Sheila Musaji: The MEK and Terrorism Double Standards
We have been covering the issue of high-powered support for the MEK terrorist organization for quite some time now, see: Anti-Muslims and Politicians Find Common Cause with Iranian Terrorist Organization.
by Sheila Musaji (The American Muslim)
The Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, known as the M.E.K has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Dept. for 15 years.
The M.E.K. are terrorists. They were driven out of Iran and given a home at a place called Camp Ashraf in Iraq by Saddam Hussein, who they supported. Saddam Hussein used the M.E.K. to carry out terrorist acts in Iran. Now that Hussein is gone, the Iraqi’s want the M.E.K. out of Iraq as they also see it as a dangerous group. They are not former terrorists, but current terrorists.
Richard Engel & Robert Windrem of NBC News reported just this month that
Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.
The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.
The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.
… Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.” All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.
NIAC reports that
A 2004 FBI report on the Mujahaddin-e-Khalq (MEK) was revealed in June 2011 which states that the MEK “is actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism,” despite the organization’s alleged renunciation of terror in 2001.
… Some of the highlights (all direct quotes):
•“Los Angeles investigation has determined that the MEK is currently actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism.” [pg 4]
•“This organization routinely lobbies unwitting members of Congress under the pretext of human rights issues in Iran.“ [pg 5]
•“NLA fighters are separated from their children who are sent to Europe and brought up by the MEK’s Support Network. Investigation has learned that these children are then further indoctrinated in to the organization and are often used for various social benefit fraud such as was revealed during joint FBI/Cologne Police Department investigation in Germany. In one case one of the children was chained to a bed and only after her escape and report to local police was the fraud scheme discovered. Interviews of some of these MEK children found children fully indoctrinated into a “cult-like” organization with no regard to the welfare of the child. These children are then returned to the NLA to be used as fighters upon coming of age. Interviews also revealed that some of these children were told that their parents would be harmed if the children did not cooperate with the MEK. Open source reporting from defecting MEK members has revealed that MEK fighters are often told the same story about their children should they take issue with MEK leadership and desire to leave the organization.” [pgs 26-27]
•“The MEK, in addition to being a foreign terrorist organization, is a “cult”…MEK members and supporters often indicate that Rajavi makes his decision based on input from God.” [pg 26]
•“MEK members/supporters/fighters have been through years of ideological training and for lack of better word ‘brain washing’.” [pg 31]
•“This (Foreign Terrorist Organization) designation was made due to the MEK’s long and violent history of past terrorist activity directed against U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Iran during the 1970s, the assassinations of multiple Americans, the MEK’s ongoing acts of terrorism in Iran, and the MEK’s past terrorist activities in Western Countries to include hostage taking and attacks on Iranian diplomatic establishments and officials. This designation was also made to send the message that the U.S. had taken the high road on terrorism and would designate any foreign group engaged in terrorist activity abroad to include not only groups that target U.S. interests, but terrorists groups that target any sovereign nation.” [pg 24]
•“Additionally, the MEK continues to practice misinformation operations in the U.S. and Europe. MEK lobbyist routinely hold press conferences and pass information regarding the current Iranian government that is inaccurate and is designed to influence Western Media and governments.” [pg 18]
•“Interviewers should keep in mind that membership in the MEK is a significant step in the MEK hierarchy or leadership cadre. It is safe to say that only the high echelon leadership will most admit to being MEK members.” [pg 29]
•“ Another tactic that the MEK has been employing is disinformation regarding former MEK members and witnesses who have come forward to testify and speak against the MEK. The MEK will brand these former members and witnesses as Iranian government agents. This information is often picked up by Western Intelligence agencies as factual information and is disseminated as intelligence. This further frustrates criminal investigators as they attempt to interview these former MEK members and potentially use them for testimony.” Pg 18-9
That being the case, it is difficult to understand why it is that elected representatives, and government officials of the U.S. government could support and/or work with, and accept money from this organization freely and openly. It is difficult to understand in the case of support for the M.E.K. as it is difficult to understand in the case of Rep. Peter King’s open support and fundraising for the IRA. The only justification for such an indefensible position must be that these folks believe that the enemy of my enemy can’t be a terrorist.
