"We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." President George W. Bush September 20, 2001 Address to Joint Session of Congress "… MEK hold fundraising events, where like-minded individuals are invited to contribute funds ultimately meant for terrorist activities." Assistant Secretary Juan C. Zarate, Terrorist Financing, Department of the Treasury February 1, 2005 Harper’s Bazaar/International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition Summit ——————————————————————————– Who are the Mojahedin and what are they up to? Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the President of the United States issued Executive Order 13224. This order ostensibly blocked the assets of terrorist organizations and individuals associated with terrorism. The Mojahedin-e Khalq Organziation (aka MKO, MEK, National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI, People’s Mojahedin of Iran, PMOI, et al.) is one such listed terrorist organization. Several years before, however, Congress passed the 1996 Antiterrorism Act which directed the State Department to draw up a list of foreign terrorist organizations. Such a list was produced by then Secretary Albright in 1997 and has been updated each two years or as required (1999 info). Additional information on the terrorist list is found in The "FTO" List and Congress. It is a common assertion of the MKO that they were listed during the Clinton administration as a "gesture" to Iran. As evidence of this, an article in the 09 October 1997 issue of the L.A. Times is cited which paraphrases an un-named Clinton administration official as stating that the listing was intended as a goodwill gesture. Whether or not there were persons in the Clinton Administration who held this view, it was made clear to me in my conversations with the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the State Department that no such political considerations were made in drawing up the list. The fact is that the MKO were included in the very first list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act and this determination was consistent with prior assessments by the State Department that the MKO was an organization involved in terrorism and this view was expressed even during the first Bush Administration. Indeed, in its decision on docket No. 01-1465 the United States Court of Appeals found: …. Petitioner argues that there is not adequate record support for the Secretary’s determination that it is a foreign terrorist organization under the statute. However, on this element, even the unclassified record taken alone is quite adequate to support the Secretary’s determination. Indeed, as to this element-that is, that the organization engages in terrorist activities-the People’s Mojahedin has effectively admitted not only the adequacy of the unclassified record, but the truth of the allegation. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the MKO has some supporters in Congress and this is evidently the result of a long lobbying effort. The effect of this lobbying effort is primarily seen in the repeated claims that some large number of members of Congress have signed on to some statement endorsing the MKO. The statements never have been published in the Congressional Record and the identities of the alleged co-signers are closely guarded by the handful of sponsors that are apparently well paid for their efforts (as you will see). The investment of the MKO has not always been well-placed, however. Two of their champions and targets of much money were Congressman (and then Senator) Robert Torricelli and Congressman James Traficant, both of whom were driven from office over corruption and influence peddling charges. Traficant was convicted and sent to prison. Gary Ackerman has also been the recipient of substantial contributions but these seem to have dried up since he told the Village Voice, in response to questions about his support of the MKO, "I don’t give a shit if they are undemocratic"… "OK, so the [MKO] is a terrorist organization". For some introductory information on the MKO and their friends in Congress, it is suggested that you read the following articles: "A Very, Very Bad Bunch" Don’t Confuse This Group with Freedom Fighters Iran "terrorist" group finds support on Hill Rep. Ros-Lehtinen defends Iranian group labeled terrorist front for Saddam Hussein U.S. bombs Mujahedin; backers hide Terrorists plan D.C. fundraiser Richard Perle Supports Terrorism. He spoke at a terrorist fundraiser