NBC News: Prominent Supporters of Iranian Terror Group Under Investigation
Retired US officials and politicians who are allies of an militant Iranian group on the State Department terror list are being investigated by the Treasury Department, NBC News reports today.
Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter for NBC, reports that ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton, and former Governor Ed Rendell are the officials under investigation. Those three have been part of a year-long lobbying campaign to remove the People's Mujahedin of Iran, or the MEK, from the State Department list of terrorist groups. The lobbying has included the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to prominent US officials--payment that may violate the prohibition on providing “material support” to a terrorist group.
The bottom line for some U.S. officials is that the former government officials participating in the pro-MEK campaign are being paid handsomely for promoting a dubious cause sponsored by an officially designated terrorist group. Despite the public lobbying campaign, there is still deep suspicion about the MEK and its motives — and concerns that once its members leave Camp Ashraf, many of its followers will return to terrorism, said one senior official speaking on condition of anonymity.
"It's extraordinary that so many distinguished public servants would shill for a group that has American blood on its hands," the official said.
Isikoff details how the group of about 40 former officials have served as the conduit for negotations between the US government and the MEK over the fate of 2,500 members of the MEK currently living in Iraq and awaiting resettlement.
Other prominent figures who have lobbied for the MEK include Howard Dean, Alan Dershowitz, Tom Ridge, Gen. James Jones and much more.
Some of those figures, like Rendell and Dershowitz, are ardent advocates for Israel, which has reportedly trained MEK members to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald ran an important piece on the MEK’s supporters on Monday:
Even for official Washington, where elite crimes are tolerated as a matter of course, this level of what appears to be overt criminality — taking large amounts of money from a designated Terrorist group, appearing before its meetings, meeting with its leaders, then advocating on its behalf — is too much to completely overlook. The Washington Times reported on Friday that the Treasury Department’s counter-Terrorism division is investigating speaking fees paid to former Gov. Rendell, who, the article notes, has “become among [MEK's] most vocal advocates.” According to Rendell, “investigators have subpoenaed records related to payments he has accepted for public speaking engagements” for MEK. As the article put it, ”some observers have raised questions about the legality of accepting payment in exchange for providing assistance or services to a listed terrorist group.” Beyond the “material support” crime, engaging in such transactions with designated Terrorist groups is independently prohibited by federal law
Greenwald also makes the important point that prosecutions using the “material support” law have long targeted Muslims with far less connections to terror groups than the officials mentioned above have:
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.