Alexei Saab, 45, a resident of Morristown, NJ who moved to the US from Lebanon in 2000, is accused of being a sleeper agent for the terrorist group Hezbollah. According to the FBI, Saab’s mission was allegedly to become a US citizen and later scout out landmarks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston for terrorist attacks for retaliation if the US were to attack Iran.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Adelsberg told the Jury on Monday that the lower Manhattan courthouse where the trial was being conducted, as well as the FBI offices at 26 Federal Plaza, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, all major airports, Brooklyn, Triborough, and George Washington bridges, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. He also allegedly sought fitting targets in France, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.
Saab was a software engineer working for technology companies in the US. In his free time, according to the prosecutor, he researched “details like, how buildings were constructed. How close one could get to a building to plant a bomb as part of an attack. And whether these buildings or landmarks had weaknesses or soft spots Hezbollah could exploit.”
“This was information that Hezbollah would use to calculate the size of a bomb needed to attack a particular target — information for determining the ideal location to place that bomb to maximize death and destruction,” Adelsberg told the jury. He said Saab had also fired at close range at a man who was suspected of spying for Israel, but his weapon jammed.
Saab’s lawyer admitted that his client used to have ties with Hezbollah, but when he was first approached by the FBI those ties had been long severed, as of 2005. He was arrested in July 2019.
Saab pleaded not guilty to providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy, receiving military training from a foreign terrorist organization, unlawful obtaining of US citizenship to carry out terrorist acts, and citizenship application fraud.
However, he did not deny a charge of marriage fraud in 2012, for allegedly marrying a co-conspirator under false pretense.
If convicted, the alleged Hezbollah agent may face from 25 to 100 years in prison.