In The Money: Congressman James Traficant And His Campaign Contributors Opponents Hit Torricelli On National Security ——————————————————————————– Data on political contributions In an effort to discover some of the MKO lobbying activity in the U.S. I have compiled some data from public sources and posted it here. The Federal Election Commission keeps records of donations made to political candidates and to political committees. There are a number of sites that provide search tools and resources to research this information on line. Two suggested sources are: FEC Campaign Finance Reports and Data Campaign Contribution Search at Newsmeat An Excel File of Political Contributions can be viewed (if you have Excel) by clicking on the highlighted link. This file contains data arranged in tabs according to year in which the contributions were made. Readers are cautioned that the list is almost certainly incomplete and inclusion of a contribution does not necessarily imply a link to the MKO. The file includes data that was collected according to one or more of the following criteria: 1) the contribution was made to a candidate who has promoted the MKO/NCRI or attended their conferences or other events. 2) the contribution appeared to be part of a concerted contribution to a candidate or committee, i.e. one of several contributions made on the same day or same time period, often of the same magnitude and to the same target. 3) the contribution was made by someone known to be associated with the MKO. Where there is an asterisk placed after the name of a contributor in the Excel file, this indicates a known association with the MKO/NCRI and specific information of such affiliations can be reviewed in the list of reference data. ——————————————————————————– OK, so what does this mean? Well, let’s look at one example and see how the facts tie together. On one day this year (May 11, 2004) the Ros-Lehtinen for Congress committee (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Representive from the 18th Congressional District in Florida) reported contributions totalling $8,500 from 9 residents of California: Mr. Ali Kashani 1367 Camino Robles Way San Jose, California 95120 Shahid-Chamran University $500 Mr.[sic] Shahnaz Kiani 1077 Gray Fox Circle Pleasanton, California 94566 Valley Care Med. $1,000 Mr. Behnam Mirabdal * 1920 Francisco Street 301 Berkeley, California 94709 Copy Express $500 Mr. Ahmad Moeinimanesh * 3327 Parkgate Court Richmond, California 94806 Fujitsu $2,000 Ms Marzieh Nikouei 1012 Cornhill Way Folson, California 95630 Capitol Bowl $500 Mr. Farideh Sedighi * 721 San Luis Road Berkeley, California 94707 Cisco Systems $2,000 Mr. Ensieh Yazdanpanah * 4831 Meadowbrook Drive El Sobrante, California 94803 Albany School District $500 Ms Moigan Fahima * 1935 Marin Avenue Berkeley, California 94707 Self-Employed $1,000 Mr. Parvis Ghaffaripour 13765 Heritage Creek Court Saratoga, California 95070 Maxim Integrated $500 OK, well enough. It is possible that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen came to California to raise money for her campaign. It is possible that all these people just happened to want to donate to her campaign in a different state, all on the same day. There may be other explanations. It just seems odd. So let’s look at things more closely. According to the FEC records, Mr. Mirabdal is affiliated with Copy Express. There is a Copy Express at 1164 Solano Avenue in Albany, CA. This business not only sells copying services and greeting cards but also rents post boxes. In this store was found a stack of business cards printed: Copy Express Mojgan Fahima 1164 Solano Ave. Albany, CA 94706 T:510-524-0235 / F:510-524-2590 So now we have established a business relationship between two of the contributors in the list. What else? Well, with the help of some additional information we realize that two of the post boxes rented at that store are being used as registration addresses for web sites used by the MKO: WWW.IRANNTV.COM Registrant: Linear Communications Nasrin Saifi 1164 Solano Ave. #120 Albanay, CA 94706 US Phone: 510-528-0605 Fax..: 510-528-0605 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.iran-solidarity.org Registrant: Azimi, Hamid 1164 Solano Ave, No. 117 Albany, CA 94706 US Administrative Contact: Azimi, Hamid email@example.com 1164 Solano Ave, No. 117 Albany, CA 94706 US 510-528-0605 fax: 510-751-5332 WWW.IRANNTV.COM is the web site of MKO television, Sima-yeh Azadi, and the registrant of that site, Nasrin