WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge has revoked the U.S. citizenship of an Egyptian man the government claims is a senior al-Qaida jihadist operative.
Barely mentioning Khaled Abu al-Dahab’s alleged links to terrorism, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell instead found that he had illegally procured his citizenship after falsifying information on his naturalization applications three times.
Howell focused on the fact that al-Dahab, who was naturalized as a citizen in 1997, had lied about his marital and travel histories. He had also falsely claimed in a 1988 employment application to be a U.S. citizen.
“The defendant’s false testimony and statements on these three occasions establish by clear, unequivocal, and convincing—indeed, undisputed—evidence that the defendant procured his citizenship illegally,” Howell’s 17-page opinion, released Wednesday, states.
Al-Dahab, 57, came to the U.S. in 1986 on a non-immigrant visa. He married three times, but according to the court ruling, concealed his third marriage during a naturalization interview and in his application paperwork.
Al-Dahab, who now resides in Alexandria, Egypt, also said he had not left the country in the five years prior to submitting several applications for naturalization. On his second application, however, he claimed to have left the country once on an emergency trip because he thought he would have to donate a kidney to his mother.
But the Department of Justice cites far more sinister reasons for its desire to revoke al-Dahab’s citizenship. In a press release about the court ruling, the DOJ said al-Dahab had worked in Silicon Valley as a car salesman, where he confessed to being a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
Howell’s opinion only mentions this claim once, buried in a footnote on page 12.
“The government also claims that the defendant gave untrue statements about his residences and an alleged affiliation with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization, supporting these claims with declarations by a single FBI Special Agent,” the footnote states.
“From on or about November 2, 1989 through at least on or about October 29, 1998, Defendant was a member or associated with EIJ,” the government’s Oct. 31, 2016, motion for summary judgment states.
The U.S. government designated the EIJ as a foreign terrorist organization on Sept. 24, 2001.
A Nov. 21, 2001, San Francisco Gate article by Lance Williams supports the government’s assertions. According to the article, which is based on unspecified accounts of Egyptian court proceedings and interviews with people who knew al-Dahab, al-Dahab confessed to an Egyptian military court that he was a member of the EIJ.
By Williams’ account, al-Dahab turned against the U.S., Israeli and Egyptian governments after his father’s death in a 1973 plane crash.
Israeli fighter jets shot down the Cairo-bound plane when it strayed into airspace over the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel still occupied after conquering the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Williams reported that Egyptian authorities arrested al-Dahab in Cairo in 1998. A military court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for his Islamic Jihad membership and his role in plotting to overthrow the Egyptian government.
Howell ignored this alleged history in her ruling, even though the government had used it to argue for revocation of al-Dahab’s citizenship.
“Defendant’s membership or affiliation with EIJ constitutes prima facie evidence that he was not attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and was not well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States at the time of naturalization,” the government’s motion states.
The government also claims al-Dahab had confessed to recruiting 10 U.S. citizens to al-Qaida — which reportedly delighted Osama bin Laden — during the 12 years he lived in California.
“Al-Dahab told the investigators that Osama bin Laden was eager to recruit American citizens of Middle Eastern descent because their U.S. passports could be used to facilitate international travel by al Qaeda terrorists, and that bin Laden personally congratulated him for this work,” the DOJ said in a statement (alternative spelling of al-Quaida in the original).
Al-Dahab allegedly confessed to traveling to Afghanistan to report directly to Osama bin Laden about his recruitment successes.
According to the government’s motion for summary judgment, al-Dahab had attended a camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan to receive military training and teach other Islamic Jihad members to fly hang gliders for use in terror attacks.
The government says he also operated a communications hub for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad from his Santa Clara, California, apartment, which facilitated terror attacks abroad.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions applauded the DOJ for prosecuting al-Dahab.
“We will protect our national security and our borders, and when we identify individuals tied to foreign terrorist organizations who procured their U.S. citizenship by fraud, we will initiate denaturalization proceedings – whether you reside here or abroad – and ensure you are denied entry into the United States,” Sessions said in a statement.