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Girgis Charged As Agent of Egypt UN Mission Asks for FISA Materials Citing McGonigal

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURT, Exclusive series, Nov 15 – In another illegal spying or representation case, alongside Eastern District of New York prosecutions of a UN-affiliated Iranian spy and an NYPD officer reporing to China's Mission to the UN about Tibetans in New York, on January 6 the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment charging PIERRE GIRGIS, a dual Egyptian and U.S. citizen, with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as an unregistered agent of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

 GIRGIS was taken into custody on January 6 and Inner City Press is following the case. Later on January 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrates Court where Inner City Press was the only media, Girgis was released on $100,000 bond by Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger, to be secured by his car within two weeks, see below.

  On February 16 Girgis and his Federal Defenders appeared before SDNY District Judge Alison J. Nathan. There was talk of discovery to be loaded onto a 2 gigabyte hard drive in three weeks.

Jump cut to June 23, 2022: after Judge Nathan's elevation to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Girgis' case was reassigned to Judge Katherine Polk Failla, who held an in-person conference which Inner City Press attended, one of two people in the gallery. (The other was a Girgis relative or supporter).

  Federal Defender Andrew Dalack said he is considering challenging the FISA warrants. The Assistant US Attorney spoke of 25,000 recorded phone calls. Dallack cited the need for a (publicly-funded) interpreter, and his Saipov terrorism trial set for September with the death penalty still on the table.

On September 14, more delay was sought, to push the September 16 conference back 60 days because Girgis' lawyer is preparing for a death penalty trial (that Inner City Press is also covering). They ask to toll Speedy Trial Act time to allow the parties to discuss a possible pretrial disposition.

On November 29, 2022, on the eve of a scheduled status conference, Federal Defenders wrote it to propose pushing their time for a motion to compel to March 31, 2023, citing "lead defense counsel's trial scheduled in US v. Saipov" (which Inner City Press is also covering). Letter on Patreon here.

On November 30 at 11:30 am, Inner City Press went to the courtroom (lobby) at the time appointed for the status conference. But the door was locked. An hour later, this was docketed: "ENDORSED LETTER as to Pierre Girgis addressed to Judge Katherine Polk Failla from Attorney Hannah McCrea. dated November 29, 2022 re: On behalf of the parties, we write to respectfully update the Court regarding the status of discovery in this case and to propose a motion schedule for the defense's anticipated motion to compel certain documents and other items material to Mr. Girgis's defense and motion preparation, including materials implicating the propriety of electronic surveillance conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."

On April 28, 2023, Girgis' lawyers filed a motion for among other things the FISA warrants and all information about the role of Charles McGonigal, now himself indicted, citing McGonigal's charged misconduct.

In mid July 2023 the case was pushed further back: "MEMO ENDORSEMENT as to Pierre Girgis (1) granting [38] LETTER MOTION addressed to Judge Katherine Polk Failla from AUSA dated July 12, 2023 re: adjournment request. ENDORSEMENT: Application GRANTED. The Court adopts the parties' proposed briefing schedule. Additionally, the conference on the motion currently scheduled for August 30, 2023 is hereby ADJOURNED to 10:00 a.m. on October 17, 2023 (Signed by Judge Katherine Polk Failla on 7/12/2023)."

Late on August 4, 2023, the AUSAs filed opposition to Girgis' motion to compel. It recounted among other things who from Egypt's Mission to the UN Mohammed Hassan Elsayed directed Girgis to go after "Activist-1 and Activist-2." The filing has a declaration and claim of privilege from AAG for National Security Matthew G. Olsen.

On October 12, Judge Failla pushed the oral argument on the motion to compel back four weeks: "NOTICE OF HEARING ON MOTION [35] MOTION to Compel Discovery in case as to Pierre Girgis: The motion hearing scheduled on 10/17/2023 is ADJOURNED to 11/15/2023 at 10:00 a.m."

On November 15, 2023, Inner City Press attended the oral argument, thread:

OK - now at challenge to FISA warrant in Egypt spying case of Girgis. Federal Defender is trashing Rule 41 warrant affiant Connors.

FD: We understand McGonigal led a briefing to NYPD, we have a right to the damage evaluation report. What we have gotten is heavily redacted. Judge: I can go in cameraFD: They used EO 12333, they surveilled Girgis overseas...

