Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

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Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:28 am

Via: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/n ... 4/mek.html

Our Men in Iran?
Posted by Seymour M. Hersh

From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.

It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.

Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.)

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…’ ”

It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)

Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”

Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”

Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.

Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.

The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations than it never had before.”

In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”
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Re: Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

Postby StarmanSkye » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:53 pm

... 'Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”'
**********

Hm, how does U spell 'hypocrisy'?
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Re: Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

Postby Marie Laveau » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:14 pm

Shocking! Absolutely and utterly SHOCKING!

*snark*
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Re: Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:58 pm

Training Terrorists in Nevada: Seymour Hersh on U.S. Aid to Iranian Group Tied to Scientist Killings

Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. The MEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997 and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the 1970s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. Hersh also discusses the role of Israeli intelligence and notes the Obama administration knew about the training, "because they have access to what was going on in the previous administration in this area, in terms of the MEK, in terms of operations inside Iran." His new report for The New Yorker blog, "Our Men in Iran?," comes as nuclear talks are set to resume this week between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. [includes rush transcript–partial]

Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter for The New Yorker magazine. His latest piece for their website’s "News Desk" blog is titled "Our Men in Iran?"


Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: In what appears to be a first for U.S. foreign policy, new revelations have emerged that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group despite its inclusion on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Writing for The New Yorker magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh reports U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. The MEK has been included on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist groups since 1997. It’s been linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the ’70s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists.

Although the revelation that the U.S. government directly trained the MEK comes as a surprise, it’s no secret the group has prominent backers across the political spectrum. Despite it’s designation as a "terrorist" organization by the State Department for 15 years, a number of prominent former U.S. officials have been paid to speak in support of the MEK. The bipartisan list includes two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and Porter Goss; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Vermont Governor Howard Dean; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Last month, Rendell and other unnamed officials were subpoenaed by the Treasury Department over their ties to MEK. Mukasey and Freeh have retained former Clinton administration Solicitor General Seth Waxman in response to the Treasury Department probe. Rendell, meanwhile, has shrugged off the scrutiny. Speaking at a public event in support of the MEK Friday in Washington, he told the crowd, quote, "I never knew obtaining a subpoena from your own government would be so much fun."

Well, for more on the U.S. and its ties to the MEK, we’re joined by Seymour Hersh in Washington, D.C. His new piece for The New Yorker is called "Our Men in Iran?"

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy Hersh. Oh, and happy birthday.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, yes, that’s right. It’s great to be older.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll focus on the wiser part. Tell us what you have learned. Who are, as you call it, "our men in Iran"?

SEYMOUR HERSH: They are as you said. The MEK—and by the way, once again, Amy, the piece was on The New Yorker blog, not in the magazine; it’s a shorter piece. But anyway, the point is, it went through the same sort of intense checking as anything in The New Yorker, of course.

Simply, they’re just the Khalq, the MEK. We began to—I learned about this many years ago. It’s just one of those things that it never quite occurred to me how important it was. And what is important about also the—they did stop, there’s no question, this sort of training that was going on. It was going on at a place called the Nevada Nuclear Security or National Security Test Site. It’s a former site for World War—post-World War II nuclear testing of weapons, testing of nuclear weapons. And it’s off-limits to people. And it’s—there’s an air base there. God knows what went on there. My own guess is rendition flights also flew into that air base in '02, ’03. There's some evidence for it. But certainly, the groups of MEK were flown in secretly by, I presume, the Joint Special Operations Command. This is this new high-powered group that’s been doing all the night raids in Afghanistan, that also came up in your news broadcast.

What’s important to me about it is not only that it did end, this kind of direct training of this group that is, as you said, a terrorist group; it’s also very clear that the United States is still involved, as is Israel and as was, for many years, England, in using the MEK and other dissident groups inside Iran as surrogates for the continued pressure we’re putting covertly on inside of Iran. And that is, as you said, there are assassinations done by the MEK. And let me make it clear, the MEK has been in a virtual war with the mullahs in Iran since the fall of the Shah, and you don’t have to—you don’t have to urge them to kill anybody. They’re very eager to do it themselves inside that country. But still, nonetheless, we provide intelligence. We, the Americans, have continued to provide intelligence and other kinds of material support for the MEK. Don’t forget, they speak Farsi, which is a great asset to us. These are people who are able to translate intercepted communications inside Iran for us very quickly and very—with great skill. And so, we have a lot of reason to rely on them, as we rely on other dissident groups inside Iran—the Kurds, the Azeris and others—to cause—basically, to try and keep some sort of internal chaos and mayhem going inside the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it believed the MEK were involved in the assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, nobody has a video of it, but that seems clear that one of their goals, obviously, is to prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. And it’s not clear who they’re really assassinating, whether they’re—I know they’re—at one time, my government—I wrote about this in The New Yorker many years ago, in '05 or ’06. We've been actively involved, beginning in the Cheney-Bush days, of encouraging insurrection inside Iran—whether it’s aimed at regime change or not isn’t clear; I doubt that—but basically, blowing up things, etc. We did have a list at one time we created here in Washington of people we’d like to see gone, captured perhaps, turned over or turned into our agents, you know, double agents inside Iran. We tried to do that, too. But certainly, the Israelis are pawing the ground as if they are directly responsible or deeply involved with the MEK in the recent assassination of a 32-year-old scientist whose role in terms of—there’s not much evidence he was involved in making weapons, because there’s no evidence that Iranians are making weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the bombs that were used in the assassinations?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, they’re most interesting bombs. They’re limpet bombs, Marine limpet bombs. They’re designed—they have a special charge, and they’re designed to go inside. They blow inside. And they’re, of course, of great use by the Navy SEALs. And the Navy SEALs, if you’re going to do an underwater demolition, if you’re going to blow up a ship from underwater, which as the SEALs traditionally were trained to do—most of them are involved in day-to-day combat in Afghanistan, etc., and much different from their initial role of underwater stuff. But if you want to blow up something underwater, you have to have a charge that explodes inward to cause water to rush in, etc. And these kind of very sophisticated charges have been used by the MEK in the assassinations.

