- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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 2 1/2 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.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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