Judge: The government will tell me what they can tell me. [Note: the CISO, Daniel Hartenstine,  is in the jury box, like in cases of Somali Cholo (pro se) and before that, Joshua Schulte, #BrutalKangaroo]

Judge: If I go in camera, I may return and say, There is nothing I can disclose to you. AUSA: That Flanagan's criminal history was not disclosed in the warrant application is not enough. Probable cause did not turn on that.

 Judge: If I find a Franks violation, do they get the FISA material? AUSA: No, but for reasons I won't discuss in this setting. We could do a Section 2. Here there were alleged clandestine activities, we minimized as much as we could

 AUSA: The FISA procedures are working appropriately here. There is no need for adversary proceedings. Judge: I want to believe that... I have reviewed a drawer of materials. But how do I evaluate the minimization? Maybe we have to go under Section 2

 FD: FISA doesn't mandate cutting us out. Judge: I won't do the classified proceeding just now.

November 15 vlog here.

Previously Dallack told Judge Nathan that Girgis has been receiving death threats, and he linked it to the "tone" of the DOJ's press release. He said Girgis had hired private counsel to make a no-charge pitch and was surprised when he was arrested. He said there is no allegation Girgis took money for spying. Filings are due in March, and in 90 days. Inner City Press will remain on the case.

  But two weeks later Girgis' lawyers wrote in to say the bond was still not secured by Girgis' car and wanting, on consent, until February 4 to comply.

 Girgis' case was assigned to District Judge Alison J. Nathan, who has been nominated for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Podcast here.

On March 30, Girgis' lawyers wrote to Judge Nathan to ask on consent for delay to May 2 as the US on March 9 gave thousands of documents and forensic cell phone extractions.

From 2014 to 2019, GIRGIS, a native of Egypt, acted in the United States as an agent of the Egyptian government, without notifying the U.S. Attorney General as required by law. GIRGIS operated at the direction and control of multiple officials of the Egyptian government in an effort to further the interests of the Egyptian government in the United States. Among other things, at the direction of Egyptian government officials, GIRGIS tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

 GIRGIS also leveraged his connections with local U.S. law enforcement officers to collect non-public information at the direction of Egyptian officials, arranged benefits for Egyptian officials who were visiting Manhattan, and coordinated meetings between U.S. and Egyptian law enforcement in the United States, including by attempting to arrange for Egyptian officials to attend police trainings.  

   On or about May 7, 2018, GIRGIS discussed his status as an agent of the Egyptian government with an Egyptian official (“Egyptian Official-1”) using an encrypted messaging application. During the conversation, Egyptian Official-1 expressed frustration that GIRGIS had communicated with personnel from a different Egyptian government agency, warned GIRGIS that “it is not possible to open with all the agencies,” and stated that Egyptian Official-1 was “letting you [GIRGIS] open with us only.”

 Later in the encrypted messaging exchange, Egyptian Official-1 advised GIRGIS that other Egyptian government agencies “want sources for themselves, and you [GIRGIS] have become an important source for them to collect information.” GIRGIS responded, “I know and I see and I learn from you,” and then informed Egyptian Official-1, “it will not be repeated again.”    

 Approximately one year later, on or about March 8, 2019, in the course of GIRGIS’s continuing operations as an Egyptian agent, GIRGIS and Egyptian Official-1 discussed an upcoming trip of certain Egyptian officials to the United States. During that telephone conversation, GIRGIS stated, “Tell me what you want me to do,” and Egyptian Official-1 responded by inquiring about GIRGIS’s relationship with a particular U.S. law enforcement officer. Egyptian Official-1 then instructed GIRGIS “to ask [the U.S. law enforcement officer] for something. We want you to find out if there are any police trainings happening in Manhattan in the coming days, and if so, who are the people in charge of these trainings? We would like to attend.” Later in the conversation, GIRGIS again asked, “What you want me to do?” Egyptian Official-1 directed GIRGIS, “Make follow up, Ok?” and GIRGIS agreed by responding, “Ok.”   

 GIRGIS, 39, is a resident of Manhattan. GIRGIS is charged with one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The level of diplomatic sleaze is expanding, particular in New York where the United Nations is based but remains immune from the law. Inner City Press is on the case.

This case is US v. Girgis, 22-cr-6 (Failla)


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