Saifi, is found to have been a contributor in coordinated donations in past years to pro-MKO candidates Robert Torricelli and Gary Ackerman. WWW.IRAN-SOLIDARITY.ORG is the web site that was used by the MKO to announce their fundraiser in Washington DC earlier this year (see introductory articles). Hamid Azimi was registrant for other MKO web sites including www.iran-e-azad.org and used his contact information in one of the registrations of the site www.mojahedin.org. Now we have established a business relationship between four persons, two in the above list, two with clear MKO links and one a prior contributor. But there is more. The names of two more persons in the above contributor list, Farideh Sedighi and Ensieh Yazdanpanah, appeared on a MKO letter to Jacques Chirac in response to the arrest of the MKO leader, Maryam Rajavi, in France. And one must truly wonder what a person listing their affiliation as "Shahid-Chamran University" (Ali Kashani) is doing making political contributions in the U.S. Recent Events On October 14 2004 a web site was registered with the domain CFDIRAN.COM. A check of the registration shows an address which matches that reported on the receipt for Mr. Ensieh Yazdanpanah’s donation to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as noted above: Registrant: cfdiran.com 4831 meadowbrook Richmond CA 94803 US The purpose of this web site seems to have been to announce the protest event which took place in Washington DC on 19 November 2004. The Washington Post reports that the event was organized by "the Council for Freedom and Democracy in Iran and the Global Coalition Against Fundamentalism". This "group", the Council for Freedom and Democracy in Iran, had hitherto been unknown and seems to have been created solely for the purpose of obfuscation and to give the appearance of broad support for the MKO. Its creation just prior to an important MKO event is similar to the sudden appearance of the site WWW.IRAN-SOLIDARITY.ORG weeks before the MKO fundraiser in January of this year. Looking into the other reported organizer, Global Coalition Against Fundamentalism, shows that it has a web site, too: WWW.GCAF-USA.ORG Registrant: Shirin Nariman 1409 Beulah Rd Vienna, VA 22182 Phone:+1.7038562565 FAX:+1.7038562565 firstname.lastname@example.org The registrant, Shirin Nariman, is reported to have been an organizer also of the fundraiser. But she denies any link to the MKO , said that there were no MKO members at the event but admitted that there might have been "supporters" there. Interestingly, in other circumstances, defending the MKO, she proudly proclaimed that she had been an MKO supporter for over 24 years. Some of those who witnessed the 19 November event had interesting comments not reported in the media and it was observed that the protest was unusually orchestrated and appeared to have participants flown in from overseas. This may well be, the Washington Times reported 30 November 2004 that a delegation of Iraqis came to Washington for the event and to press for the removal of the MKO from the terrorist list. But we should not forget that in making its case for going to war in Iraq the White House put the MKO at the head of its list of terrorist groups receiving support from Saddam Hussein in violation of UNSCR 687, viz.: Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians. [NOTE (20 Jan 2005): According to a Homeland Security report obtained by Cryptome the Secret Service reported an Iranian from Germany suspiciously videotaping near the White House on 18 November 2004. The man claimed to be in Washington DC for the demonstration. Also, it was reported that on 19 November 2004, 25 Mujahedin e-Khalq linked persons were denied entry at the Alexandria Bay Port of Entry from Canada. The 25 were planning to attend the rally.] The group isn’t quite so benign in its operations in the U.S. since the 1970s, though. While the focus of the organization is no longer generally against American targets since their falling out with Khomeini, the fanaticism of the MKO remains and this from time to time comes through in extreme acts such as the self-immolations in Europe in 2003 (example reference articles 1 and 2 ). The last major act of violence committed by the MKO in the U.S. known to this author was the seizure and hostage taking at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York in April 1992 (reported in the New York Times, 06 April 1992). This was part of a concerted terrorist operation on a global