You know… I’ve stopped reading Glenn Greenwald as much these days. He’s still in my Google Reader, but most of the time I glance at the title, maybe the first paragraph, file it under “not news” and move on. I’ve been reading him for that long, and gotten that cynical. In spite of that, this story still managed to shock me:
When the U.S. wants to fund, train, arm or otherwise align itself with a Terrorist group or state sponsor of Terror — as it often does — it at least usually has the tact to first remove them from its formal terrorist list (as the U.S. did when it wanted to support Saddam in 1982 and work with Libya in 2006), or it just keeps them off the list altogether despite what former Council on Foreign Relations writer Lionel Beehner described as “mounds of evidence that [they] at one time or another abetted terrorists” (as it has done with close U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with the El Salvadoran death squads and Nicaraguan contras armed and funded in the 1980s by the Reagan administration). But according to a new, multi-sourced report from The New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh, the U.S. did not even bother going through those motions when, during the Bush years, it trained the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) at a secretive Department of Energy site in Nevada
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.’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.”
You can find a lot more details and commentary on Greenwald’s blog, but here’s my very brief commentary: I remember when I first heard rhetoric about “state sponsors of terrorism” and didn’t question it. Oh, I knew about the Iran-Contra scandal, and that the US government was for Saddam Hussein before it was against him, and various things the CIA was probably involved in as part of the Cold War, but I still thought there were clear lines between the US government and some other governments. And I thought one of those lines was that the US didn’t support groups that were uncontroversially terrorist groups.
And now we know the US government has supported a group on its own list of terrorist groups. Holy shit.