A number of former senior military, political, and diplomatic officials from the past three US administrations appeared to speak at a symposium in Washington on Saturday, July 16, entitled, “Middle East, Iran Spring: Obstacles, Opportunities and U.S. Policy.” The event took place on the first anniversary of a decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on July 16, 2010, which ruled that the State Department had violated the due process rights of the principal Iranian opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) by placing it on the terrorist organizations list.
The court remanded the case back to the State Department and ordered it to re-evaluate the decision. Recently, the State Department exceeded a 180 day statute-mandated deadline to justify its decision by providing sufficient evidence. The speakers at Saturday’s conference emphasized the imperative of delisting the MEK immediately and underscored the U.S. responsibility to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf, Iraq.
Below is an excerpt of the speech by Honorable Louis Freeh, Former Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (1993-2001):
Thank you very much, Mitch, and thank you, the organization from Northern California, for sponsoring this very important forum. And it’s my pleasure to be here with you this afternoon.
You have been an incredible audience, so let me just compliment you.
It’s a very important moment,and I share the word that General Conway used,which is the urgency of the moment. I was just in the United Kingdom, and I’m sure some of you have seen it, the Wartime Bunker of Winston Churchill. In his words never, never,never surrender.
And I want to compliment you and your colleagues, Mrs. Rajavi and the hundreds of people that will watch this,particularly the residents and victims in Camp Ashraf. And you are leading the fight for freedom in Iran.
Just as our military forces fight for freedom on the battlefields, you fight in a much more difficult and much more dangerous place, and we compliment you on your
We offer our condolences for your sacrifices, but we offer you our encouragement.
Churchill also said once that the Americans could be counted upon to do the
right thing in the end after they exhausted every other possibility. Well, that’s what I wanted to talk about a little bit today,briefly, if I might.
My association with this issue really goes back to 1996 the Khobar bombing,
which you remember took place in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
At about that time, there was a change of policy in the administration, an appropriate one, and the idea was that there was a new moderate president recently
installed in Tehran, and the United States would take serious efforts to develop that
relationship, a perfectly valid foreign policy choice.
And we began to get, in the FBI, directions in that regard, which we accepted. For instance, I got a call one day from the Secretary of State complaining that the FBI was photographing and fingerprinting the Iranian wrestlers who were coming into the United States.
And I was asked why are you doing that, the Iranians are complaining. And I said, well, the reason we’re doing that is on these teams, there’s usually an MOIS agent,
it’s the wrestler that looks a little bit out of shape, and by taking the photograph and fingerprint, we keep them de-motivated from coming into the United States, where, by the way, they work and network of clandestine agents, who are still very active in the United States.
Then Khobar Towers happened. Nineteen Americans were killed. General Shelton you and I sat in on meetings around this town in the aftermath of that. And we conducted an investigation. We’re police officers, we’re investigators; we’re not politicians; we’re not diplomats.
Very quickly into the investigation, it became clear that although the attack was operationally performed by the Hezbollah in Saudi Arabia, the attack was organized, planned, funded and executed by the IRGC. They had gotten the passports for the operators. They had funded them with cash.The general in the IRGC, who was in charge of the project, sat in the embassy, the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, and gave them their passports. So we took all this information — this is 1966, now it’s 1997 — and we presented it to the Administration.
I actually presented it to the national security advisor, and his reaction — I got a lot of different reactions around town the nine years I was director, this was
perhaps the most interesting one — when I told him that the IRGC and the Iranian Government had murdered 19 Americans in the bombing at Khobar, his response was, well, who else knows about this?
I said, well, several dozen FBI agency agents, the Attorney General of the United States. And I think we should move to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and procure an indictment. That was not on the agenda. And I respect that. Again, the issue was to try to develop a relationship with this regime.
It didn’t work, obviously. And in 1997, the MEK was put on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list at the request of the Iranian Government and to appease the
Iranian Government. That bad decision has persisted for 14 years.
In the Bush administration — and I have many friends in both Administrations, I served in one, obviously — actually, I served in two technically – the offer came again to the United States Government that the Iranian regime would control the operational use of improvised explosive devices in Iran – excuse me — in Iraq, and American soldiers, American servicemen and women would be protected. And that sounded like a really good idea.
So we kept them on the list for another bunch of years. That obviously did not happen
either, and as one of my colleagues said, more Americans killed in June of this year than last year precisely as a result of this IED operation run by the Iranian regime.
So the United States has not gotten a very good bargain in 14 years. And this group is not a terrorist group. As my colleagues have said, the MEK, the PMOI,however you want to define them, is not a terrorist group.
Do you think for a moment that the likes of the people on this panel would be here if there was even a remote possibility that this organization was a Foreign Terrorist
Organization? By the way, you know, we all keep contacts with our associations and our agencies. No one has come up to me or any of my colleagues from their current agencies and said, you know I don’t think you should be doing this; this is a bad organization; this is an organization that has terrorists’ intent or capability. That’s not happened.