scale. In its report on the threat of terrorism to Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service writes: On 5 April, 1992, the Iranian Air Force conducted a bombing raid on an MEK base in Iraq. Hours later, forty MEK supporters wielding sticks, crowbars and mallets attacked the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, wounding several people. Near-simultaneous attacks were carried out on Iranian Embassies in thirteen other countries around the world More Coincidences The web site of the Council for Freedom and Democracy in Iran, which one reporter stated was "Virginia based", lists a mailing address at: Council for Freedom and Democracy in Iran (CFDI) 5765-F Burk Center Pkwy #360 Burk, VA 22015 which is evidently a typo, as there is, rather, a Burke, VA and a 5765-F Burke Center Pkwy. The address is that of a mailbox facility and not a business office. Several names in the FEC database immediately come to attention in reviewing those from the 22015 Zip code. One is Shirin Nariman, the organizer of the January 2004 fundraiser. Another is that of Hossein Panah. In 1996 Hossein Panah made a contribution to Ed Towns, listing his address as "6338 Draco St., Burke, VA 22015". Interestingly, Shirin Nariman also used this address once in an on-line posting. And last but not least, it appears that Bob Filner, who spoke at the 19 November event, was the recipient of an infusion of donations just weeks before, from an interesting group of Californians all residing outside his district: 10/25/2004 Alavi, Parvinalsadat 12468 Whispering Tree Ln Poway, CA 92064 American Int. University/Accountant $400 FILNER, BOB (D) 10/25/2004 Kohani, Kambiz D.D.S. 7920 Grado Al Tupelo Carlsbad, CA 92009 Costa Verde Dentistry & Ortho $300 FILNER, BOB (D) 10/25/2004 Mokhtari, Parvaneh 15 Malibu Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 Home Couture Design Group/Interior $600 FILNER, BOB (D) 10/25/2004 Parsay, Farhad * P.O. Box 92603 Long Beach, CA 90809 Solar Turbines/Engineer $300 FILNER, BOB (D) 10/25/2004 Taheri, Massood 13488 Turlock Court San Diego, CA 92129 Banyan Associates/Business Owner $1,000 FILNER, BOB (D) 10/25/2004 Tasooji, Matthew 851 Cocos Drive San Marcos, CA 92078 Nokia Inc./Senior System Engineer $500 FILNER, BOB (D) Several of these names (Farhad Parsay, Massood Taheri and Matthew Tasooji) repeat throughout the FEC records. Farhad Parsay’s name was on the 2003 MKO letter to Jacques Chirac. Bob Filner received another infusion of cash (at least $4,750 according to FEC records) from additional persons outside his district a month prior to his appearance at a 14 April 2005 rally of the MEK in Washington DC. The first in the following list of contributors, Somayeh Yazdanpanah, used an address identical to that of the CFDIRAN.COM registrant: 3/4/2005 Somayeh Yazdanpanah * 4831 Meadowbrook Drive El Sobrante, California 94803-2051 Albany Unified School Distri $1,000 FILNER, BOB (D) 3/4/2005 Yousef J. Shenasi 3328 E Clay Avenue Fresno, California 93702-1017 Department of Transportation $1,000 FILNER, BOB (D) 3/4/2005 Shahin Toutounchi 1077 Gray Fox Circle Pleasanton, California 94566-6969 Xilinx $1,000 FILNER, BOB (D) 3/4/2005 Nader Moavenian 3949 Acapulco Drive Campbell, California 95008-3821 E2 Open $750 FILNER, BOB (D) 3/4/2005 Fatohllah Dastmalchi 1098 Bevinger Drive El Dorado Hills, California 95762-7669 Department of Transportation $1,000 FILNER, BOB (D) Please note that the address of Shahin Toutounchi is the same used by Shahnaz Kiani in her May 2004 contribution to Ros-Lehtinen documented above. Likewise, James Talent was the recipient of $8,500 before his billing as a celeb at the MEK convention: 12/1/04 SADEGHPOUR, MAJID 500 Kendall Street CAMBRIDGE, MA 02142 GENZYME $1,000 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 SAJADI, SAEID * P.O. Box 3668 KANSAS CITY, KS 66103 PHYSICIAN $2,000 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 TALEBIZADEH, ZOHREH 2401 Gilham Road KANSAS CITY, MO 64108 CHILDRENS MERCY $1,000 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 SHAHRIARY, AZAM 1535 Hummingbird Hill ELLISVILLE, MO 63011 BIOTECH BIOLOGICAL $1,000 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 ARDAVANI, RAHIM 700 NW 5th St BLUE SPRINGS, MO 64014 RAIL AUTOMATION $1,000 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 ATTARAN, ALIREZA 1535 Hummingbird Hill Lane ELLISVILLE, MO 63011 UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI $500 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 