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US State Department Grant for News Website Targeting Iran
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Wikileaks has obtained a Department of State document laying out the terms of a grant in part for the purpose of helping to import new media technology into Iran for the creation of a website to “promote democracy”. According to Wikileaks:
This file provides budgetary information regarding a specific covert new media initiative funded by the US State Department that targets Iran. This document was leaked because the man who is in charge of the initiative has strong ties to Israeli Intelligence and subcontracts portions of the work to Israeli intel fronts such as MEMRI [Middle East Media Research Institute] using US tax dollars. It is currently not known if this project is still being funded by the US State Department.
The document states, “Action Award Number S-NEAP1-07-CA-217 supports the work of ICG, LLC. (herein referred to as Recipient) entitled, “Peyman Online: News in Motion” as described in the attached Statement of Work.”
Most of the document, dated April 25, 2007, details the terms of the grant. But under a section entitled “AUTHORIZATION”, the document states:
Most financial and other transactions in or involving Iran by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited unless licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), NEA [State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs] and its awardees (together with NEA, the “Licensees”) are authorized under OFAC License No. IA-7421-a issued to NEA to engage in all transactions necessary to advance democracy and human rights as defined in and authorized in this and other similar NEA grant or cooperative agreements, including the exportation or re-exportation by the awardees to Iran of goods, technology or software that are neither listed on the Commerce Control List under the Export Administration Regulations, 15 C.F.R. parts 730 et seg. (”CCL items”), nor listed on the United States Munitions List established under section 38 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778) (”USML items”).
In other words, since the U.S. has sanctions on Iran, the State Department is contracting a group not under U.S. jurisdiction to export items to Iran, including technology and software, “to advance democracy and human rights”. These items may not include goods banned under normal circumstances or arms. However, the document notes, if these items are to be exported to Iran, “A separate license is required to engage in such transactions.” Further details are given:
MEPI is providing funding to ICG to implement a project entitled Peyman Online: News in Motion. The Statement of Work below represents the complete description of the work to be undertaken and associated requirements of the award.
A) PROJECT DESIGN
1. Project context
This project is intended to contribute to the following NEA strategic goals:
* Support an expanded public space where democratic voices can be heard in the political process
The “Intended Outcome” is “Sustainable independent online media source informs and connects citizens to global communities”, and the “Objective” is “To develop independent and credible multi-media news with interactive sources”. The document then gives more details showing that the intention is to create a news website, listing the money budgeted for various expenses associated with it, such as payments to freelance writers, including from inside Iran, and TV production.
The grants officer was Anna Mary Portz at the NEA Partnership Initiative (NEA/PI) and the project officer, interestingly, was David Denehy (listed with phone contact at (202) 647-2519 and email denemyDM@state.gov).
Denehy headed up the Office of Iranian Affairs (OIA), the State Department’s “regime change” office under the Bush administration, and was a specialist at the International Republican Institute (IRI). The OIA was responsible for dishing out cash to various groups to “promote democracy” in Iran. The IRI has been a recipient of National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds, including for activities in Venezuela at the time of the attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
Foreign Policy Journal