A New Jersey Muslim 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 is charged with providing support to a terrorist group, citizenship fraud, receiving military training from a terrorist group, fraudulent marriage, and other charges. He faces dozens of years in prison if convicted on all counts.
NY Post Alexei Saab, 45, of Morristown — also known as Ali Hassan Saab, Alex Saab, or “Rachid” — was charged in a nine-count indictment for allegedly providing material support to the deadly organization. He 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.
Saab allegedly moved to the U.S. in 2000 from Lebanon with a secret mission to apply for citizenship and plan a future attack on behalf of the militant group designated a foreign terrorist organization.
“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. The prosecutor said Saab also surveyed buildings in Boston, Washington D.C., and other cities abroad and tried to murder an Israeli spy in the 1990s.
Saab allegedly gathered “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,” Adelsberg said.
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.