Sy Hersh: US funded and trained Iranian group on State Dept. terror list

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MEK supporters have been lobbying to take their organization off the State Department terrorist list (Photo: EPA/Al Jazeera English)

Seymour Hersh, the venerable investigative journalist, dropped another bombshell yesterday in the New Yorker: the US military trained members of an Iranian terrorist group in Nevada in 2005.

What’s more, American intelligence continues to be transferred to the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) for use in operations that include the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.

This report, if true, would mean that the US is deeply involved in the business of conducting what can only be described as a low-level, covert war being waged on Iran.

Hersh reports that during the Bush administration, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), an elite Special Operations force, transferred funds, arms and intelligence to the MEK.

While this type of covert activity is standard practice for the US–see Iran-Contra–what makes this revelation shocking is that the MEK is still on the US terrorist list. Because of that fact, the training had to be conducted in secret, away from the eyes of the State Department, at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site.

It should also be emphasized that the MEK has been implicated in the killing of Americans.

Here’s more from Hersh:

The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”

The training may have ended before Obama’s term began, but Hersh quotes a former senior intelligence officer as saying that US intelligence continues to be used by the MEK.

These revelations come two months after NBC News reported that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, was training the MEK to carry out assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. The Obama administration denied any involvement then.

Glenn Greenwald comments for Salon on the Hersh story:

If this report is true, it means the U.S. Government actively trained a group that the U.S. Government itself legally categorizes as a “foreign terrorist organization,” a clear felony under U.S. law…

That alone compels serious DOJ and Congressional investigations into these claims. Worse, this reportedly happened at the very same time that the U.S. aggressively prosecuted and imprisoned numerous Muslims for providing material support for groups on that list even though many of those prosecuted provided support that was far, far less than what the U.S. Government itself was providing to MEK. Meanwhile, right at this moment, America’s closest ally — Israel — is clearly a state sponsor of this designated Terrorist organization, providing training, funding and arms to it, and the U.S. may very well be as well (independent of all else, given that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid, the U.S., at the very least, is financing a state sponsor of Terror).

At the same time, a glittering bipartisan cast of former Washington officials is receiving large payments from this designated Terrorist group, meeting with its leaders, and then advocating on its behalf — again, providing far more material support than many powerless, marginalized Muslims who have been and continue to be prosecuted under this law. All of this appears to be clearly criminal regardless of whether MEK belongs on the list — once a group is placed by the State Department on the list, whether justifiably or not, it is a felony to provide material support to it — but MEK appears to be doing exactly that which is typically considered Terrorism: assassinating civilian scientists (and severely wounding their wives) with bombs and causing other civilian-killing explosions on Iranian soil in order to induce fear.

A version of this article originally appeared on AlterNet’s blog.

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Alex, Alex! “[USA’s support for MEK] can only be described as a low-level, covert war being waged on Iran.” Alex! Braven up! Go ahead! Allow that it can also be described as “Terrorism” or “State Support of Terrorism”. (There. Makes me feel so much better. Not since Nicaragua, of course, has the USA supported (any one else’s) terrorism. Or has it?) PS: Is it a felony at USA law for the government to what would… Read more »

No one outside the US is surprised by its hypocrisy and double-dealing – the response to Mr. Hersh’s reporting: a shrug and acceptance of “business as usual”.

teeth grinding isn’t it?

great reporting as usual alex

This one keeps unfolding

Hersh: “Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror.” One wonders if offering legal advice or service to a terrorist group constitutes a felony. Of course, it should not be a felony to practice law. But the statute involved — 18 USC § 2339A of the US Code “Providing material support to terrorists” — is a weird thing. But terrorism and anti-terrorism and foreign policy… Read more »