KHATAMI, SHAHAB 705 Falls Landing Ct ALPHARETTA, GA 30022 STRUCTURAL DESIGN INC$500 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 NEJAT, KASRA * 903 Cleta Drive MANCHESTER, MO 63021 ST JOHNS MERCY $1,000 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO 12/5/04 NEJAT, KASRA * 903 Cleta Drive MANCHESTER, MO 63021 ST JOHNS MERCY $500 TALENT, JAMES MATTHES (R) Senate – MO According to the Washington Post, "about 300" staged the MEK convention at DAR Constitution Hall on 14 April 2005, while one of the MEK’s news outlets, Iran Focus, inflated the attendance to "thousands". Although coming on the heels of a rally last November, the press release announcing this event described it as a "first-ever convention". Not to lose out on a winning slogan, the MEK held another "first-ever convention" in Brussels less than 2 weeks later according to the MEK’s Iran Focus. ——————————————————————————– The Foreign Agents The U.S. Department of Justice list four persons under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as registered foreign agents of the National Council of Resistance of Iran: Filabi, Mahin Jafarzadeh, Alireza Mostowfi, Hedayatollah Samsami, Soona Of this group, Mahin Filabi and Hedayatollah (aka "Hedayat") Mostowfi have recorded political contributions with the FEC. Recently, Mr. Mostowfi is shown to have made donations to the FED Political Action Committee on 8/20/2004 and on the same day (7/20/2004) with Mr. Mehdi Ghaemi, donations were made to the Republican Party of Virginia. He lists his address and affiliation as: 2721 South Adams St. #203 Arlington, Virginia 22206 CSRI/Executive Director The CSRI is the "Committee in Support of Referendum in Iran" ( www.referendum-iran.org ) whose board lists Hedayat Mostowfi as Executive Director. All the other names on the list will be recognizable from the FEC files cited above (Mr. Sharifi’s name appears under a number of permutations, most often as "Nassersharifi"): Board of Directors: Masoud Dolati, PE CSRI President and Director of Media Relations email@example.com Mansour Panah, MD CSRI Vice President firstname.lastname@example.org Ali Parsa, Ph.D CSRI Secretary and Director of Research and Policy Analysis email@example.com Homayoun Sharifi CSRI Treasurer and Director of Public Relations firstname.lastname@example.org Hedayat Mostowfi Executive Director email@example.com The domain registry for the website of this group shows that it was created 26-Nov-2003. At about this same time several other persons who have served as officials or spokespersons of the MKO/NCRI set up web sites and/or corporations with an assortment of names. For example, the "National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates" (http://ncpda.com/) was domain registered 06-oct-2003 by Haydar Akbari. Nasser Rashidi is identified as the group’s Executive Director. Nasser Rashidi has registered an additional web site on Aug 18 2003, http://www.prusa.us/, for a corporation offering lobbying services and giving an address in Virginia. However, no such corporation appears in searching the Virginia State Corporation Commission records: PR-USA Inc. 850 N. Randolph St. Suite 103-A150 Arlington, VA 22203 Tel: 202 487-6989 Fax: 202 318-8331 The web site domain registry, however, lists a different address and it is exactly the same address as used by Hedayat Mostowfi in the FEC records of his donations this year: 2721 S. Adams St Apt 203 Arlington, VA 22206 1.2024876989 firstname.lastname@example.org And then there is the case of Ali Safavi, who was known to have been outside the country in the middle of last year. He is cited as the NCRI London spokesman in a CNN interview aired June 17, 2003. Prior to that he had served in various other locations including Paris, Dubai and Baghdad according to news reports in which he is quoted. Although U.S. law bars entry of non-citizen members of terrorist organizations, barring the possibility of a failure by Homeland Security, Mr. Safavi must have entered the U.S. some time toward the end of 2003 with a U.S. passport. We know this because the Virginia State Corporation Commission records that he established on 11/05/03 a corporation: Near East Policy Research Inc. (NEPR Inc.) 4625 SOUTHLAND AVE APT 302 ALEXANDRIA, VA 22312 [Note: one report states that Ali Safavi has political assylum in the United States. He also travelled to London again in Dec. 2004 to speak on behalf of the Mojahedin.] Similarly, Alireza Jafarzadeh, who we will remember from the list of NCRI foreign agents above, set up a corporation with web site (http://www.spconsulting.us/) giving an address: Strategic Policy Consulting, Inc. 