earlier this year to cover up his actions - "long after he became a lawful permanent resident of the United States," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.