As US Army veteran Eric Harroun awaits trial in Virginia for allegedly fighting alongside al-Qaeda supporters, the man’s father claims he was working for the CIA and was reporting back to the agency from Syria.
Harroun, a 30-year-old American from Phoenix, Arizona, has been charged by the US government for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely a rocket propelled grenade launcher) to conduct an attack against the Syrian government. The US Army veteran dubbed by media 'Phoenix jihadist' appeared in numerous videos alongside members of the al-Nusra Front, designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization in December, but which has also been fighting alongside the Syrian opposition to take down the Assad regime. To date, 29 US-backed Syrian opposition groups have linked with al-Nusra, and have signed a petition calling for the support of the Islamist group that the White House believes is a branch of al-Qaeda.
According to FBI documents, Harroun traveled to Turkey last November and joined the fight led by the Free Syrian Army shortly thereafter. His father, Darryl Harroun, on Thursday told reporters that he doesn’t understand why the US government arrested his son, who he says was working for the Central Intelligence Agency.
He referred to his son as a ‘patriotic’ American who would never get involved with al-Qaeda, and claims he was gathering information for the US government.
“I know he was doing some work for the CIA over there,” the man’s father said. “I know for a fact that he was passing information onto the CIA.”
After seeing the documents regarding his son’s charges, Harroun told a CBS News reporter that it is all inaccurate and misleading and that the truth will eventually come out, since his son was simply gathering intelligence.
“About 99 percent of that stuff that you read on there is a bunch of bull,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any truth in any of this – he’s very patriotic”
The CIA is known to have contributed to the opposition fighters’ initiatives in Syria. Last week, the New York Times published an article describing how the agency has allegedly been helping foreign governments contribute to the Free Syrian Army. Unnamed US officials told the paper that the CIA has been secretly airlifting arms and other military equipment to Arab governments and Turkey, who provided them to the country’s opposition fighters.
With the agency’s alleged involvement in the conflict, some believe it is very possible for the CIA to also have sent their own agents into Syria. Paul Joseph Watson suggests on InfoWars that Harroun’s arrest may have something to do with the lack of communication and rivalry between the FBI and the CIA.
The FBI affidavit makes no mention of Harroun having any sort of connection to the CIA, but includes transcripts of interviews in which the man describes being treated like a prisoner in the al-Nusra camp and eventually being accepted by the members. Soon thereafter, he was helping them conduct several attacks on the Syrian regime. He also recalled being questioned about why the US government designated the group as a terrorist organization.
But the FBI is worried that while he may have gone into Syria with good intentions, he may also have become radicalized. A main component of the affidavit focuses on a Facebook status Harroun allegedly posted, in which he states that “the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.”
But the man did not seem to try to hide any of his acitivities in Syria. He frequently uploaded pictures of himself in the conflict zone and made opinionated statements regarding the Assad regime. He allowed journalists to interview him over Skype and labeled himself as a “freedom fighter”, working on behalf of the opposition movement that the US supports.
His alleged CIA involvement has so far only been mentioned by the man’s father, but could play a major part in the case as Harroun awaits trial. He faces a maximum of life imprisonment.