As ThinkProgress noted in August, one of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s top foreign policy advisers has taken an active role in a campaign of advocacy for a controversial Iranian exile group listed by the State Department as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO).
Mitchell Reiss, a former Bush administration State Department official, has spoken at events and moderated at least two panels making the case that the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a formerly-Islamic Marxist armed revolutionary group now claiming to renounce violence and preaching democracy, should be removed from the U.S. terror rolls.
On Thursday, Reiss made the announcement of formal foreign policy advisers to the campaign that Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy described as a “shadow National Security Council.”
Also Thursday morning, Reiss’s name conspicuously appeared in the Washington Post — but not in a news article. Instead, he was listed among the signatories to a paid, full-page advertisement (PDF) by a British group supporting the U.S. de-listing the MEK as a terrorist group. In an “Open Letter to President Obama,” the signatories urged Obama to “Delist the MEK (PMOI) Now” and to “Protect Camp Ashraf” — the camp inside Iraq where more than 3,000 of the group’s former-fighters live.
Here’s a photo of the signatories:
Both Reiss and the Romney camp at large have been less than forthcoming about their relationships with the MEK. Here are a few questions intrepid reporters should press them on at availabilities:
- Many of the other signatories listed to today’s Post ad have admitted being paid huge sums of money for speaking appearances both before the group itself at rallies in Europe and at Washington panels where close associates of the group advocate for their delisting. Has Reiss been paid for any of his appearances?
- Several commentators have raised questions about whether or not some of the advocacy for a designated terror group crosses the line into “material support for terror.” This is particularly true since the Supreme Court found an expansive definition of “material support” in Holder vs. the Humanitarian Law Project, where “coordinated” speech with terror groups was prohibited. Georgetown law professor David Cole observed that “(b)y ‘coordinated,’ [Chief Justice John Roberts] seemed to mean speech that involves some kind of direct contact with the group in question.” Has Reiss had any contact with the MEK either with the leadership in Paris or the former-fighters in Camp Ashraf?
- Lastly, though Romney seems to have a position on Iran (largely defined by attacking Obama’s policies), he has yet to stake out a position on the MEK itself. It seems clear that with a two-time campaign foreign policy adviser is a staunch supporter of the group. So where does Romney stand on delisting the MEK and giving them American government support as an Iranian opposition group?