CLIN­TON TOO BUSY

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY JAMES MOR­RI­SON

Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton is just too busy meet­ing for­eign lead­ers, re­spond­ing to global crises and at­tend­ing in­ter­na­tional fo­rums to be both­ered with Ira­nian dis­si­dents who want her to re­move them from the U.S. ter­ror­ist list.

That, in essence, is the case the Jus­tice Depart­ment ar­gued this week in re­sponse to the Peo­ple’s Mo­ja­hedin Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Iran, which asked a fed­eral court to en­force a 2010 rul­ing that the State Depart­ment re­view their sta­tus as a ter­ror­ist group.

Ear­lier this month, the Peo­ple’s Mo­ja­hedin urged the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia to is­sue a writ of man­damus, es­sen­tially an or­der that the State Depart­ment com­ply with the court’s rul­ing of nearly 21/ years ago.

The group also asked fed­eral judges to give the State Depart­ment 30 days to re­view its sta­tus or is­sue a court or­der to re­move the dis­si­dents from the ter­ror­ist list.

“The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s case, sim­ply put, is that the sec­re­tary is too busy to com­ply with the statu­tory re­quire­ments and the court man­date [of 2010],” the group’s at­tor­ney Viet D. Dinh said.

Mr. Dinh, a for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyer, was re­fer­ring to a law that gives the State Depart­ment 180 days to re­view a re­quest from any U.S.des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist group to be re­moved from the black­list.

Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers this week ar­gued that Mrs. Clin­ton is un­der the “un­remit­ting” de­mands of U.S. for­eign pol­icy and can­not “make a decision in a short pe­riod.”

“On an un­remit­ting ba­sis, the sec­re­tary of state must di­rect her full at­ten­tion to emer­gen­cies of the high­est mag­ni­tude, in­volv­ing the United States and its al­lies through­out the globe,” they said.

“Be­sides re­quir­ing con­stant at­ten­tion by the sec­re­tary per­son­ally, as well as by her staff and many of­fi­cials through­out the Depart­ment of State, these mat­ters de­mand fre­quent travel around the world to deal on the spot with rapidly chang­ing events.

“Any in­ter­fer­ence by a court with the sec­re­tary’s abil­ity to carry out these ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal du­ties would set a se­ri­ously trou­bling prece­dent.”

The gov­ern­ment lawyers also ar­gued that Mrs. Clin­ton needs more time to con­sult with Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ti­mothy F. Gei­th­ner and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. She also must an­a­lyze “highly clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion” and make “ex­tremely sen­si­tive na­tional se­cu­rity judg­ments,” they said.

In his re­quest for ur­gent court ac­tion, Mr. Dinh noted that the 3,400 dis­si­dents face a life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion in Iraq, where they have been liv­ing in ex­ile since the 1980s with the goal of over­throw­ing the theo­cratic regime in Iran.

The Iraqi gov­ern­ment has set an April 30 dead­line for the ex­pul­sion of the Ira­ni­ans, call­ing them ter­ror­ists and cit­ing their U.S. ter­ror­ist des­ig­na­tion. The dis­si­dents fear Iraq with ex­tra­dite them to Iran, where they would be ex­e­cuted. Iraqi troops also have at­tacked the dis­si­dents twice in their com­pound, Camp Ashraf, north of Bagh­dad.

Mr. Dinh noted that the Peo­ple’s Mo­ja­hedin is no longer a mil­i­tary threat to Iran be­cause the U.S. Army peacefully dis­armed the dis­si­dents af­ter the 2003 in­va­sion of Iraq. The U.S. mil­i­tary later in­ter­viewed all of the dis­si­dents and found no ev­i­dence of ter­ror­ism. The Army treated them as pro­tected per­sons un­der in­ter­na­tional law un­til 2009, when the U.S. turned over re­spon­si­bil­ity to Iraq.

The dis­si­dents have been on the black­list since 1997, when Pres­i­dent Clin­ton des­ig­nated them a ter­ror­ist group to meet a key Ira­nian de­mand for diplo­matic talks. The State Depart­ment has ac­cused the dis­si­dents of killing sev­eral Amer­i­cans in Iran in the 1970s and at­tack­ing Ira­nian of­fi­cials.

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice re­fused to take the dis­si­dents off the list in 2008, in a move that the fed­eral ap­peals court later ruled as a vi­o­la­tion of their le­gal due process rights.

Bri­tain re­moved the dis­si­dents from its ter­ror­ist list in 2008, and the Euro­pean Union fol­lowed a year later. The dis­si­dents have picked up wide­spread bi­par­ti­san sup­port in Congress and from for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing a for­mer FBI di­rec­tor, for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral and for­mer head of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

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