Glenn Greenwald has written a very detailed article on the hypocrisy of this support for a terrorist organization. Here are a few key points from his article:
In June, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 6-3 ruling in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law. In that case, the Court upheld the Obama DOJ’s very broad interpretation of the statute that criminalizes the providing of “material support” to groups formally designated by the State Department as Terrorist organizations. The five-judge conservative bloc (along with Justice Stevens) held that pure political speech could be permissibly criminalized as “material support for Terrorism” consistent with the First Amendment if the “advocacy [is] performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization” (emphasis added). In other words, pure political advocacy in support of a designated Terrorist group could be prosecuted as a felony — punishable with 15 years in prison — if the advocacy is coordinated with that group.
… One can reasonably debate whether MEK actually belongs on the list of Terrorist organizations (the same is true for several other groups on that list). But as a criminal matter, that debate is irrelevant. The law criminalizes the providing of material support to any group on that list, and it is not a defense to argue after one gets caught that the group should be removed.
… What is particularly repellent about all of this is not the supreme hypocrisy and self-interested provincialism of Fran Townsend. That’s all just par for the course. What’s infuriating is that there are large numbers of people — almost always Muslims — who have been prosecuted and are now in prison for providing “material support” to Terrorist groups for doing far less than Fran Townsend and her fellow cast of bipartisan ex-officials have done with and on behalf of MEK. In fact, the U.S. Government has been (under the administration in which Townsend worked) and still is (under the administration Rendell supports) continuously prosecuting Muslims for providing “material support” for Terrorist groups based on their pure speech, all while Fran Townsend, Ed Rendell and company have said nothing or, worse, supported the legal interpretations that justified these prosecutions.
The last time I wrote about these individuals’ material support for MEK, I highlighted just a few of those cases:
•A Staten Island satellite TV salesman in 2009 was sentenced to five years in federal prison merely for including a Hezbollah TV channel as part of the satellite package he sold to customers;
•a Massachusetts resident, Tarek Mehanna, is being prosecuted now ”for posting pro-jihadist material on the internet”;
•a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, Jubair Ahmad, was indicted last September for uploading a 5-minute video to YouTube that was highly critical of U.S. actions in the Muslim world, an allegedly criminal act simply because prosecutors claim he discussed the video in advance with the son of a leader of a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba);
•a Saudi Arabian graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, was prosecuted simply for maintaining a website with links “to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel” and “jihadist” sites that solicited donations for extremist groups (he was ultimately acquitted); and,
• last July, a 22-year-old former Penn State student and son of an instructor at the school, Emerson Winfield Begolly, was indicted for — in the FBI’s words — “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the shootings” at a Marine Corps base, action which former Obama lawyer Marty Lederman said ”does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial First Amendment protection.”
Yet we have the most well-connected national security and military officials in Washington doing far more than all of that right out in the open — they’re receiving large payments from a Terrorist group, meeting with its leaders, attending their meetings, and then advocating for them in very public forums; Howard Dean, after getting paid by the group, actually called for MEK’s leader to be recognized as the legitimate President of Iran – and so far none have been prosecuted or even indicted
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has previously expressed concern about this support for a terrorist organization. They noted in July of 2011 that
Congressional supporters of the drive to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. terrorism list defended the organization’s use of violence while dismissing Iran’s nonviolent Green Movement at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week. The hearing was also remarkable in that senior leaders of the designated foreign terrorist organization were caught counseling some of the witnesses before the hearing. It is illegal to coordinate with a foreign terrorist organization to advocate on behalf of the terrorist group.
… Despite the terrorist listing, Ali Safavi, a senior member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was at the hearing, where he openly counseled witnesses before and during their testimony. The NCRI is the MEK’s political wing and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The hearing’s witnesses included three former U.S. officials who have actively participated in pro-MEK conferences, including former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
All three witnesses who previously appeared at MEK conferences unanimously called for the MEK to be removed from the terror list, though none were asked to disclose whether they had received money to support the organization, as have other officials who have advocated for delisting the group.
