In a briefing at the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 16, support for House resolution 1431 by 110 members of Congress were announced. The resolution invites the Secretary of State, in coalition with British and European allies, to remove the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Congressman Brad Sherman was among speakers addressing the briefing. Following is an excerpt from his remarks:
It is a pleasure to be with you yet again. I thank you for the promotion that I got at the introduction. I’m currently the Chair for the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Non-Proliferation Trade and a senior member of the FA committee. As all of you know that means in 2 months, we put in the word “ranking member” right where chairman when it comes to the subcommittee.
I’ve done everything possible to try to protect the residents of camp Ashraf, but now our focus is on should the MeK be on the foreign terrorist list? The European Union says no, the US Court of Appeals says that the State Department failed to do its job, and sent them back to do their job.
Ordinarily, that would be enough for me, but being chair of the subcommittee, I have to weigh these decisions a little more closely. So, what I did is I asked the state department for a classified briefing on this issue. Any of you who have gotten to know foreign policy from a congressional standpoint will understand when I say, “sometimes you learn more from the classified briefings they won’t give you than from the classified briefings they do give you.” That is especially true for those of us who’ve attended classified briefings only to be told something slightly less definitive than what’s in the New York Times the same day.
The refusal to provide this not just to me, but to the relevant subcommittee was received just yesterday. I therefore asked the intelligence community to provide such a briefing and we will see…well, it’s been interesting. I’ve been pressing for this briefing for over a month and the variety of different excuses that I got shows that creativity is alive and well in the State Department. I was told that the judge in the court case had prohibited them doing a briefing of congress. I know that there are a few judges that would step a little bit on the prerogatives of Congress but none against the first article of our constitution to quite that degree. What it comes down to is that the state department doesn’t know which way they want to slant the facts before they present it to us because they haven’t figured out what they’re going to do. So, they can’t present the facts until they know which way they want to slant them. We’ll see if we can get the intelligence community to provide that briefing instead, and if not then members of Congress are just going to have to (inaudible word) with the knowledge that we have.
One of the most important bits of information that we do have is the role the MeK took in August 2002 in disclosing the Iranian nuclear program to the world and giving the world a fighting chance to stop that program. My subcommittee is not by coincidence that it’s terrorism and proliferation. Those two goals go together and the MeK has done for nonproliferation than any group I know that isn’t getting subsidies from the federal government, and perhaps from those as well. I want to thank you for your interest in bringing democracy to Iran. Democracy also needs to be brought to the United States. An essential part of that is for the executive branch to keep Congress informed and I look forward for the restoration of full democracy in America.