Last month, Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, the American translator who pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorised possession of classified materials and two counts of lying to federal investigators and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. The incident was ascribed to bad judgement rather than espionage. He was given credit for time already spent in jail and was released on March 10.
But the red-faced FBI admitted Saturday it accidentally gave a CD containing the classified documents back to Mehalba. The unmarked CD was among personal effects returned to him.
"Mehalba had the disc in his possession for only a 'matter of hours' before the FBI retrieved it, said Assistant US Attorney Michael Ricciuti. 'Someone in the bureau obviously made a serious mistake,' Ricciuti said. Mehalba's lawyer, Michael Andrews, said the FBI's mistake was 'very upsetting' to his client."