The Obama administration said Monday that an appeals court shouldn’t interfere with the government’s review of its designation of an Iranian opposition group as a terrorist organization.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as MEK, wants the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to make the U.S. State Department purge the group from its list of designated terrorist organizations or require it take specific actions within a certain timeframe, Reuters reports.
But the U.S. said in a filing that the review of MEK’s status requires “consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General; close analysis of highly classified information; expert judgments about the continuing capabilities and intentions of a currently designated foreign terrorist organization; extremely sensitive national security judgments; and difficult decisions concerning the best way to avoid possible serious human rights violations.” The government argued that any interference by a court with the Secretary of State’s duties “would set a seriously troubling precedent.”
The government, the Justice Department said “has consulted with the U.S. Intelligence Community, and engaged in the difficult process of determining whether classified material may now be declassified and disclosed publicly; it has given the PMOI new opportunities to respond to the unclassified evidence, and that entity has submitted a substantial amount of material; it has gathered fresh relevant classified information; it has met with representatives of the PMOI, which made a lengthy inperson presentation; it has consulted with the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice; and it has engaged in extensive internal deliberations.”
Treasury Department officials have launched an investigation into speaking payments given to numerous high-profile former U.S. officials by what has been described as a network of Iranian-Americans.
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, one of the former officials organizing a defense team for the officials who have received subpoenas, suggested at an event in Paris over the weekend that the timing of the Treasury Department’s investigation was tied to the ongoing litigation.
“Look at the timing. The MEK tells the State Department and the Justice Department, ‘You know, you’ve been dragging your feet long enough with this designation. We’re going to go into court.’ They gave them not only advanced notice that they’re going to do it, they gave them an advanced copy of the papers they were going to file. And they disclosed the names of the people. Mayor Giuliani, Tom Ridge, others, many others, who would have also filed paper in court as friends of the court, telling them on the basis of our experience and our knowledge —many people on that brief directly involved in national security affairs — that there is no basis, no reason for that designation. They were told that in advance,” Mukasey said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
“And lo and behold a couple days later subpoenas get served on the speaker agencies that send those people out to express their views,” Mukasey said. “I stopped believing in coincidences like that when I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy, and that was a long time ago.”