The Washington Times is reporting that the Treasury Department's counter-terrorism unit has issued a subpoena to former Pennsylvania Governor Rendell over his advocacy for the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which has been declared a terrorist organization by the State Department. Many in Washington, including former Homeland Security Secretary Thomas Ridge, have publicly called for the removal of MEK from the terrorist watch list. So far, Rendell is the only one that has been issued a subpoena.
To appease Iran, President Clinton placed the MEK, which some say is responsible for the deaths of 17,000 Iranian, on the terrorist watch list. Members of the organization, who are housed in a camp near the Iran-Iraq border, renounced violence in 2001.
Rendell and Ridge admitted to the Washington Times taking money for their promotional activities. Rendell made 5 all-expense-paid trips to Europe on behalf of the organization. It is illegal to accept money from organizations on the terror watch list. Since both men do not believe that the MEK should be on the terrorist watch list, they do not seem overly concerned about the legality of the payments. They also did not seem to know the precise source of their payments. In Rendell's defense, the William Morris Agency handles his speaking engagements.
While Iran and the United States are close to war, their devil may care attitude about the origins of their funds seems strange. The issuance of the subpoena seems to indicate that the Treasury Department does not feel the same way. Many in counter-terrorism posit the financiers are just as dangerous as the bomb throwers. As one public official once told me, "Money is the mother's milk of terrorism."
The subpoena may explain why Gerry Lenfest replaced Rendell as CEO of the investor group bidding for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. The Rendellization of the Inquirer continues. Although the Washington Times published this story at 6pm on Friday night, the Philadelphia Inquirer had not reported as of 9:36 pm Saturday.