Filner's Road to Paris

Bob Filner took a first-class trip to Paris, courtesy of an Iranian-American group with ties to alleged terrorists
  • Bob Filner took a first-class trip to Paris, courtesy of an Iranian-American group with ties to alleged terrorists

Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, who has declared his candidacy for mayor of San Diego, took a free trip to Paris last month courtesy of a group of Iranian-Americans from Colorado tied to a controversial organization on the U.S. State Department’s roster of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.”

According to Filner’s disclosure report, dated July 5 and posted by the website Legistorm.com, the congressman departed Washington, D.C. on June 16 and returned June 21. His activities in the French capital included a “Grand meeting of Iranians in support of human rights and democracy for Iran.” The document adds that the congressman also “met with women’s right and religious right leaders.”

Total transportation expenses, including first class commercial airfare, were given as $4203.77. Total lodging expenses were said to be $2385.85. No separate meal or drink costs were listed. In response to a section of the form that reads, “Explain why participation in the trip is connected to your individual official or representational duties,” the disclosure reads, “Advocate Iranian Human Rights.” An accompanying “Private Sponsor Travel Certification Form” was signed by Tim Mehdi Ghaemi of “Colorado’s Iranian American Community.”

Back in November 2007, we wrote about a similar trip Filner made to Paris in June of that year, paid for by the same sponsor. Ghaemi told us then that the funds for the $7949 trip came from “Iranian-American community members in Colorado” but would not identify individual donors. Filner didn’t return calls for that story.

Ghaemi has ties to the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), which has long been fighting to get the U.S. to stop calling it a terrorist organization. Begun as a 1960s left-wing group opposed to the Shah of Iran, the organization turned against the Islamic revolution that succeeded the Shah, waging a deadly bombing campaign inside that country and allying itself with president Saddam Hussein of Iraq, where the group based attacks against Iran during the Iraq-Iran war.

Since the fall of Saddam, the group’s political allies in the U.S., many of whom are members of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, have argued that, as an opponent of Iran, the MEK should be removed from the American terrorist list. Critics, on the other hand, claim that the group remains a threat to international order. Some have called it a cult that conducts “ideological cleansings” of its members. First designated a terrorist organization in 1997 during the Clinton Administration, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization has remained on the list ever since, including during the administration of George W. Bush.

A major MEK advocate has been ex-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a one-time lobbyist with the law and lobbying firm of DLA Piper in Washington. In January 2008, the National Journal reported Armey had written op-eds and other material on MEK’s behalf. According to that story, “DLA Piper has received $860,000 in fees over the past four and a half years from Saeid Ghaemi, whom the firm identifies as an ‘Iranian-American businessman who works closely with the Iranian-American community in the U.S. to promote human rights and democracy in Iran.’” The publication identified Tim Mehdi Ghaemi as Saeid Ghaemi’s brother.

In 2007, Filner teamed up with Colorado conservative GOP House member Tom Tancredo to coauthor an op-ed piece for the Washington Times: “From its base in Iraq, where 3800 MEK members live under the protection of coalition forces, the organization has provided intelligence on Iran’s support for terrorism in Iraq,” the pair wrote. “Listing the MEK as ‘terrorists’ is both an injustice and manifestly contrary to U.S. interests.”

In January of this year, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, and ex-Bush homeland security advisor Frances Fragos Townsend took up the cause in the National Review: “MEK, which opposes the current regime in Tehran and has provided valuable intelligence to the United States on Iranian nuclear plans, was placed on the State Department list during the Clinton administration as a purported goodwill gesture to the mullahs, in aid of furthering dialogue. Regrettably, it was kept on during the administration of George W. Bush, in part out of fear that Iran would provide IEDs to our enemies in Iraq, which of course the mullahs are doing anyway.”

Three weeks ago, following his latest trip to Paris as a guest of the Iranian-Americans, Filner reiterated to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations — chaired by California GOP congressman Dana Rohrabacher — that the MEK should be removed from the terrorist list.

