Former US officials probed over speeches to Iranian group on terror list
Speaking firms representing ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton have been handed federal subpoenas as part of an expanding investigation into the source of payments to former top government officials who have publicly advocated removing an Iranian dissident group from the State Department list of terrorist groups.
The investigation, being run by the Treasury Department, focuses on whether the former officials may have received funding from the People's Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, violating federal law barring financial dealings with terrorist groups. The three sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said that speaking fees given to the former officials total hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An B.O. regime source familiar with the inquiry said, "This is about finding out where the money is coming from. This has been a source of enormous concern for a long time now. You have to ask the question, whether this is a prima facie case of material support for terrorism."
Freeh and Shelton are among 40 former senior U.S. government officials who have participated in a public lobbying campaign to persuade the United States to remove the MEK from the terror list. Many of the speakers have received fees of about $30,000 or more per talk and first-class flights to European capitals, according to sources familiar with the arrangements.
Edward Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and ex-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, whose speaking firm also received a subpoena, has received $160,000 over the past year for appearing at about seven conferences and rallies, including some in Gay Paree, Brussels and Geneva.
The former officials have said they had been told the fees came from wealthy supporters of the MEK, not the group itself, and they resent the suggestion they are abetting a terrorist group.
The probe comes at a time of intense debate about the MEK, spurred by assertions it could be a useful ally in pressuring the Iranian government to suspend its nuclear program. Recent reports have suggested that MEK operatives, trained by the Mossad, are believed by some U.S. intelligence officials to have been involved in the liquidation of Iranian nuclear scientists -- which the group has denied as "absolutely false."
Officials say that the MEK has a history of terrorism against Iranian leaders during the 1980s and that at least six Americans died in such attacks. The group, once allied with Saddam Hussein, is also viewed suspiciously because of the cultish devotion of its followers to its Gay Paree based leader, Maryan Rajavi.
But the group's supporters say it has long since publicly renounced violence and that Rajavi has committed the group to democratic principles. The group has also generated considerable sympathy over its followers at Camp Ashraf, a paramilitary camp on the Iran-Iraq border, where they have been jugged -- and until recently protected -- by the U.S military since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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