WASHINGTON – A federal magistrate rejected prosecutors’ request to detain accused law enforcement imposters who compromised Secret Service members, saying there is no evidence that the two pose a national security risk or made a “nefarious” attempt to infiltrate the Secret Service.
“There has been no showing that national security information has been compromised,” U.S. Magistrate G. Michael Harvey ruled, casting a wary assessment of the government’s overall case against Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, who were arrested last week following a raid on a downtown apartment complex.
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Harvey took special aim at the government’s claim that the two suspects, who allegedly posed as federal law enforcement agents, had the actual financial wherewithal to provide personal gifts, including rent-free apartments to at least two Secret Service valued at more than $40,000 each.
The magistrate noted that the owners of an upscale downtown apartment complex where the two suspects allegedly controlled five apartment units had obtained judgements against the suspects for thousands of dollars in unpaid rent.
“There does appear to be a lot of bravado here,” Harvey said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein said the government would weigh a possible appeal of the decision; Harvey said he would delay the suspects’ release until Wednesday morning to arrange their proper placement in home confinement with family members.
Some of the most tantalizing aspects of the government’s case, however, were called into question by the judge.
In addition to the concerns raised about the suspects’ ability to finance a law enforcement infiltration effort, Harvey said the government’s references to Ali’s foreign travel to Iran, Iraq and Pakistan and alleged claims of a connection to Pakistan’s intelligence agency were overstated.
Prosecutors have asserted that Ali had told at least one witness he had connections with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
The judge said there was no “reliable evidence” that a foreign government had provided financing or was supporting the suspects and their outreach to the Secret Service.
Ali’s family members have said the travel was related to religious pilgrimages, which Harvey described Tuesday as “plausible” explanations.
The decision comes a day after defense lawyers offered a forceful rebuttal of the government’s case.
More:‘This is quite serious’: Secret Service agents ‘compromised’ by imposters posing as federal agents, prosecutors claim
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Ali attorney, Gregory Smith during Monday’s detention hearing. “There have been times in my career when I’ve seen the government get out over their skis; this is the case here.”
“The real imposter here is the impersonation of this case as a national security threat,” he said, during a Monday detention hearing where both suspects sought their releases pending trial.
Four Secret Service member, two agents and two members of the Uniformed Division, remain on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.