Saturday, October 22, 2005

A man who was a contract interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq with a high-level security clearance for more than two years faces charges of lying to federal agents after accusations that almost every detail of the biography he provided to them for a background check was false.

The interpreter was a native Arabic speaker who was employed by San Diego-based Titan Corp. and who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2000 claiming to be a Lebanese national named Almaliki Nour. He was charged Oct. 13 in a complaint filed in a federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y.

James Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI in New York, told United Press International that he knew of no terrorist connection to the case, but specialists say it does highlight the difficulty of carrying out background and security checks on those who grew up outside the country.

The complaint charges the man with lying to federal officials on three occasions: in his application for naturalization in 1998, in his application for a security clearance in 2003 and in interviews connected with the renewal of his clearance in September.

On each occasion, the complaint says, he claimed that his name was Almaliki Nour, that he was born in December 1960 in Beirut, that he had never been married and that his parents had been killed in Beirut when his family’s “house was shelled” during the civil war there in the early 1980s.

The complaint goes on to say that none of the claims is true.

Earlier this month, federal agents questioned the man and searched his apartment in Brooklyn. In the course of the interview, the complaint says, he told FBI agents that his real name was not Almaliki Nour, but Nourredine Malik. He said that he was not born in Lebanon in December 1960, but in Morocco in November 1959, is a Moroccan citizen and is married. He also admitted that his parents were alive and living in Morocco.

Documents found during the search — a Moroccan power of attorney and bank documents showing money transfers to a woman in that country — confirmed this story, the complaint says.

Nonetheless, it says, the man’s true identity is unknown. He was arrested and charged as “FNU LNU” — First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown.

The case highlights the difficulty of completing security checks on people who grew up abroad, something increasingly necessary as U.S. agencies try to ramp up their language capacity for the war against terror by employing naturalized citizens or other Americans who are native speakers of foreign languages.

Specialists say that much of the paper trail — school, college and employment records, for instance — that investigators typically check for security clearance applicants is missing in the case of people who were born or grew up abroad.

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