The US government and the CIA have long used front groups to covertly pursue its agenda. These groups have high-minded names that include words like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ and ‘development’ and ‘aid’ but their goal is subversion of other countries. Using these fronts enables the government to deny any involvement and instead say that the things they instigate and finance secretly with puppet leaders are actually ‘popular’ or ‘grass roots’ or ‘local’ movements.
It seems like one such group’s cover is threatening to be blown and the US government has been forced to intervene to prevent the secrets spilling out and, as usual, wants to keep the reasons for its intervention secret as well, another example of president Obama’s ‘most transparent administration in history’ in action.
The Justice Department intervened late Friday in a defamation lawsuit against United Against Nuclear Iran, a prominent advocacy group that pushes for tough sanctions against Tehran. The government said the case should be dropped because forcing the group to open its files would jeopardize national security.
The group is not affiliated with the government, and lists no government contracts on its tax forms. The government has cited no precedent for using the so-called state-secrets privilege to quash a private lawsuit that does not focus on government activity.
The lawsuit, by a Greek shipping magnate, accuses United Against Nuclear Iran of falsely accusing him of doing business with Iran. The businessman, Victor Restis, subpoenaed the group for its donor list and all information it had collected about him. That was when the Justice Department stepped in.
“There is no precedent, literally, for what the government is attempting to do,” said Abbe D. Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Restis.
In this case, however, the Justice Department said that “the concerned federal agency, the particular information at issue and the bases for the assertion of the state-secrets privilege cannot be disclosed” without jeopardizing national security.
If United Against Nuclear Iran possesses American classified information, it is not clear how the group obtained it. Government intelligence agencies are prohibited from secretly trying to influence public opinion.
“I have never seen anything like this,” said Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented clients in other cases that have been quashed because of state secrets. “If there’s something in their files that would disclose a state secret, is there any reason it should be in their files?”
Another possibility is that the Justice Department is trying to protect foreign relations with Israel, a vital ally. In court documents, Mr. Lowell has accused United Against Nuclear Iran of being financed by unidentified foreign interests. He has tried to force the testimony of Israel’s former intelligence chief and a prominent Israeli businessman, who he said helped pass information about his client.
Once again, the US government abuses the law to hide its own abuses.