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Thu Apr 12, 2012, 04:36 PM

For Official Washington, Terrorism Is a Laughing Matter

By Scott Horton

Just how serious is Washington about battling terrorism? The airwaves fill regularly with sanctimonious declamations about terrorist threats and with vows to pursue the war against them to its ultimate conclusion—a war without territorial limits, and with ill-defined opponents and no clear time horizon. A forever war. But to insiders, it is evidently a laughing matter. Developments the past week suggest that for some prominent Washington figures, rubbing elbows with a scheduled terrorist organization and taking money from its front groups is a no-brainer. It may be that they know something most of us don’t about the intelligence community’s dealings with these terrorists.

The State Department scheduled the Mujahideen-e Khalq, or People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK) as a terrorist organization in 1997. Regularly described as a cult, the group mixes Shia Islam, Marxism, and rituals venerating its charismatic leaders. While these leaders claim to have renounced terrorist violence, they have a history of advocating violence to accomplish religious and political objectives. The MEK earned its place on the State Department’s list based largely on an assassination campaign that targeted American military personnel in Iran in the mid-Seventies. Three military officers and three defense contractors were murdered in MEK-linked attacks: Lieutenant Colonel Louis Lee Hawkins (USA), Colonel Paul Shaffer (USAF) and Lieutenant Colonel Jack Turner (USAF), as well as William Cottrell, Donald Smith, and Robert Krongard, who were in Iran working with Rockwell International on the NSA’s Ibex System.

It is unlawful to accept funds from the MEK or to support the group materially, yet its supporters managed to stage a conference in Washington this past week. Among those appearing were Mitchell Reiss, a senior adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and former attorney general Michael Mukasey. Both Reiss and Mukasey openly joked that they were potentially committing a criminal offense by aiding a scheduled terrorist group.

Why would Washington political figures publicly associate themselves with a terrorist organization? It might be because they know that the United States itself shelters, arms, trains, and supports the same group—and that prosecutors would therefore face a quandary in going after them. The covert relationship between the MEK and the U.S. military and intelligence communities has not been very covert. The official U.S. account is that following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the MEK was disarmed and confined to a former Iraqi military base, Camp Ashraf.

in full: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/04/hbc-90008551

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