No one by — as far as I know,my colleagues also, we have not been notified by the Department of Justice that we are suspected of providing material assistance to a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The reason is, it’s not a Foreign Terrorist Organization, except by the virtue of this bad decision that listed it and persist it.
On the urgency issue, which is the second point I want to make, we are running substantially out of time here. I don’t believe and I don’t have confidence in the State Department process. In fact, I would not even call it a “process,” and my hope is that the people in the State Department who are working this issue — “working” is not the right word — would pay some attention to the words of our new Secretary of Defense, who recently said, damn it, make a decision. The decision here —
This is not a complicated legal or factual issue. I’ve looked at all the facts that the State Department at least has agreed to provide. And the Court, which is by the way one year ago today, one year ago today, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the Department of State had violated the constitutional due process rights of the MEK. Violated the constitutional due process rights, because they engaged in a legal and fact-finding process that did not verify the credibility of its sources, did not provide the information to the plaintiff, the MEK, to respond to, and sent it back, sent it back to the Department of State and said you have to do it again.
What’s been going on for that year is an absolute legal disgrace. Absolute legal disgrace. I used to do this for a living. I used to be on one side of the bench; for a while, I actually sat on the bench.
The Court of Appeals specifically directed the Secretary of State to review the decision and report back to the Court. They have well surpassed any semblance
of regularity or due process in that review. And I think the review borders now on bad faith, my opinion.
If I was a judge — which I am not and, unfortunately, this is before no judge at the moment, because the Court of Appeals, which is not a trial judge, sent it back to the administrative agency for a review.
If this was before a trial judge, ladies and gentlemen, that judge would haul the State Department into a hearing, into a show case hearing why it should not be held
in contempt of the Court for delaying without any justified basis the completion of the Court’s direction. And the evidence of that is fairly obvious — you know, lawyers, we look at facts. One of my colleagues said, you know, you’ve got a lot of papers here in front of you. I do. We spend a lot of time on the facts.
Let me just mention a couple of them – the State Department is going through a process now — it’s not a process, it’s a slow walk to nowhere, which is intended to frustrate the litigants and defy the order of the Court.
So what they do now — it’s not a very complicated description, what they do
is they assemble a bunch of documents here, there’s ten of them here in front of me, I’m not going to take the time to go over them with you, then they give them to the
plaintiff, they give them to the MEK, and their lawyers, and they say comment on these. And they comment on them, and then they say thank you for your comments, we now have to review your comments. And the clock ticks and nothing happens, but the importance is the — the irrelevance and the ridiculousness of those documents.
Some of them, for instance, are press releases, which, by the way, the State Department had classified as classified documents. It’s a press release, it’s a press article. One of them — Then what they did is they interviewed a bunch of Iranian nationals applying for visas at U.S. consulates around the world and said What do you think of the MEK? This is during the interview. So, of course, the State Department that’s interviewing me has listed this organization as a terrorist organization, I would like to get a Visa to go to the United States — ladies and gentlemen, what do you think they’re going to say?
So they take that information and they present it and they ask for comments. So this process is going on and on and on. Unfortunately, there’s not a trial judge who can bring them into Court and held them in contempt. And, unfortunately, we’re running out of time.
The last thing I’m going to say, Governor, hasn’t been said here, but I think it’s very important to say it. This is not just a case of does the Department of State and the U.S. Government not acting? It’s not just the fact that they have not made
this decision; the fact that they have maintained this organization improperly
without legal or factual basis on the Foreign Terrorist Organization List has given the Iranian regime, through its proxy in Baghdad, a license to kill.
We saw that, and I think you’ve seen the videos, absolute documented war crimes of the Iraqi regime using, by the way,U.S. weapons, Iraqi police officers using equipment and training given to them by Federal Bureau of Investigation, coming in and massacring innocent, unarmed Freedom Fighters using, as the basis of its justification, the fact that the United States Government lists these people as terrorists.
A couple of our Congress members just recently met with President Maliki, and he reminded them, in no uncertain terms, your Government calls these people terrorists. And on and on again when you see these arrests in Tehran, the ones that make it over the wall into the international media, they regularly arrest people and use as a basis for the detention, conviction and execution the fact that they are members, alleged members of this organization.
So the indecision here is not just an indecision. It is a facilitation of this regime through its proxy in Baghdad, unfortunately, murdering and killing. And we
have an ambassador who ingenuously now suggests that they ought to move the people
out because they’re posing a danger by being on the Iranian border.
The only thing I have to say in conclusion is I’ve been involved in this issue for some time. I am very frustrated. I am very disappointed with our Department of
State, and I am very disappointed with our Government. This is not a difficult call.
And my fear here is that a continued period of inaction will result not in the massacre that you saw in the video, but a much broader wholesale massacre of not just 3400 people, but many of their supporters.
The United States has a moral and legal obligation to act here. These people are protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The U.S. has a promise in writing
to protect them, and to defer to President Maliki and his masters in Tehran who fear this organization, why do they fear the organization? Because it’s the only credible
effective Freedom Fighting force that
threatens their regime.
So we call on our Government to act, to act quickly before it’s too late and to give the support to these Freedom Fighters that law and justice requires.