After pouring millions of dollars into an unprecedented campaign, the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) was removed from the Department of State’s official list of terrorist organizations on Sept. 28, 2012. Supporters of the Iranian group in Paris and in the U.S. welcomed the news, while others say the long and controversial journey to this decision underscores the fundamental problems with the terrorist listing process at State and at the Treasury Department.
The de-listing of the MEK was not unexpected, since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was under court order to decide by Oct. 1 whether or not to remove the group from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. With the delisting, the group’s property is no longer blocked and Americans can engage in transactions with it without a license, the State Department said.
But before the MEK was removed from the list, the Treasury Department started an investigation into the payments made to MEK supporters. These included political donations, hiring major Washington lobby groups and payments to former high-level officials for giving speeches supporting de-listing. U.S. law prohibits giving to or receiving funds from a listed terrorist group, and it is also illegal to advocate on behalf of a designated terrorist group if that advocacy is coordinated with them. For those of you wondering, the fact that a group is now removed from the list does not retroactively legalize the providing of material support when it was on the list. This broad interpretation of the “material support” statute was upheld in the widely criticized June 2010 Supreme Court decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.
Among the dozens of former high-ranking officials identified as receiving between $20-40,000 per speech are former CIA directors James Woolsey and Porter Goss, former Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, and former National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones. Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, said in March that he had been paid a total of $150,000 to $160,000.
Current members of Congress were not immune to the MEK de-listing campaign. The Guardian reports that Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), who was “twice flown to address pro-MEK events in France, pushed resolutions in the House” calling for the group to be de-listed. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) received “thousands of dollars in donations from the head of a pro-MEK group” in his state, and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence committee, “has been among the strongest supporters in Congress of delisting the group.”
While it is refreshing to find an issue where Democrats and Republicans find common ground, it is disheartening to see such a blatant example of how the law seems to be flaunted by the powerful and well connected, and at the same time harshly applied to others. As he does on so many issues, Glenn Greenwald pushes past all the Washington clutter and gets right to the heart of this matter. He writes: