Many seemingly important news reports that gained attention in 2016 turned out to be marred with falsified information.
A major threat to the dissemination of true information to U.S. citizens lies in the existence of suspicious figures sent by foreign countries for the purposes of espionage and influence over U.S. foreign policy.
Iran is a prime example. Its golden age of insider influence has passed with the inauguration of President Trump. The Tehran loyalists no longer have established access to the U. S. State Department and the National Security Council.
But this does not mean Iran’s network of spies and agents in the U.S. are going to stop spreading misinformation. It simply means the primary means of influence has been relegated back to mainstream and social media.
Left unchecked, it still remains a serious problem that cannot be underestimated and deserves due attention. As someone who had to deal with the threat of terrorism firsthand, I appreciate the significance of such due vigilance.
A prime example of Iranian infiltration comes in the form of Masoud Khodabandeh. He introduces himself as the “director of Middle East Strategy Consultants.” As such, he published nine Huffington Post articles in 2016.
Seven of those pieces were focused on spreading fake news and demonizing the main Iranian opposition, the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran/Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK).
The MEK believes regime change is needed in Iran as Tehran remains the main source of Islamic fundamentalism and is the number one state sponsor of international terrorism.
It is committed to establishing a democratic government in Iran based on the separation of church and state. As such, the extremist government in Tehran has good cause to be concerned about the MEK.
A report commissioned by the Pentagon and released by the Library of Congress provides an alarming look into the operations of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Services (MOIS) right here in the United States.
“MOIS recruited former members of the (People’s Mujahedin of Iran) in Europe and used them to launch a disinformation campaign against (PMOI),” the report reads.
Among those named in the Pentagon report are Massoud Khodabandeh and his British wife, Anne. They were recruited by the MOIS in the mid-1990s and used as assets against the opposition before launching the ‘Iran-Interlink’ website explicitly under Tehran’s orders.
The MOIS resorts to character assassination against lawmakers and reporters who hold positive views of the Iranian opposition, aiming to silence their voices.
The Iranian intelligence service also seeks to employ such individuals to influence U.S. and European foreign policy in the hopes of allowing the Iranian regime to remain intact.
Iran’s MOIS has recently attempted to demonize and silence a British politician through the efforts of Khodabandeh’s wife.
The co-author of many of Masoud Khodabandeh’s articles in The Huffington Post under the name Anne Singleton, she accused Lord David Alton of receiving money from the PMOI/MEK in exchange for supporting the Iranian opposition in a letter penned on the Iran-Interlink site.
Singleton, however, failed to provide any evidence for her allegations.
Lord Alton, a lifelong advocate of human rights in the British Parliament, is a professor at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University. He has received many honors.
Most recently, he was awarded the St. Thomas More Religious Freedom Award for his commitment to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 2014, iSight Partners uncovered a three-year espionage campaign, originating in Iran, that used an elaborate scheme involving a fabricated news agency, fake social media accounts and bogus journalist identities to deceive victims in the United States, Israel and elsewhere.
The Middle East Strategy Consultants seemed bogus from the onset and an investigation of its public records reveals it existed for a very short time before dissolving in 2013. The Huffington Post continues to name Masoud Khodabandeh as the entity’s director.
It is worth noting that all websites used by Khodabandeh, such as mesconult.com, Iran-Interlink and khodabandeh.org are hosted by Ravand Cybertech, an entity run by the Iranian regime, as reported by Stand for Peace, a Jewish-Muslim interfaith organization.
The American Enterprise Institute conducted a very interesting investigation titled, “Growing Cyberthreat from Iran,” providing further Iran-related information of Ravand Cybertech.
Khodabandeh’s profile in The Huffington Post introduces him as an advisor to the Iraqi government.
Their relations with Iraq are nothing but continuous efforts by the Khodabandeh couple to legitimize seven massacres carried out by Iran-backed Iraqi forces against MEK members in two camps outside of Baghdad — Ashraf and Liberty.
Their measures were directed by Danaie Far, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq and a former senior Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander.
Tahar Boumedra, former chief of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Iraq, explained how the Iranian embassy introduced Khodabandeh as an interpreter for the embassy in Iraq.
Many images of Khodabandeh have been posted on the internet showing him in 2011 expressing gratitude to Iraqi military commanders who attacked defenseless MEK members in Camp Ashraf, leaving 36 killed in the process.
In 2010, a number of Iranian regime agents, introducing themselves as relatives to MEK members, installed 300 powerful loudspeakers around Ashraf with support provided by the Iranian embassy and Iraqi army.
These loudspeakers were used to blare deafening sounds, insults and profanity into the camp, as part of psychological torture against the residents.
Khodabandeh’s wife supported this psychological torture by appearing at the scene, advocating these measures and taking images of herself standing near the loudspeakers.
The time has come for America’s mainstream media to distance themselves from Iran’s spies, as these individuals are supporting a regime that is understood to be the world leading state sponsor of terrorism, with the highest per-capita rate of domestic executions.
The American people deserve not to be misled by the false information provided by these intelligence agents.
Col. Wes Martin (US), former Anti-terrorism/Force Protection Officer of all Coalition forces in Iraq.
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.