The NY Times reports today that this state of affairs may be changing and that such individuals may now face scrutiny. According to the article’s author Scott Shane Edward G. Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and an outspoken supporter of the M.E.K., said on Monday that William Morris Endeavor, which handles his speaking engagements, received a subpoena last week seeking information on fees he had received for M.E.K.-related speeches.
Shane had reported back in November of 2011 on a long list of officials. At that time, he wrote
The extraordinary lobbying effort to reverse the terrorist designation of the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, has won the support of two former C.I.A. directors, R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss; a former F.B.I. director, Louis J. Freeh; a former attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey; President George W. Bush’s first homeland security chief, Tom Ridge; President Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; big-name Republicans like the former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Democrats like the former Vermont governor Howard Dean; and even the former top counterterrorism official of the State Department, Dell L. Dailey, who argued unsuccessfully for ending the terrorist label while in office.
The American advocates have been well paid, hired through their speaking agencies and collecting fees of $10,000 to $50,000 for speeches on behalf of the Iranian group. Some have been flown to Paris, Berlin and Brussels for appearances.
… The M.E.K. advocacy campaign has included full-page newspaper advertisements identifying the group as “Iran’s Main Opposition” — an absurd distortion in the view of most Iran specialists; leaders of Iran’s broad opposition, known as the Green Movement, have denounced the group. The M.E.K. has hired high-priced lobbyists like the Washington firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Its lawyers in Europe won a long fight to persuade the European Union to drop its own listing of the M.E.K. as a terrorist group in 2009.
The group’s spending, certainly in the millions of dollars, has inevitably raised questions about funding sources.
Ali Safavi, who runs a pro-M.E.K. group in Washington called Near East Policy Research, says the money comes from wealthy Iranian expatriates in the United States and Europe. Because “material support” to a designated terrorist group is a crime, advocates insist that the money goes only to sympathizers and not to the M.E.K. itself.
Congress has taken note of the campaign. A House resolution for dropping the terrorist listing has 97 co-sponsors, including the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan. At a hearing this month, senators pressed the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, about the threat to Camp Ashraf
Last month, Congressman Dana Robrahacher spoke in favor of removing the terrorist designation from the M.E.K.
Rep. Ted Poe (R – TX) has praised the M.E.K. as the ticket to regime change in Iran.
John Bolton spoke at an event in honor of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)
Two years ago, Rachel Slajda reported that Rudy Giuliani, Tom Bolton, and Tom Ridge had gone to Paris and spoke at an event in support of the M.E.K.
Jason Ditz has reported that The MeK’s history of terrorist attacks includes repeated attacks on US businessmen and military personnel in pre-revolution Iran, and the group was one of the founding members of the “Foreign Terrorist Organization” list when it was created by the US State Department in 1997. The group is typified by its harsh reaction to any criticism, and was reported by Human Rights Watch to have run a private system of detention centers inside Iraq to detain (and in many cases torture) dissident members.
In addition to all of this open support for a terrorist group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) ran this ad on American television calling for its removal from the State Department’s list of terrorist organization. Former Gov. Ed Rendell, Tom Ridge, and former Mayor Rudy Guiliani are mong the people appearing in the ad. Can anyone imagine any other designated terrorist organization being allowed to purchase television advertising?
During the uproar over the Park51/Cordoba House community center last year, Rep. Peter King called for a “full investigation” of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf because Rauf refused to publicly call Hamas a “terrorist organization.” Imam Rauf hadn’t expressed suport for a terrorist organization, he hadn’t lobbied to get it removed from a terrorist list, he hadn’t accepted money from them, or attended or spoken at their events – but simply because he hadn’t publicly called them a “terrorist organization”, Rep. King thinks he deserves a “full investigation”.
I think it is time to demand the same standards of our elected officials and representatives.