The Cable

Terrorist group’s supporters throw party in U.S. Congress

It's not every day that groups supporting a State Department-listed foreign terrorist organization hold a party in the U.S. Congress, but that's exactly what happened today when the friends of the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK) threw their Nowruz party in the hearing room of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Members of Congress will join Iranian Americans in wishing the Iranian people a Happy Nowrouz and address the humanitarian rights of Iran's main opposition in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, in Iraq," reads the flyer for the party, which was held Thursday at the Rayburn building in room 2172, where the foreign affairs committee holds all of its public events.

The flyer says that the event is sponsored by "Iranian American communities" from around the United States, but the mention of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty is a clear reference to the MEK, a group designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization that has about 3,000 members living in the secretive Ashraf compound in Iraq.

The U.N. and the State Department are working to move them to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near the Baghdad airport, but the MEK is resisting that move, and has enlisted its  many supporters in the United States to decry the conditions at the former military base. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani even went so far as to call Camp Liberty a "concentration camp."

House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) spoke at the event and discussed human rights in Iran, but did not mention the MEK by name. Former Homeland Security secretary and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, a paid advocate of the MEK, also spoke.

"The event was not sponsored by the MEK," Ros-Lehtinen's spokesperson Brad Goehner told The Cable.  "The room was requested by the Iranian-American Society of South Florida and sponsored by the Iranian-American communities of 39 cities for an event commemorating the Iranian New Year. Space in Congressional office buildings is routinely made available to organizations wishing to hold events on issues important to members of Congress."

The flyer doesn't say the party is being thrown by or for the MEK, and aides who attended told The Cable that there were no MEK signs or banners at the event, as one usually sees wherever the MEK is camped out.

That could be a result of the revelation that the Treasury Department's counterterrorism unit has issued a subpoena to former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for records related to his paid advocacy of the MEK, as part of an investigation into the web of organizations that support the terrorist group.

There is a long list of Iranian-American organizations that fund pro-MEK events and pay speakers fees to MEK supporters. Many of these organizations - such as the "Global Initiative for Democracy, whose homepage is entirely devoted to the MEK's concerns and who hosted an MEK conference in January -- seem to have no other function other than to advocate for the MEK, and the actual sources of their money is unclear.

Receiving funding from a terrorist organization or even providing it with "material support," which could include advocacy, is a crime.

The campaign by the MEK's supporters to disparage Camp Liberty and lobby for the MEK's removal from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations has included huge rallies outside the State Department, massive sit-ins at Congressional hearings, and an ongoing vigil outside the State Department's C Street entrance. 

Those supporters, many of them paid, include Giuliani, Rendell, Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. John Lewis (D-GA), former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former Sen. Robert Torricelli, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, former National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, former CIA Director Porter Goss, senior advisor to the Romney campaign Mitchell Reiss, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, and former Sen. Evan Bayh.

Congressional aides attended the event on Thursday in the hearing room both out of curiosity and hunger for free food. But multiple aides told The Cable the event was bizarre, even by Congressional standards.

"Looks like you just have to be the ‘right' terrorist organization to hold a fancy party in the halls and hearing rooms of Congress," one House aide told The Cable. "Hope everyone who ate their kabobs doesn't get hit with material support subpoenas."

The Cable

Congress catches KONY fever

33 senators unveiled a new resolution on Wednesday in support of the effort to capture the head of the Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony, the subject of the "Kony 2012" viral video, which garnered over 80 million views before its creator was arrested following a mental breakdown and was subsequently hospitalized.

"Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army have burned a path of destruction through Uganda and its neighbors in central Africa for the last 25 years," Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said in a statement about the bill. "Joseph Kony represents the worst of mankind, and he and his commanders must be held accountable for their war crimes...The broad and bipartisan backing of this resolution demonstrates that we strongly support ongoing efforts to capture or kill Joseph Kony."

Coons, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, is leading the drive to pass the resolution with Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the self-appointed "official Senate point man for Africa."

"Having made over 120 country visits to the continent of Africa, I have long worked to end the LRA's activities," said Inhofe. "In order to combat terror and prevent further devastation caused by the hands of Joseph Kony, it is imperative that he is found and the LRA is finally disarmed. Only then, will we be able to bring stability to Africa."

The resolution expresses Congress's support for the efforts of countries in the region to end the threat posed by the LRA, encourages the U.S. government to strengthen regional militaries' capabilities to go after the LRA and to enhance military cooperation with those militaries, encourages the U.S. government to increase assistance to local populations affected by the LRA,  and calls on President Barack Obama to work with Congress to bring Kony and his top commanders to justice or kill them.

Last October, the president sent 100 military advisors to central Africa to join the hunt for Kony. That action was a follow-on to the passage and implementation of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which established the goal of going after Kony and the LRA as official U.S. policy.

The other original sponsors of the bill are Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), John McCain (R-AZ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dan Coats (R-ID), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), John Boozman (R-AR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Al Franken (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Casey (D-PA).

UPDATE: Four more senators have signed on: Tom Coburn (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN).