Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey said the Justice Department had not met the legal standard required to keep either Arian Taherzadeh or Haider Ali in jail.
“There is no evidence of foreign ties in this case,” Harvey said, adding that there was no “suggestion that any foreign government that is hostile to the United States” was involved in the alleged plot.
Prosecutors had argued that both men posed a danger to the community because of the cache of weapons investigators found at their Washington, DC, residence. They also argued that Taherzadeh had deleted evidence on his social media page and may try to further obstruct the investigation, and that Ali posed a flight risk.
During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors didn’t provide any further information on what, if anything, Ali and Taherzadeh received from the federal agents they interacted with, nor did they suggest what the men’s intentions were in befriending the agents. Lawyers for both defendants deny that their clients were part of an intelligence operation to influence US officials.
Secret Service initiates review
An internal Secret Service review found no evidence that sensitive digital records were breached after four of its members were duped by Taherzadeh and Ali, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
A scrubbing of internal records found there’s no indication that Secret Service digital records were breached or passed to the defendants, according to the official. The defendants also never physically entered any protectee locations, the official said.
The official also said that employees from more than a dozen agencies came into contact with at least one of the defendants during the two-year period of their alleged scam. Federal prosecutors previously said Taherzadeh and Ali interacted with officials from the Secret Service, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the Navy.
Prosecutors said in court Tuesday that the Secret Service agents who interacted with the alleged imposters were stationed at the White House and the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory.
Encounter with DC police
One of those contacts, which is now receiving scrutiny, is an encounter in February 2021 with the Metropolitan Police Department in DC, more than a year before the arrests.
Officers responded to a report of a person with a gun in the building that the FBI raided last week as part of the “fake feds” probe. The responding officers spoke with Taherzadeh, who was with two other men, and concluded that the supposed rifle that was spotted by a bystander was actually a legal airsoft gun. The officers closed the matter and left the scene.
Potential foreign ties
Rothstein said he was not accusing Ali of having any connection to the Pakistani intelligence agency known as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but rather that Ali himself had made those claims to one witness and prosecutors “are bringing facts to [the judges] attention.”
Ali’s attorney clarified that he is not a Pakistani citizen and only had a Pakistan national identity card to “avoid having to seek visas” to the country, where he was born.
A spokesperson from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington said the claim that Ali is tied to Pakistani’s ISI is “totally fallacious” and that “the embassy categorically rejects this false claim.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen and David Shortell contributed to this report.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Mr Blow Up