Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Man Who Wouldn't Spy for the US

"The F.B.I. tried to recruit an Iranian scientist as an informant. When he balked, the payback was brutal." Laura Secor tells the story of Sirous Asgari, an Iranian who had once attended graduate school in America, where his wife gave birth to his American citizen daughter, and where his two sons attended American universities. But on a visit in 2017 he was detained by the F.B.I. He was charged with "theft of trade secrets, visa fraud, and eleven counts of wire fraud." He considered the charges to be nonsense and refused a deal offered that appeared to be the real reason behind the charges — to get him to agree to act as an informant, that is to spy for the US back in Iran. He fought the trumped up charges in an American courtroom and won. But after the judge dismissed all charges against him, even before he could leave the courtroom, he was detained by I.C.E. And then the real hell began.

Only the two legal teams remained, in a cavernous silence—the prosecutors with their backs to the defense, shuffling papers into briefcases while Bryan fumed and paced. Finally, he erupted. "This is bullshit," he said. "It was always bullshit!"

The day Asgari was cleared of all charges, he began a seven-month descent down a spiral of squalor, into a vast carceral system beyond the reach of the U.S. judiciary. Within the realm of ICE, there would be no public documents, no legal hearings. His federal defenders could not help him.


Asgari had been a revolutionary not because he was a religious ideologue but because he was an egalitarian. He believed that social justice took precedence over any theory of the state. What surprised him most, when he first came to America, in the nineties, was that such a calm, orderly society had risen from the cruel machinery of capitalism.

He believed that his time in detention had given him a more complete picture of American society than most citizens possessed. "I have friends in low places," he often told me, with a chuckle. He’d spent two years in the federal court system and five months in the clutches of ICE, all because the F.B.I. had tried and failed to recruit him, and because his visa—if it really was a visa—had never been stamped. Now, in an ICE detention center on the Texas-Louisiana border, he was having a Tocqueville moment.

Source: Laura Secor.
Read the full story in The New Yorker. It made my hair stand on end. I couldn't believe this was possible in America. I consider myself a cynic, but now I have to consider the possibility that I was really naive.

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