A New Jersey software engineer lived a dark double life as a “sleeper agent” in an elite Hezbollah unit, scouting terror targets in New York City for the militant group, federal prosecutors charged at the start of his trial Monday.
Alexei Saab, 45, kept up appearances as a “normal” law-abiding US citizen — all while gathering intelligence on a number of Big Apple landmarks, tunnels and bridges, Assistant US Attorney Sam Adelsberg said in his opening statement.
“He posed as a regular guy,” Adelsberg said. “In reality, he was a sleeper agent for Hezbollah ready to strike.”
Saab was recruited by the terror organization as a college student in Lebanon and rose up the ranks, ultimately enlisting in the “external security organization,” or unit 910, the prosecutor alleged.
In the early 2000s, Hezbollah dispatched Saab and other “spies” to countries including the US — putting them in place to kill Americans if the US attacked Iran, the group’s main ally, he said.
“He was sent by Hezbollah to set up a sleeper cell right here in this city,” Adelsberg told jurors.
Between 2000 and 2005, the Morristown resident allegedly surveilled potential targets for Hezbollah — including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Midtown tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and even the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan where his trial is now taking place.
As part of his work for the unit, Saab determined if the locations had weaknesses or “soft spots” – and where near them a bomb would have to be planted to cause the most harm, Adelsberg alleged.
Saab, a US citizen since 2008, was arrested by the feds in 2019 and charged with several counts, including terrorism, for allegedly providing material support to the deadly organization.
Defense attorney Marlon Kirton said the Justice Department’s case is built almost entirely on statements Saab made to investigators before he had been informed of his Miranda rights.
Kirton also argued Hezbollah has never attacked US citizens in America – and that Saab was recruited into the group amid regional conflict between Lebanon and Israel.
“No evidence as of today that Hezbollah has attacked people here in America,” Kirton said in his opening statement.
Saab faces dozens of years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Source » nypost