ICE deports Iraqi national with ties to Al Qaeda operatives

SEATTLE - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today announced that an Iraqi citizen, who had ties to an Al Qaeda leader and was deemed a national security risk by a federal immigration judge, an administrative appeals court and a federal appeals court, was recently removed to his native country.

Sam Malkandi, 51, was living in Kirkland, Wash., in 1999 when he attempted to fraudulently obtain a U.S. visa for Tawfiq bin Attash to travel here and purportedly receive medical treatment. Bin Attash, also known as "Khallad," was a trusted lieutenant and former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, and is suspected of planning the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

During Malkandi's hearings before a federal immigration judge, ICE attorneys introduced evidence that Malkandi committed fraud against the U.S. government in order to obtain immigration benefits for himself and his family. ICE attorneys also presented evidence linking Malkandi to Khallad and argued that there are reasonable grounds for regarding Malkandi as a danger to the security of the United States. In February 2006, the immigration judge ordered Malkandi removed to Iraq.

The Board of Immigration Appeals considered his case and, three months later, upheld the immigration court's order of removal. Malkandi appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In August 2009, the Ninth Circuit issued a published decision upholding the immigration judge's opinion and ruling that nothing prevented ICE from deporting Malkandi.

"We are gratified that justice has prevailed in this case," said Dorothy Stefan, chief counsel for ICE in Seattle. "Our laws prohibit aliens who are living here as our guests to use this country as a base to advocate terrorism or support terrorists. ICE will use every tool at its disposal to restore integrity to the nation's immigration system and protect the community from those who might attempt to do us harm."

Evidence linking Malkandi to Al Qaeda surfaced in 2003 after bin Attash was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, and turned over to U.S. authorities. According to a footnote on page 492 of The 9/11 Commission Report, bin Attash told U.S. officials in August 2003 that an individual living in Bothell, Wash., whose name sounded like "Barzan," had tried to help him obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States.

U.S. officials concluded that "Barzan" was very likely Sarbarz Mohammad who was living in Bothell at the time. Sarbarz Mohammad changed his name to Sam Malkandi in 2001.

A subsequent investigation by ICE and FBI agents on the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) determined that "Barzan" and Sam Malkandi were the same individual.

Among other things, federal agents were able to obtain documents indicating that Malkandi had made arrangements with a clinic in Bellevue, Wash., for bin Attash, under an alias, to obtain a new prosthetic foot in 1999. Bin Attash was never able to come to the United States as his visa application was denied.

ICE agents arrested Malkandi in August 2005 on grounds that he had committed fraud against the U.S. government in order to obtain immigration benefits for himself and his family. Specifically, he was accused of falsely claiming to have been incarcerated in Iran for possession of prohibited materials. At the time of the arrest, JTTF agents executed a search warrant at Malkandi's home.