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 600 Washington, D.C. 20004 Tel: 202-756-2288 Fax: 202-318-8382 The Virginia state records list the corporation as being effective 10/07/2003 and with the following address information: 2101 CRYSTAL OLAZA ARCADE #164 ARLINGTON, VA 22202 4600 This is probably a typo, however, as there IS a 2101 CRYSTAL PLAZA ARCADE in Arlington, VA. Actually, it is the address of a mailbox rental firm; Plaza Mailboxes ( phone: 703-415-0400 ). Searching the address "2101 Crystal Plaza Arcade, Arlington, VA" turns up dozens of different organizations. Similarly for "1101 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 600". Presumably that also is a mailbox rental facility. Mr. Mohamad Alafchi is a prominent contributor in the FEC records. On 6/28/2004 it is recorded that he made a $1000 contribution to the Committee to Re-elect Ed Towns. Mr. Alafchi is cited on the ncpda.com web site as the President of American Iranian Association- New York. This organization, along with others which you will recognize, cosponsored a Conference at UN Plaza, December 17, 2003. The list of sponsors included: sponsors: Honorable Congressman Ed Towns (D-New York) Association of Iranian-American in New York (AIA-NY) The National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates (NCPDA) The Public Relations USA, Inc. (PRUSA) Near East Policy Research, Inc, (NEPR) If one did not know better, it might appear that this had been a broadly organized event! Soona Samsami, who has long served as a spokeswoman of the Mojahedin’s NCRI and was appointed in 1998 as their U.S. Representative, is now identified as "President" of the Women’s Freedom Forum (http://www.womenfreedomforum.org/) and makes appearances as their "Spokeswoman". Another spokeswoman of the Women’s Freedom Forum, Zolal Habibi, participated in the 19 November 2004 rally (link is to CFDI site that includes Washington Times coverage) in Washington DC. The National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates, Women’s Freedom Forum and Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran all share common U.S. hosts and Australian Registrars for their web sites: National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates Domain Name: NCPDA.COM Creation Date: 06-oct-2003 IP Address: 18.104.22.168 (Yahoo!) IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)-CALIFORNIA-SUNNYVALE Current Registrar: MELBOURNE IT, LTD. D/B/A INTERNET NAMES WORLDWIDE Women’s Freedom Forum Domain Name: WOMENFREEDOMFORUM.ORG Created On:23-Mar-2004 IP Address: 22.214.171.124 (Yahoo!) IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)-CALIFORNIA-SUNNYVALE Sponsoring Registrar: Melbourne IT, Ltd. dba Internet Names Worldwide Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran (Radio Voice of Women) Domain Name:WFAFI.ORG Created On:26-May-2004 IP Address: 126.96.36.199 (Yahoo!) IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)-CALIFORNIA-SUNNYVALE Sponsoring Registrar:Melbourne IT, Ltd. dba Internet Names Worldwide There are certainly more manifestations that I have failed to list.
Opinion: U.S. Congress, Timothy McVeigh and Mojahedin-e Khalq
As the date of Timothy McVeigh’s execution approaches, and in light of the Secretary of State’s recent testimony on counterterrorism before the Senate, I am drawn to note the lack of unity in Congress in recognizing and dealing with this dilemma. Timothy McVeigh is being executed because of his role in the murderous and deadly attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Paradoxically, and through a twisted sense of rights and logic, the Mojahedin-e Khalq/National Council of Resistance (MEK/NCR) and their supporters claim similar cause to detonate bombs and execute mortar attacks and other violence against Iranian government and civil structures frequently resulting in death and injury to civilians and bystanders. Although the MEK/NCR has long been rightly identified and designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, and in spite of the fact that the FBI has made numerous arrests and broken up immigration fraud and bogus charity front rings operating in support and on behalf of the MEK/NCR, nevertheless this has not prevented a handful of members of Congress from endorsing the MEK/NCR and circulating letters of support amongst their colleagues.
