FBI seizes data of retired US general

FBI seizes data of retired US general

The FBI has seized the electronic data of a retired four-star general who authorities say made false statements and withheld incriminating documents about his involvement in an illegal foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

A new federal court filings Tuesday outlined a potential criminal case against former Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being tapped in 2017 to lead the influential Brookings Institution.

It is part of an ongoing investigation that has ensnared Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week, and Imaad Zuberi, a prolific political donor who is serving a 12 year prison sentence on corruption charges.

The court filings detail Allen's efforts to help Qatar influence U.S. policy in 2017 when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the gas-rich Persian Gulf monarchy and its neighbors.

There is substantial evidence that these FARA violations were willful, FBI agent Babak Adib wrote in a search warrant application, referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Adib wrote that Allen misrepresented his role in the lobbying campaign to U.S. officials and failed to disclose that he was simultaneously pursuing multimillion-dollar business deals with the government of Qatar. The 77-sided application appears to have been filed in error and was removed from the docket Tuesday after The Associated Press reached out to federal authorities about its contents.

Allen wouldn't say anything about the new filings. He has previously denied ever working as a Qatari agent, and said his efforts on Qatar in 2017 were motivated to prevent a war in the Gulf that would put the U.S. troops at risk.

Allen spokesman Beau Phillips told AP last week that Allen voluntarily cooperated with the government's investigation into this matter. One of the most influential think tanks in the U.S. did not respond to a request for comment. Qatar has been one of the biggest financial backers of Brookings, but the institution says it has stopped taking Qatari funding.

Olson was working with Zuberi on another matter involving Qatar when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries announced a blockade of the gas-rich monarchy over Qatar's alleged ties to terror groups and other issues in mid-2017.

The US President Donald Trump appeared to support Qatar shortly after the blockade was announced.

The court papers say Allen played an important role in shifting the U.S. response. Authorities say Allen lobbied then National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster wants the Trump administration to adopt a more Qatari tone.

In a June 9 email to McMaster, Allen said that the Qataris were asking for some help and wanted the White House or State Department to issue a statement with specific language calling for all sides of the Gulf diplomatic crisis to act with restraint. Federal law enforcement officials said that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did what Allen told McMaster the Qataris wanted to do two days later, issuing a statement that shifted away from earlier statements by the White House. Tillerson's statement called for other Gulf countries to relax the blockade against Qatar and asked for no further escalation by the parties in the region.