Suspected Spy Remains a Vexing Mystery

Even after he was sentenced Monday to more than 10 years in jail for using a fake identity to gain access to classified information about military tactics and strategy in Iraq, a U.S. Army contract translator remains a mystery to U.S. authorities.

More than a year after the suspect pleaded guilty, no one in the government can confirm his identity.

The case raises serious questions about the vetting of military contractors. How does someone who makes up an identity get a job as a contract translator working for the U.S. military? Even more troubling: How does someone like that get secret and top secret security clearances?

And what type of controls do U.S. officials have for protecting documents after the man was able to download sensitive files, remove document copies and photograph a classified map?

The convicted defendant, who had been living in Brooklyn, N.Y., applied for and received U.S. citizenship.

He lied to achieve that goal, so the court issued an order for that citizenship to be stripped. Even though he was given citizenship, the U.S. government says it is not certain of his true name.

A Justice Department press release issued this week said the man's "true identity is still unknown" but said he "goes by various names including Abdulhakeem Nour, Abu Hakim, Noureddine Malki, Almaliki Nour, and Almalik Nour Eddin."

The man referred to by the government as "Nour" applied for a translator position with the L-3 Titan Corp. in August 2003. L-3 provides translation services for U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

He was assigned to an intelligence group in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army at Al Taqqadam Air Base.

The government said he downloaded a classified document and took hard copies of several other classified documents.

"The documents detail the 82nd Airborne's mission in Iraq in regard to insurgent activity, such as coordinates of insurgent locations upon which the U.S. Army was preparing to fire in January 2004, and U.S. Army plans for protecting Sunni Iraqis traveling on their pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in late January 2004," a Justice Department statement says.

"During a later deployment to a U.S. Army base near Najaf, Iraq, the defendant photographed a classified battle map identifying U.S. troop routes used in August 2004 during the bloody battle of Najaf, where the U.S. and Iraqi security forces sustained serious casualties," the government said.

The photographs and other classified material were removed from the suspect's Brooklyn apartment during a search by a joint terrorism task force search in September 2005. One of the documents was so sensitive, the government declined to even describe it in court records.

Investigators suspect Nour may have been spying for insurgents. The Justice Department, in a Feb. 7, 2007, pre-trial memorandum, noted that Nour "had an opportunity to provide stolen classified information to anti-coalition forces, because the defendant was in contact with numerous foreign nationals after the defendant's deployment at TQ [Al Taqaddum Airbase] ended."

"Specifically, the defendant was in unauthorized phone and e-mail contact with a former United States Army source in Iraq known as 'Kifah,'" the memorandum said. "In addition, the defendant was in e-mail contact with Sunni sheiks in the Sunni Triangle -- individuals from whom the defendant admitted taking bribes."

The question remains: Who is Nour? It is unknown if he was working for a foreign adversary, insurgents or a terrorist group. But regardless of his affiliation, government officials said he has a great hatred for the United States.

A search of his computer yielded a number of photographs, including a picture of the Empire State Building with a bull's-eye on it, and a mock shipping company ad depicting a 9/11 plane headed toward a World Trade Center tower with the words "We fly things straight to your office."