One might reasonably be astonished that members of the U.S. Congress could even think to support a terrorist organization, particularly one with American blood on its hands, but it is a sad fact that such letters have been sponsored over the years by Robert Torricelli, Gary Ackerman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, amongst others. A longer list of congressmembers have appeared at MEK/NCR press conferences and their photographs and kind words have graced the pages of the MEK newspaper, Mojahed, alongside their machine gun logo, no less. But it does not stop there. Gary Ackerman and Ros-Lehtinen have publicly claimed over 200 House members’ signatures on their letters, thus abusing the good name of our representatives and the sanctity of the U.S. Congress to provide aid and comfort to violent terrorists. While this has pleased the MEK/NCR and confounded our efforts to gain international cooperation on terrorism and to convince certain countries such as Iran of our sincerity, Ackerman and Ros-Lehtinen steadfastly refuse to divulge the names of the alleged cosigners. When prodded with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, for example, Jonathan Berger of Ackerman’s office cynically replied to the author that the FOIA "does not apply to Congress".
We have a serious problem in this country when a few members of Congress can claim in the name of a majority of their colleagues endorsement of a violent foreign terrorist organization and then deny basic information on such claims to the very citizens that they have been elected to represent.
It is particularly disturbing because the MEK/NCR have become an important point of contention between Iran and the U.S. The State Department has regularly expressed its concerns about terrorism and its desire to discuss this subject with the Iranian government but such actions by members of the U.S. Congress have hampered efforts to address terrorism as a global problem of concern to all. How can we expect the Iranian government to take us seriously when our own representatives encourage terrorist violence on their soil?
In May of 1998, for example, Ros-Lehtinen and Ackerman claimed to have 220 House members’ signatures on a letter supportive of the MEK. Days later, emboldened by this support, the group detonated a series of bombs in Tehran killing civilians. These and similar acts have brought condemnation from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
And while MEK/NCR members are being portrayed as some kind of "freedom fighters" by their friends in Congress, developments in the U.S. indicate that they will do and say anything to further their cause in contravention of U.S. laws. In 1992, MEK members stormed the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York and took hostages at knife point. In 1999, the FBI arrested dozens in an immigration fraud ring linked to the smuggling of MEK members into the U.S. Just this year the FBI made arrests in the case of a false charity allegedly collecting donations for refugees and then funneling the money to the organization to purchase weapons. Alarmingly, the "charity" had been granted non-profit status in the State of California and had been given license to solicit door-to-door in some communities.
McVeigh’s judgement comes because we Americans find murder and violence an abhorrent and intolerable form of political expression. Terrorism is fundamentally at odds with democracy and human rights. There are no good terrorists. Ackerman and Ros-Lehtinen owe the American people an explanation for their activities. At the very least, our elected officials have a responsibility to discuss these matters publicly and not through "secret" letters for the benefit of terrorists.
About the author: I am a research engineer (B.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering) and also a personal activist that believes that open civic dialog and trust in one’s representatives are fundamental to the enjoyment of the full fruits of democracy. My interest in the MEK was sparked by a recognition that important basic information about Iran and Iranians was being conveyed by an extremist few and that widespread mainstream Iranian-American participation in U.S. politics was sorely lacking. I also believe that this distorted perspective has hindered U.S. efforts at formulating effective policy in resolving the differences between our nations. Bradley J. Hernlem, Ph.D
SJ Mercury on Arrests
Humanitarian ruse at L.A. airport raised funds for terrorists, FBI says
SEVEN ARRESTED IN GROUP OPPOSING IRAN GOVERNMENT
BY CHERYL DEVALL
Mercury News Los Angeles Bureau
LOS ANGELES — They stopped travelers in the airport with a humanitarian plea: Help these suffering Iranian children.
