FBI arrests VA man charged as unregistered agent of Pakistani ISI

The FBI on Tuesday morning arrested a Fairfax, Va., man charged with acting as an unregistered, paid agent of the Pakistani intelligence services for twenty years.

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, a U.S. citizen, "is accused of a decades-long scheme with one purpose--to hide Pakistan's involvement behind his efforts to influence the U.S. government's position on Kashmir," said Neil MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in an FBI press release.

Fai serves as director of the Washington, D.C.-based Kashmiri American Council (KAC). The outfit, founded in 1990, describes itself as a "not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of knowledge in the United States about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination."

But a 45-page affidavit released by the Justice Department Tuesday alleges that Fai was in almost constant touch with Pakistani intelligence handlers who arranged the funding and messaging for the group.

The Kashmiri Action Council is "actually run by elements of the Pakistani government, including Pakistan's military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI)," the FBI press release said. The money Fai's Pakistani handlers arranged to be funneled to the group was then used "to contribute to U.S. elected officials, fund high-profile conferences, and pay for other efforts that promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington," MacBride said.

Beginning in 2007, the FBI repeatedly warned Fai of information--obtained from confidential witnesses, electronic surveillance and physical searches --that his work was being funded by the Pakistani government. The FBI also notified Fai in writing in 2010 of his obligation to register as an agent of the Pakistani government with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), according to the FBI.

But Fai consistently denied "that either he or KAC had ever engaged in any activities for or provided any services to Pakistan or any foreign entity," the Justice Department said.

Also charged Tuesday in the case but still at large was Zaheer Ahmad, 63, a U.S. citizen believed to be residing in Pakistan.

The Pakistani embassy denied Tuesday that it knew anything about the case and said Fai was not a Pakistani citizen.

But on page 42 of the affidavit, it states that as recently as this year -- on January 6, 2011 -- Fai received a message from Fozia Bibi, the third secretary of the Pakistani embassy, "attaching a list of 11 media persons and six intellectuals from think tanks that Fai was encouraged to meet and cultivate."

Asked about the described embassy contact, Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani said the embassy had no involvement or knowledge of Fai's allegedly illegal funding arrangements.

"Ms. Bibi was in touch [with] Mr. Fai about an event he organized [with] US officials & scholars present," Haqqani said on Twitter in response to a query posted by the Envoy.

Fai has given donations to both Republican and Democratic U.S. politicians, Politico's Ben Smith reported: "Fai's largest contribution, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, was to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to which he gave $5,000 in 2006 and $1,000 in 2008. He gave smaller sums more recently to the DSCC and the DNC, and has given $5,000 to Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), $250 to Barack Obama and $500 Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.)."