Companies representing former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton have received federal subpoenas as part of a Treasury Department investigation into the source of payments to ex-federal officials who openly advocated for removing an Iranian dissident group from the State Department’s terror list, sources told NBC News.
The Treasury Department also sent a subpoena to a speaking company for former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, an MSNBC contributor, who made $160,000 throughout 2011 for appearing at conferences and rallies in places like Paris, Brussels and Geneva.
Federal investigators are looking to see if these officials took payments from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a designated terrorist group, and thereby violating federal law barring financial dealings with terrorist groups, NBC’s Michael Isikoff reported.
Speakers often charged $30,000 or more per talk and took first-class flights. According to NBC’s anonymous sources, the speaking fees totalled hundreds of thousands of dollars. The former officials under investigation, however, say that they were told the payments came from wealthy American and foreign supporters of the MEK, not the group itself. They also say they resent any suggestion they are assisting a terrorist group.
Shelton argued that the MEK is a legitimate resistance group, working to overthrow the Iranian government, which he called “America’s number one enemy.”
John Sullivan, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, said in an email to Isikoff: “The MEK is a designated terrorist group, therefore U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with or providing services to this group. The Treasury Department takes sanctions enforcement seriously and routinely investigates potential violations of sanctions law.”
But why did the Treasury Department decide to investigate now? NBC News believes that one possible clue was an email sent by a small Pennsylvania-based firm called Speakers Access, inviting a Washington-based national security expert to speak at a conference in Geneva “on behalf of our client, National Council of Resistance of Iran, Foreign Affairs Committee” which is considered by the Treasury Department to be an alias of the MEK.