But the fundraisers, whose appeals generated at least $1 million, were actually raising cash for an Iranian terrorist organization, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday.
FBI investigators said they had arrested seven members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a group dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian government. The organization is included on the U.S. State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. In recent years, its National Liberation Army has taken credit for armed raids on Iran from bases in neighboring Iraq.
But as they stopped people at Los Angeles International Airport with heart-rending photos of orphaned children, members of the group identified themselves as the Committee for Human Rights in Iran, the FBI said.
And their main fundraising targets, the FBI said, were Asian travelers in the international terminal.
The fundraisers, dressed in business attire and carrying binders filled with photos of alleged atrocities against Iranian children, asked for donations of up to $500.
“Their belief was that Asian travelers would be more likely to make donations than people of other ethnic backgrounds,” said FBI spokesman Matthew McLaughlin.
The Committee for Human Rights in Iran was making $5,000 to $10,000 a day from these airport solicitations, according to FBI affidavits filed with a federal magistrate. The group also aggressively solicited members of Los Angeles’ large Iranian-American community, FBI representatives said.
“This money was used to buy arms, such as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades,” said James DeSarno of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
“There is no evidence in our investigation that anyone who was solicited was knowledgeable of where the funds were going.”
The Mujahedin-e Khalq has opposed Iranian governments from that of the late Shah Reza Pahlavi to the present regime of the Ayatollah Khamenei. It has been involved, the FBI said, in several actions against American targets, including the 1979 U.S. embassy takeover in Tehran and a 1992 occupation of the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York.
Germany’s federal criminal police tipped off U.S. law enforcement to the organization’s alleged money laundering in 1997, according to the affidavit.
“None of the money they raised went to humanitarian purposes,” FBI spokesman McLaughlin said.
But so far, the FBI has not been able to connect the money raised in this country to specific terrorist acts. They have traced $1 million to two accounts in Turkish banks. Of that, $400,000 was sent to a used auto parts store in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Beyond that, the money trail “may be rather difficult to discern, given the cultural and geographical barriers we’d have to overcome,” McLaughlin said.
He added that the investigation is continuing beyond the arrests of seven people believed to be leaders of the Mujahedin-e Khalq in Los Angeles.
The arrests were made Tuesday in locations throughout the city’s West side; the group’s alleged ringleader, Tahmineh Tahamtan, was picked up at a Starbucks coffee shop.
The Committee for Human Rights in Iran had the appropriate permits to solicit funds in public places. Those permits required proof of state and federal tax-exempt status, said Tammy Catania, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Commission, which issues the permits. Those permits do not require police background checks, Catania said.
It is not clear why the solicitors singled out Asian tourists. Officials at several tour companies catering to Asians said Tuesday they’d never heard complaints about airport fundraisers.
Neither had the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles. Spokesman Yasushi Fujii, who spent eight years in Iran, could only speculate that perhaps “Iran had a kind of sympathy for the Japanese because they fought a war with America.”
The Mujahedin-e Khalq, which mixes Islam with socialism, has never had a large following in the United States, said Salam Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a lobbying organization with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
The group splintered from the Islamic opposition to the Shah in the late 1970s, he said. “It’s always puzzled people as to exactly what their ideology is.”
The group has been raising money in airports for about 20 years, said Al-Marayati, who said he has been approached by the fundraisers more than once while at domestic terminals in Washington and Los Angeles. Before the group’s appearance on the State Department terrorist list, the solicitors identified themselves as representatives of Mujahedin-e Khalq, not as the Committee for Human Rights in Iran, he said.
“They have these notebooks of pictures and you don’t know where the pictures are from. They just tell you these are pictures of dying children,” he said. “I oppose giving people money based on pictures.”
Because he’s of Iraqi descent, he said, the solicitors thought he might be sympathetic to them. But when he asked where the money would go, they offered no answer, Al-Marayati said.
Whether their fundraising benefited terrorist activities, he added, “will be up to the courts to decide.”