from The New York Times:
U.S. Supporters of Iranian Group Face Scrutiny
By SCOTT SHANE
Published: March 13, 2012
WASHINGTON — For more than a year, prominent former American officials have been giving well-paid speeches in support of an Iranian opposition group that is fighting to reverse its 15-year-old designation by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press
Now the Treasury Departmentappears to have begun an inquiry to see whether the speaking fees were being paid by the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, known as the M.E.K. Americans are prohibited by law from doing business with designated terrorist groups.
Edward G. Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and an outspoken supporter of the M.E.K., said on Monday that William Morris Endeavor, which handles his speaking engagements, received a subpoena last week seeking information on fees he had received for M.E.K.-related speeches.
The Treasury Department declined to comment on whether it is conducting an investigation. But the subpoena to Mr. Rendell, earlier reported by The Washington Times, raises the possibility that a long list of former officials who have accepted fees to speak on behalf of the M.E.K., including former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, could come under scrutiny for any payments traced to the group.
Mr. Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he had given seven or eight speeches since July calling for the M.E.K. to be taken off the terrorist list and estimated that he had been paid a total of $150,000 or $160,000. Mr. Rendell said he had been told that his fees came from Iranian-American supporters of the M.E.K., not from the group itself.
The M.E.K. has a history of carrying out terrorist acts against both the Islamic government of Iran and the shah’s government that preceded it, and at least six Americans died in such attacks in the 1970s, according to a Rand Corporation study of the group. But Mr. Rendell and other American supporters say the group ceased such violent acts many years ago and should no longer be on the terrorist list.
Mr. Rendell expressed puzzlement that a subpoena would be issued now, more than a year after former high-ranking American officials began giving paid speeches on behalf of the group.
Even as the Treasury Department inquires about his fees, he said, the State Department has asked him and several other former American officials to act as informal envoys between the State Department and the M.E.K. in tense negotiations after the Iraqi government ordered the group to vacate its camp north of Baghdad.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has urged the group to move more than 3,000 supporters from Camp Ashraf, where they have lived for many years, to a site near Baghdad’s international airport, as a first step toward leaving Iraq. She said last month that the group’s cooperation in the move would be a factor in the State Department’s forthcoming decision on its request to have the terrorist label dropped.
In recent weeks, about 800 of the M.E.K. supporters have made the move. But the group’s leaders, based in Paris, have repeatedly complained about conditions in the new location, and both United States and United Nations officials are concerned that the group might not complete the relocation, possibly provoking Iraqi officials.
The M.E.K., which supported Saddam Hussein and is described by critics as a cult, has faced open hostility from the current Iraqi government, which has close relations to Iran. Iraqi security forces clashed last year with M.E.K. supporters at Camp Ashraf, resulting in the death of at least 36 of the camp residents.
Mr. Rendell said he thought it was a “disgrace” that M.E.K. supporters had been killed with weapons supplied by the United States and despite promises of security for the camp from the Bush administration. He said he agreed to speak up for the group in part because he was dismayed by the violence and never would have spoken for the money alone.
“I made a lot of money last year,” Mr. Rendell said. “I don’t need the money. I would never sacrifice my reputation for any amount of money.”
A spokesman for the Treasury Department, John Sullivan, said that while he could not discuss any “potential investigation,” American citizens and legal residents were “generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with or providing services” to the M.E.K. or any other terrorist group.
“The Treasury Department takes sanctions enforcement seriously and routinely investigates potential violations of sanctions laws,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Other former officials who have accepted fees for speaking in support of the M.E.K. said on Monday that they and their agents had not received subpoenas. Some did not respond to inquiries. The fees have ranged from $15,000 to $30,000 for a brief speech, though some invitees have spoken free.
Among former officials who have spoken for the M.E.K. at conferences are two former C.I.A. directors, R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss; a former F.B.I. director, Louis J. Freeh; a former attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey; President George W. Bush’s first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge; President Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; as well as prominent Republicans, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, and Democrats like Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont.
The conferences, as well as newspaper and television advertisements, have been organized by advocacy groups in the United States, including the Iranian-American Community of Northern California. That group did not immediately return a request for comment, but Mr. Rendell said he had met numerous well-to-do Iranian Americans at the group’s events and believed that their donations covered the costs.