Imaad Zuberi, a major Democratic fundraiser facing 12 years in prison, has filed an extraordinary complaint with the CIA’s chief watchdog alleging he witnessed “flagrant problems, abuses, violations of law” while working as an asset for U.S. intelligence, according to documents and interviews.
Zuberi, of Los Angeles, recently hired the CIA’s retired acting general counsel Robert J. Eatinger Jr. to review his case and help to appeal his conviction on a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
After reviewing evidence, including secret communications between Zuberi and his alleged CIA handlers that were enumerated in a secret Classified Information Protection Act filing in his criminal case, Eatinger prepared and delivered two complaints to the CIA inspector general earlier this month.
Shortly afterwards, the former CIA lawyer faxed letters to key members of the House and Senate intelligence committees alerting them to the allegations and offering to share a confidential summary if the IG did not formally open a probe.
New Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes and CIA Director William Burns also were alerted to the complaints, according to the congressional letters reviewed by Just the News.
Eatinger, a highly respected intelligence community lawyer who retired from the CIA about a decade ago, used unmistakable language drawn from intelligence laws to describe to Congress the nature of Zuberi’s allegations.
He wrote that he had “submitted two reports to the Acting Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that contained complaints or information regarding serious or flagrant problems, abuses, violations of law or executive order, or deficiencies relating to the funding administration or operations of an intelligence activity.”
He added that if the CIA did not confirm it “will forward the reports to the intelligence committees within 14 days, we will do so directly.”
Zuberi’s legal team spokesman, Chad Kolton, declined comment. A spokesman for the CIA did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment Wednesday night.
Eatinger’s letter to Congress did not formally identify Zuberi, but rather stated he was taking the action on “behalf of a U.S. citizen client.” But multiple sources confirmed to Just the News that the information in the IG complaints involved Zuberi and that his name appeared in the memos.
For two decades, Zuberi was a larger-than-life figure on the political stage, hobnobbing with Republicans and Democrats alike from California to Washington as he raised millions for campaigns and globe-trotted with a successful international business. He rubbed elbows with Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, all the while keeping his relationship with the CIA mum.
Just the News reported last month that as he worked as a bundler raising millions for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, Zuberi had been working as an asset for U.S. intelligence on counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations across the globe dating to the early 2000s. His intelligence community relationship first came to light when a secret CIPA filing was mentioned in an unsealed court filing in his criminal case. The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed Just the News’ reporting.
But Zuberi’s world came crashing down when prosecutors began investigating whether his money to the Trump inauguration came from foreign sources. In the end, it did not. But prosecutors found other crimes involving illegal foreign and straw donations, tax violations and a foreign lobbying infraction. Zuberi agreed to plead guilty late last year and then he was sentenced in February to 12 years in prison, one of the harshest sentences ever for campaign and lobbying offenses. The unexpected sentence prompted him to appeal, and hire Eatinger to take lead.
The specter of a major political donor — now convicted of a federal felony — secretly working for the CIA seems ripped from a Hollywood script. The fact that the CIA’s former top spy lawyer joined his legal team only added to the movie-like storyline.
But the IG complaints raise more serious issues, including the possibility that American political figures, U.S. citizens and a news organization may have been used wittingly or unwittingly for espionage operations.
According to multiple sources familiar with the complaints, Eatinger alleged to the inspector general that Zuberi:
- was instructed at times by U.S. intelligence to glean information from or try to achieve certain tasks with select members of Congress, including one prominent Republican U.S. senator. The CIA is not supposed to target, spy on or influence members of Congress.
- was involved in a clandestine operation that used an American journalism organization to carry out countermeasures and influence operations in a foreign country. The CIA is not supposed to use journalism organizations or journalists for operational cover.
- was asked by a senior CIA officer to make a private investment in an American drone company even as Zuberi was under criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
- observed what he believed was a U.S. intelligence asset become involved in Zuberi’s lobbying project in Sri Lanka, a project that resulted in criminal charges against Zuberi involving the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
- was asked by U.S. intelligence to allow a scrub team to delete emails, documents and other evidence of his intelligence work from his computer only later to be accused by the U.S. Justice Department of obstructing justice with the deletion.