Calling it a case of betrayal, a prosecutor urged jurors Thursday to convict a former Army translator who is charged with concealing his role as an agent of the Iraqi government in the U.S. in the 1990s.
Documents recovered in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein revealed that Issam “Sam” Hamama was known as agent 6129 and had offered to track Iraqi opposition groups in the United States, according to prosecutors.
Hamama, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., denied any contact with foreign governments when he sought a security clearance in 2003 to work as a U.S. military translator in Iraq, his native country.
“Lies, lies, lies, and then he’s caught and he’s got to explain,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Martin told jurors.
Defense attorney Haytham Faraj acknowledged that Hamama had contact with Iraqi officials stationed in the U.S. in the 1990s but said he didn’t consider them to be “foreign” and didn’t know they were intelligence agents
“They’re kinfolk. They’re like him,” Faraj said in his closing argument. “It doesn’t mean you have to have nefarious intent.”
Hamama, a naturalized U.S. citizen who formerly lived in the Detroit area, is charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent and making false statements to investigators.
The government noted that he made 200 phone calls to Iraqi officials in the mid-1990s and received payments or meals worth about $800. Hamama published a magazine that was pro-Saddam. A video of a Washington, D.C., party in 1996 shows him calling Saddam the “champion of the Arab world.”
Faraj said Hamama, a Chaldean, liked Saddam only because the dictator favored Christians. He said his client passed along benign information about other Iraqi Christians in the U.S.
“What’s wrong with loving two places equally?” Faraj told jurors, referring to Hamama’s affection for Iraq and the United States.
There is no allegation that Hamama fed intelligence to Iraqi forces when he worked as a U.S. military translator. Some trial witnesses praised him for his work in Iraq.
“I would trust my life” with Hamama, retired Lt. Col. James Oliver testified.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)