Patrick Syring

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Patrick Syring
William Patrick Syring

(1957-08-30) August 30, 1957 (age 65)
EmployerUnited States Foreign Service United States Department of State
Known forConvicted of civil rights violations

William Patrick Syring, who uses his middle name, Patrick, (born August 30, 1957, in Toledo, Ohio), is an American retired career diplomat who was convicted of threatening and violating the civil rights of James Zogby, the president and founder, and other senior employees, of the Arab American Institute during the 2006 Lebanon War.[2] Syring pleaded guilty to the charges June 12, 2008,[3] was sentenced to one year in prison July 11, 2008,[4] and was released early, in January 2009.[5] Syring was again indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on very similar alleged offenses on February 21, 2018, and was ultimately sentenced to 60 Months In Prison.[6][7] At Syring's arraignment on March 14, 2018, Syring pleaded not guilty before The Honorable Robin M. Meriweather, United States magistrate judge, United States District Court for the District of Columbia [1]. The Honorable Randolph Moss United States District Judge presided at Syring's trial in 2019, which sentenced him to 60 months in prison.


From 1993 to 2002 or 2003 (official records vary) Syring served as a consular/commercial officer in Beirut, Lebanon, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Frankfurt, Germany.[8][1][9] After the 9/11 attacks, he began circling "country of birth" and writing the letter "T" on visa applications from people of Middle Eastern descent. Two applications were returned by mail with the word "terrorist" written on the envelope. When confronted, he told a supervisor that "applicants supported terrorism solely by virtue of the fact that they were citizens of certain countries." He also began sending trolling emails from his personal account. He finally accepted "voluntarily curtailment," ending his consular career.[9] He was posted to the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Office of Economic Policy Analysis at the United States Department of State.[1]

Syring retired from the State Department in July 2007.[10] Syring's retirement concluded a career of nearly 26 years at the State Department.[11]


Syring sent three voice mails and four emails to the Arab American Institute in July 2006, during the 2006 Lebanon War. A Federal Grand Jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on August 15, 2007, charging Syring with violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 875(c), threatening messages in interstate commerce to injure an individual, and violation of Title 18 of the United States Code Section 245(b)(2)(C), by threat of force, to interfere with the civil rights of the founder and employees of the Arab American Institute.[11][12]

Syring identified himself in the voice mails and emails he left at the headquarters of the Arab American Institute on July 17, 2006.[13] From July 17, 2006, to July 29, 2006, Syring sent seven email and voice mail messages to the Arab American Institute headquarters offices from his home in suburban Virginia. The indictment claims Syring "did willfully intimidate and interfere with Arab American Institute employees because of their race and national origin", and "threatened to injure Arab American Institute employees".

Asked about Syring, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on August 16, 2007, "Let me just underline the seriousness with which the Secretary approaches the idea that the State Department should be a workplace that in no way, shape or form, tolerates discrimination or hateful language or any other action that would violate federal laws or regulations. It is just not condoned or acceptable in this department."[10]

On August 16, 2007, the Arab American Institute issued a statement that said "The threats were both intimidating and frightening – and the fact that the defendant was a 20 year career officer at the Department of State made it of even greater concern."


Syring pleaded not guilty on August 30, 2007, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.[14] On November 19, 2007, United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a motion from Syring to dismiss the charges against him, ensuring that the case would go to trial. "Whether [the] Defendant's communications constituted a true threat," Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "is an issue properly left to the jury."[15] In the memorandum opinion November 19, 2007, the judge added "the Court agrees with Defendant, that on its face the Indictment does not present a compelling case. Nevertheless, even based on the meager context alleged in the Indictment, it is possible a reasonable jury could interpret Defendant's communications as 'a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals'."[16] In an order filed December 14, 2007, Syring's trial was tentatively rescheduled to begin February 11, 2008, but was subsequently rescheduled.

On March 13, 2008, Syring sent an e-mail to a U.S. television network where Zogby had been interviewed, repeating some of the language of his earlier messages.[4] This e-mail prompted the Assistant United States Attorney for Civil Rights to withdraw a conditional plea offer of no prison time.[4] Also, on March 20, 2008, United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly revoked Syring's pre-trial release; Syring was incarcerated for 111 days in the District of Columbia Department of Corrections prior to Syring's sentencing on July 11, 2008.[4]

Syring pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges on June 12, 2008, was sentenced on July 11, 2008, to one year in prison, but was released from prison early in January 2009.[5] His sentence included a fine of US$10,000, paid in July 2008, three years post-release supervision, completed on January 27, 2012, and 100 hours community service completed in April 2009.[4][17][18]


  1. ^ a b c "Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service MSFS Alumni/ae Newsletter, Summer 2004" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  2. ^ "U.S. prosecutors say Arab political organization threatened". Retrieved 2007-08-15.[dead link]
  3. ^ Department of Justice press release: Former Foreign Service Officer Pleads Guilty to Federal Civil Rights Charges
  4. ^ a b c d e Carrie Johnson (July 12, 2008). "Ex-Diplomat Sentenced for Anti-Arab Threats". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Bureau of Prisons inmate locator
  6. ^ "A Decade Later, Former Diplomat Again Charged With Threatening Arab Group" (archived from the original on 2022-09-23)
  7. ^ Virginia Man Sentenced To 60 Months In Prison For Committing Hate Crime By Threatening Employees Of The Arab American Institute
  8. ^ U.S. Department of State profile of Lebanon, January 1994 (archived from the original on 2007-06-15)
  9. ^ a b Peterson, Brit (2021-06-10). "The Diplomat Who Became a Troll". Washingtonian. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  10. ^ a b "U.S. diplomat accused of anti-Arab comments retires". Reuters. August 16, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "AAI Statement on the Grand Jury's Indictment of Patrick Syring". Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  12. ^ "Syring indictment" (PDF). USA Today. 16 August 2007.
  13. ^ Cauvin, Henri E. (16 August 2007). "Federal worker faces charges in threats against Arab group". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  14. ^ "[no title cited]". UN Observer. 3797.[dead link]
  15. ^ "[no title cited]". Arlington Connection. The Connection Newspapers. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011.
  16. ^ Kollar-Kotelly, Colleen (19 November 2007). "United States v. Patrick Syring". Memorandum Opinion. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  17. ^ "Former U.S. diplomat gets year in prison for anti-Arab comments". Haaretz. 12 July 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  18. ^ "Former Foreign Service officer sentenced on federal civil rights charges" (Press release). U.S. Department of Justice. July 11, 2008.