Mystery Surrounds U.S. Justice Department Move to Wrap Anti-Iran Group in Shroud of Secrecy

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The U.S. Department of Justice has drawn attention to itself for helping an organization opposed to Iran maintain secrecy of its records, which are caught up in a defamation lawsuit filed against the group.


United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) was founded six years ago and is operated by and gets advice from a who’s who list of American and foreign politicos, including former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman; Frances Townsend, the former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush; Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents; plus former intelligence chiefs from Israel, Germany and Britain.


Victor Restis, a Greek shipping magnate accused by UANI of violating sanctions by doing business with Iran, filed a defamation suit against the group. Restis’ lawyers have sought to compel UANI to release information about its donors and other details.


But the Justice Department stepped in and asked a federal judge to block the request, claiming the records contain sensitive information that the government considers important. Federal attorneys insisted “that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, expose investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released, according to The New York Times.


U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in New York City granted the government’s request, while also describing the U.S. government’s involvement as “very curious.” The Justice Department has until July 31 to claim law enforcement privilege and keep the information from being disclosed permanently. In the meantime, each side has hurled charges and countercharges at the other.


“I am particularly concerned,” Ramos said in April, “that the defendants are able to utilize certain information in its public statements, and then not have to answer to their actions on the basis of a privilege.”


The claim of privilege puts the Justice Department in a conundrum. Federal intelligence agencies are not supposed to work with outside agencies to influence U.S. public opinion. But if UANI hasn’t been working with the government, what information could it have that would be so sensitive? We might find out on Thursday.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Justice Dept. Moves to Shield Anti-Iran Group’s Files (by Matt Apuzzo, New York Times)

‘New York Times’ Profile of Group Bent on Sanctioning Iran Fails to Mention Israel Connections (by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss)


Iranfail 10 years ago
Usually the government intervenes when it has a compelling interest. In this case, that interest might be an ongoing investigation in finances or, as has happened in other similar cases with NGOs, a release of donors might jeopardize sources of information being provided to the US government by the organization. For example, Iranian resistance groups have in the past revealed the existence of the Iranian nuclear program and identified locations of centrifuges, research labs and the identities of Iranian nuclear scientists. They often get this information from their own sources within Iran who basically conduct their own investigations, which are often paid for through donations to the organization that gets funneled back to their sources. The Iranian regime has in the past used civil lawsuits in an effort to find out who has been funding these resistance groups and then use that info to crack down on relatives, associates and other connections, both in Iran and without in attempt to silence these critics. Totalitarian regimes such as China and Russia have used these tactics to find out who is backing their critics. I'm inclined to think this is one of those instances and DOJ is afraid is the money trail gets revealed, it's going to disclose sources and methods of intelligence gathering. At the end of the day, I wouldn't put it past the Iranian regime to pull the stops out of any avenue available to them to get a read on who their enemies are and get a laundry list of names, addresses and banking information delivered to them.
john stanton 10 years ago
Here a piece I just did. You can find many of their donors online.

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