And the reason we know it is that the car that was hit, for example, in January in Tehran that killed the young scientist, or the nuclear physicist or whatever he was, exploded inward. You can argue this is also good because it avoids non-combatant deaths. You know, you don’t want to kill a lot of people other than the one you’re trying to kill. It is also useful because you make sure anybody in that car gets it, because it does blow inside. It’s a very sophisticated shape charge. And there’s no question that some of the best mines in the Navy mine-making business were—some of that information was obviously passed on, whether directly to the MEK or through Israeli assets, or explicitly how. But it’s not an accident that these kinds of sophisticated weapons can be traced to the Navy SEALs, who are a major element of the Joint Special Operations Command.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, you end your piece by quoting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at Fort Bliss in Texas acknowledging the U.S. has some ideas as to who might have been involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved, you know, being questioned about—this was the day after—a few days after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientists. He said, "I can tell you one thing: the [United States] was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does."

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I think that’s technically correct. I don’t think there’s any other way to read that comment as—the use of that last graph as an ironic statement, perhaps. I think it’s correct that—also, it’s to my knowledge—this isn’t in the piece, because only one particular source about it, but I do understand that we really don’t know what’s going to happen 'til after it happens, and then we are put on notice. We do get notice that something has happened before it's released to the public. We have that kind of communication, essentially through Israel. Israel is obviously a little closer to everything that’s going on than we are. But we’re certainly—we’re not picking targets. I doubt that now. At least I don’t have any evidence we are. But we’re providing general intelligence.

And it’s not an accident that the first units of the MEK to show up in Nevada, late '04, early ’05—and it was months and months of training. It's not—the first word used by two different people about it was "commo," communications, and "crypto." The point is that—there was a story in the Washington Post just the other day here describing how America has been using drones to overfly Iran for at least three years. I would argue that, long before that, we’ve been using American satellites flying high that can’t be detected. And obviously, you can uplink and downlink communications to satellites. You can—if you’re on the ground and you find out something very useful tactically—by training the MEK in communications and how to use encrypt communications, you’re also enabling them to become an asset on the ground for us.

There was a period, I would say, in the Bush administration—I also think it stopped under Obama—when our boys, our Joint Special Operations Command guys, were directly inside Iran. We came in through Herat in Afghanistan. We also—that was one of—what we call a rat line. There are other rat lines through Balochistan in Pakistan, and etc. There are ways to get inside Iran clandestinely that we’ve been using for at least since, I’d say, late '04 until probably right before Obama got in. So we were there—look, it's been a huge, big internal game designed to destabilize.

And as somebody said to me in one of the pieces, one of the quotes in the pieces, "We’re not necessarily looking for Einsteins." That suggests to me that the scientists who are really the most deeply involved in the enrichment. And by the way, let me say again, there is no evidence that our intelligence community or even the Israeli intelligence community has—and I know that firsthand—suggesting that there’s an ongoing bomb program. So we are now—the United States is now in the position of increasing sanctions and pressuring all sorts of economic pressure on the Iranians to stop—the whole purpose of the economic sanctions is to stop the Iranians from making a bomb that we know they’re not making. Once again, I don’t know how we get into this convoluted position. And then, as readers of the major newspapers know, we are now also entering new talks with Iran with new preconditions, and basically telling them that they must stop doing enriching, what they are legally entitled to do as members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran may be secretly wanting a bomb, and they may have that passion, and they maybe, you know, dream about it at night, but we haven’t a shred of evidence that they’ve done anything, concretely, physically, to create a facility for making a weapon.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Seymour Hersh. We’re going to come back to him in 30 seconds, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has written a piece for The New Yorker online called "Our Men in Iran?" Stay with us.
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:12 pm

Thank you slad, that interview was great. As I suspected, The New Yorker did not published the story to their actual print edition! Bummer, but predictable.

Unintentional hilarity, too:

Democracy Now wrote:AMY GOODMAN: In what appears to be a first for U.S. foreign policy,


:roll: If only, if only...
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Re: Hersh Bomb: Americans Trained MEK Terrorists

Postby operator kos » Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:22 pm

Democracy Now wrote:AMY GOODMAN: In what appears to be a first for U.S. foreign policy,


LOL. And some of my lefty friends get so mad when I call Amy a gatekeeper...
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