DETROIT A former agent for the FBI and CIA pleaded guilty Tuesday to faking a marriage to win U.S. citizenship, clearing the way to being hired and given security clearances by the two intelligence agencies.
Nada Nadim Prouty, 37, emigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1989. She was given U.S. citizenship five years later and began working as a special agent at the FBI's field office in Washington in 1999, according to a criminal information sheet filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
While working as a special agent, Prouty improperly searched an FBI computer database for information about her relatives and links they might have to the Hezbollah terrorist organization, the criminal sheet showed. She joined the CIA in 2003 and resigned as part of her guilty plea Tuesday, officials said.
There's no evidence that Prouty was working as a spy on Hezbollah's behalf, two government officials said. FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak in Washington said the investigation was ongoing.
The case raises questions about hiring practices and background checks by two of the nation's most security-sensitive and secretive agencies.
"This case highlights the importance of conducting stringent and thorough background investigations," Stephen J. Murphy, the U.S. attorney in Detroit, said in a statement. "It's hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud, insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government."
Prouty passed a lie-detector test before she was hired by the FBI, which conducted numerous interviews with her relatives and other associates in Beirut and the United States as part of her security background check, Kodak said. But she was not subjected to the more rigorous security screening that the FBI adopted after its 2001 arrest of turncoat Robert Hanssen, who spied for the Soviet Union and Russia over a 20-year period.
"She had a complete, full investigation," Kodak said, referring to the FBI's background check on Prouty before she was hired. He added: "Obviously we have changed certain ways that we do our security clearances."
The CIA largely relied on the FBI's security checks when they hired Prouty, according to a government official familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
"The CIA may have been a little too trusting of the FBI's ability to do a background check, as the bureau's own pre-employment investigation of Prouty would have covered her first years in country," the official said. "That won't happen again."
Standing before U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn on Tuesday afternoon, Prouty said she understood and agreed to the details of the plea agreement. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy, unauthorized computer access and naturalization fraud and was released on a $10,000 bond. No sentencing date was set.
She left the court building without speaking with reporters. Her lawyer, Thomas Cranmer, declined to comment.
According to the court documents, Prouty entered the U.S. on a one-year, nonimmigrant visa. She lived in Taylor, Mich., with her sister when her visa ran out in 1990. That summer, she paid off an unemployed U.S. citizen, identified in court records as Chris Michael Deladurantaye, to marry her in a civil ceremony in Detroit. But the two never lived together and the marriage was never consummated sexually, according to the documents.
The Associated Press was unable Tuesday evening to contact Deladurantaye. There were no phone listings in the Detroit area, and a search of public records databases did not turn up a current address for Deladurantaye.
Over the next four years, Prouty claimed she was legally married and living with him as part of her application for U.S. citizenship. She was naturalized in 1994 and filed for divorce in 1995. In 1999, she was hired as a special agent in the FBI's field office in Washington, where she investigated crimes committed against U.S. residents while overseas. She was not part of investigations into Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla group that the U.S. government has designated a foreign terrorist organization.
Prouty was not authorized to search the FBI database, in 2002, for her name and that of her sister and brother-in law. Her relatives were linked to Hezbollah two years later when they joined a senior Hezbollah official at a fundraiser in Lebanon, the documents show.
She joined the CIA in 2003. CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield described Prouty as a "midlevel employee" who violated immigration laws long before she was hired by the government.
The CIA is cooperating with the investigation, Mansfield said.Prouty faces six to nine months in prison as part of the plea, U.S. Attorney's office spokeswoman Gina Balaya said. Her citizenship has been revoked as part of her plea and she could be ordered to leave the U.S., according to court documents.
AP writer Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.