An Indiana truck driver suspected of trying to sell information to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government testified Friday he never had access to U.S. intelligence secrets, and continued to claim he was a victim of mistaken identity.
Shaaban Hafiz Ahmad Ali Shaaban said he did not know the names of U.S. operatives in Iraq and knew no one with access to such a list.
He said the government has confused him with a twin brother, who died in 2003 but had worked for the CIA for years.
In testimony last week, an older brother of Shaaban said the 53-year-old has no twin.
Federal prosecutors allege Shaaban traveled to Baghdad in late 2002 and agreed to sell the names of U.S. operatives to Saddam’s government for $3 million. No evidence has been presented that Shaaban actually had such information.
Shaaban testified Friday that he traveled to Syria in 2002 to join his twin on a secret mission for the CIA to obtain information about Baghdad’s defenses and make contact with the Iraqi opposition.
“We were supposed to infiltrate,” he said before prosecutors objected.
Shaaban, who had been a truck driver before his arrest last March, said he never entered Iraq during the trip because Syrian officials confiscated his passport when he arrived at the airport in Damascus.
Judge calls defense document ‘phony’
Shaaban, who is conducting his own defense with the help of two attorneys, tried to enter several items as evidence that he said support his contention that he did not enter Iraq.
U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder rejected most of the material, including a document Shaaban said had been faxed from a hotel in Damascus that he said shows he stayed there during Oct. 27-Nov. 11, 2002, as Syrian authorities investigated him.
“This is perhaps the phoniest document I have ever seen,” Tinder said.
According to testimony Thursday, Shaaban’s boss arranged for him to travel to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with his wife and son in October 2004. While they were away, FBI agents searched their home in Greenfield, about 20 miles east of Indianapolis, and took photographs, photocopied documents and copied his computer hard drive. A federal magistrate authorized an undisclosed search under the Patriot Act.
Agents allegedly found computer files praising Saddam and an unsigned contract proposing to recruit “human shields” to protect Iraq from the U.S. invasion, along with evidence of multiple identities.
Shaaban faces charges that include acting as a foreign agent, violating sanctions against Iraq, conspiracy and witness tampering. If convicted, he could face up to 65 years in prison and more than $1.5 million in fines.
Shaaban will face cross-examination from federal prosecutors on Monday.