Monday, January 24, 2005

Security You Can Enjoy 

Our distinguished colleague Josh Narins of Remain Calm discovered that the Department of Homeland Security keeps its daily logs of terrorist-related law enforcement activity online, and you can view them by Googling homeland security operations morning brief (or by visiting the hacker site Cryptome, which maintains a large library of cached briefs). Josh describes an interesting item about the Mujahedin-e Khalq organization (MEK) here.

UPDATE: Dept. of Synchronicity: this morning's S.F. Chronicle has a lengthy story on the Iranian Mirmedhi brothers, who have been locked up since shortly after 9/11 even though a Board of Immigration appeals court threw out the government's charges against them for lack of evidence. What was the offense that landed the four of them in detention for forty months and keeps them there today?
The key elements of the government case against the brothers are the fact that they participated in a pro-MEK rally in June 1997 in Denver and that their names appeared on a roster of rally participants later found in an FBI raid of a MEK safe house in Los Angeles in 2001.

The brothers point out that the rally, which took place outside a summit meeting of heads of state from the G-8 industrial nations, was legal because the MEK had not yet been placed on the terrorist list. The rally, which featured Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., as a speaker, drew several thousand people, according to media reports.

Among the MEK's backers at the time was Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft, who ended his support when he became the Bush administration's attorney general.
In a 2003 article for Slate Michael Crowley details the MEK's long history of violence and terror. But since most of that terror, especially in recent years, has been directed at the government of Iran, Washington's attitude toward the group has been reliably ambivalent:
In 2000, 225 House members signed a letter encouraging a U.S. "dialogue" with the group. A year later, 30 senators expressed "support for the democratic goals" of the MEK. (Attorney General John Ashcroft was a passionate supporter of the group when he was in the Senate.) In January, the NCR proudly touted its congressional support in a full-page New York Times advertisement. The MEK's congressional supporters argue that the group represents the best challenge to Iran's dictatorial mullahs. "When you're trying to get rid of a terrorist regime, you use who you can," New York Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman told National Review last year.

But nothing has done more for the group's reputation than its disclosures about Iran's secret weapons programs. Virtually every recent story about the Iranian nuclear program now credits this "opposition group" with tipping off the world to a hidden uranium-enrichment plant in northern Iran. Even the White House has publicly congratulated the group.
And, as the Chronicle story points out, the MEK may even figure in the next iteration of the "Salvador option":
Some influential neoconservatives who backed the invasion of Iraq now advocate using the MEK fighters to destabilize Iran, and the group's 4,000 fighters are being housed in a military base north of Baghdad, disarmed yet protected by U.S. troops -- and, according to U.S. officials' statements, working closely with the CIA.

But the United States cannot appear to be siding with a terrorist group, Milani said: "If this war on terror is to have any credibility, it needs to be consistent. The Iranian regime often complains that acts of terrorism against it by its opponents nevertheless are not treated that way. You have to apply the same standard to all groups."
In November the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that among post-9/11 detainees, the Mirmehdis probably hold the current record for most time spent behind bars.

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