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Seymour Hersh: US Training Iranian Terrorists in Nevada

The Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group despite its inclusion on the State Department's list of foreign terrorists.

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AMY GOODMAN: Among those appearing at the public event in Washington on Friday in support of the  MEK was Michael—was Mitchell Reiss, a former policy—a foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He acknowledged to the crowd that the Treasury Department considers  MEKsupporters, quote, "potential criminals." At a campaign stop in New Hampshire last year, an audience member asked Romney about Reiss’s support for the  MEK.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Have you heard of or do you support the  MEK, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran?

MITT ROMNEY: I have not heard about the  MEK, and I—so I can’t possibly tell you whether I support the  MEK. But I can—all right? But what is—what is the  MEK? Why would you think that I supported it? Because you said it’s a terrorist group?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s been—there’s a terrorist group in Iran which is variably violent. It’s attacked civilians before. It’s called the  MEK, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran. And if you look into it, some of your staff members, I believe, have made statements to lobby the executive branch to remove them from the terrorist list.

MITT ROMNEY: I’ll take a look at the issue. I’m not familiar with that particular group or that effort on the part of any of my team.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Mitt Romney being questioned about his foreign policy adviser Mitchell Reiss’s support for the  MEK. Seymour Hersh, your response?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I would say that the Obama administration has even more trouble than Mr. Romney does. It’s clear he didn’t know much about it. This administration knows an awful lot about it, because they have access to what was going on in the previous administration in this area in terms of the  MEK, in terms of operations inside Iran, and they’re still going on. And so, the question then becomes—I’m amazed that we’ve had nothing from the White House about this story. And there’s also been sort of a—I shouldn’t complain about it, because I understand it. You know, it’s "not invented here" syndrome. But I’m a little amazed that more reporters aren’t asking more questions about this, because it seems to be so egregious. This is—right now, our Treasury Department is actually asking questions, because no matter how you cut it, it’s a terrorist group, and if you’re aiding and supporting a terrorist group, under the law of the United States—as you know, there’s been some prosecutions in this area of people of Middle East descent supporting groups that we consider to be terrorists, and they get put away in jail. There certainly seems to be a double standard here at work. And yeah, Romney seems lost in space on this issue, but I can assure you right now, there are people in this White House who are not.

AMY GOODMAN: Is the Obama administration still training  MEK?

SEYMOUR HERSH: I don’t think the word is "training" anymore, because are we directly training them down in Nevada? No, I don’t—there’s no reason to believe that. I don’t know that. I’ve been told that there is more stuff going on than we know of, of course, and that’s also possible. You know, one of the things that I’ve learned—I’ve been doing a book about Cheney for a number of years. It’s just amazing how many things we really don’t know about what our government can do. There are amazing things out there that happened that we just don’t know about. And so, they can keep secrets. Of course the government would like to keep pressure on Iran as much as it can. And I don’t think we can totally walk away from responsibility in terms of—at the minimum, we’ve been providing intelligence that we know goes to the  MEK and also to other dissident groups inside, inside Iran. Does that mean we’re aiding and abetting in the specific killing of somebody? No, I have no reason to believe that anybody can make that case. But what the hell are we doing in there? Why are we putting so much pressure? Why do we take so much pleasure in bombings and explosions that take place inside Iran, which may be linked to us? And I just don’t quite understand the policy. It’s certainly not one that’s conducive to having good negotiations in good faith.

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