U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) trained members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (M.E.K.) at a secretive site in Nevada from 2005 to at least 2007, as reported by Seymour M. Hersh at The New Yorker.
M.E.K. has been listed as a “foreign terrorist organization” since 1997. It is a felony in U.S. law to knowingly provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. Early last month two senior Obama officials said that the attacks were the work of M.E.K. and that the group is “financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service [i.e. Mossad].”
In 2002 M.E.K. publicly revealed that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location and the information was provided by Mossad, according to then-head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei.
From The New Yorker:
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.
The training in the U.S. took place at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, located about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
A retired four-star general told Hersh that the Iranians received standard training for about six months that included communications, cryptography, small-unit tactics and weaponry.
At one point M.E.K. operatives were intercepting phone calls and text messages inside Iran, translating them and sharing them with U.S. intelligence experts, according to a former M.E.K. official (who also said he does not know whether this activity is ongoing).
Last month the senior Obama officials denied any U.S. involvement in the M.E.K. assassinations, but a former senior intelligence official told Hersh that the U.S. provides intelligence for M.E.K. operations.
Some U.S. politicians have recently advocated on behalf M.E.K. being removed from the terror list as they have received tens of thousands of dollars from the group, as The Christian Science Monitor reported in August.
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., pointed out the hypocrisy of simultaneously listing the group as a terrorist organization and training them, saying “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?”