“The MEK and its leader have come up with, it seems to me, the one legitimate policy that is best for us as Americans,” Filner said. “They call it the ‘third way.’ That means we do not invade Iran, but we do not appease the existing mullahs. We get out of the way and let the resistance do what it — what it can and should and wants to do. The listing of the — of the MEK as a terrorist organization is getting in the way, so we ought to delist.”

Filner did not respond to a telephone message left with an aide at his congressional office in Washington.

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May i ask you who are these "critics" or "some" that claim that the MEK is a international threat or a cult? It is only the Iranian regime paid agents and lobbyists who use the term "ideological cleanings" against the MEK to discredit them. These are all misinformation and propaganda to tarnish the image of the Iranian democratic opposition. If you are mentioning the history of the MEK, it is maybe a bit fair to also write that the Iranian regime have killed more than 120000 of their members and sympathizer just because of their opinion and that they have a huge support among Iranians. In the same meeting in Paris more than 100000 people participated in support of the MEK. Instead of trying to discredit Mr. Fliner, who is by the way not the only democrat who is supporting the MEK - people like Howard Dean, Bill Richardson, Brad Sherman, General James Jones, Patrick Kennedy and... have the same view about the MEK - it would be better to be objective.

This article seem to have only one aim to discredit the image of a very respected and honorable congressman who has become a familiar face worldwide for the Iranian people because for his steadfast support for democracy and human rights. The MEK that the author disguises as “alleged terrorists” was placed on the US terrorist list at the behest of the mullahs in 1997. US, UK and EU Courts have repeatedly called this designation as “void” and even “perverse!” Congressman Brad Sherman, the leading Democrat on House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has repeatedly concurred with Mr Filner that MEK should be removed from the terrorism list. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCKr0s... As the State Department is about to review its “unlawful” (according to the courts) designation of MEK as terrorists, the Iranian regimes intelligence ministry has orchestrated a vast campaign by its lobbyist all around the US with hundreds of “journalists, experts and bloggers” to try to block this decision. But at the end of the day they have to follow the law.

Maybe the author should ask himself, why so many congressmen of US are supporting delisting of MEK? It is because they know exactly who MEK are. they understand that MEK is not a terrorist group. They believe in separation of Mosque and state, equal rights for men and women and everything needed for a democratic Iran. They were one of the main groups who opposed Khomeini's inhumane laws like forced Hijab (cover for women), Velaiat Faghih (supreem leader chosen by God), execution of innocent people just becasue they had different political views, closure of 100s of newspapers,...in less than a year after the revolution. They only started arm struggle after Khomeini had already killed 100s of theri members and injured thousands within two years of the revolution in Iran. Khomeini killed tens of thousands of their members in the perisons later on. MEK being in the list was only becasue of Clinton flirting with Kahatami, thinking that would change the criminal nature of the Islamic government. The only countries who have MEK in the list now are US and Iran. Isn't that funny??? The following videos show why most of the US congressmen are supporting delisting of MEK and support of Ashraf:

There should have been some context for alleging that our best and brightest hope for a Democratic Mayor of San Diego is consorting with terrorist groups and getting wined and dined by them in Paris, France. A junket with a real purpose? Yes. But tippling with terrorists? No.

You know American "terrorist lists" are frequently shown to be out-of-date and notorious for errors and omissions. And for Pete's sake, my estate lawyer works at Piper Jaffrey which allegedly employs Dick Armey as a lobbyist to the MEK group.

But mainly, it's obvious that those Iranian-Americans in Colorado oppose the Iranian fundamentalist mullahs and wish to put American lawmakers in touch with Iranian groups like MEK who are outside Iran but have contacts there and may have useful information about the Islamic leadership of that closed society. Like whether or not Iran has a nuclear bomb, about its meddling in neighboring countries' revolutions, about its continuing expressed hostility toward Israel, about the possibility for political change in the future.

Labeling them all "terrorists" is like calling anti-Castro Cuban-Americans "terrorists:" they are opponents of regimes in power in their home countries.

I think informal contacts of this sort are potentially useful as we set our foreign policy with Iran -- and Filner is still serving the United States Congress. It certainly beats declaring outright war on Iran -- which is what Dick Cheney and George W. Bush wanted to do.

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