Cotton, Cruz, and Braun Attempt to Weaponize DOJ Against Dissidents

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On January 13, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Braun (R-IN) sent a letter to the Department of Justice, asking DOJ to open an investigation into “the activities of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its sister organization NIAC Action for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).” The three Senators have no reason to suspect NICA and NIAC Action of any violation of the law, instead it appears that the Senators are counting on the DOJ to neutralize two groups that are advocating against policies Cotton, Cruz and Braun support.

In a statement responding to the letter, NIAC said:

“The slanderous accusations from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Mike Braun have zero merit. It is yet another sign that warhawks are seeking to intimidate pro-peace voices, starting with Iranian Americans, from halting the push toward war, which Cotton and Cruz have long championed. We have already seen the coordinated efforts, such as the U.S. government funded “IranDisinfo” project that slandered groups like Human Rights Watch, as well as Iranian-American journalists, analysts, academics, and civil society organizations like ours who dared speak out against the Trump Administration’s Iran policies. This is the latest attempt to silence NIAC and other pro-peace Iranian Americans from having a voice in this debate that impacts us and our community. We will not let that happen.”

Defending Rights & Dissent agrees with that analysis, and joined with many advocacy groups to stand up for NIAC and NIAC Action and to condemn the Senators’ blatant attempt to use the DOJ to silence dissent.

January 17, 2020

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and its sister organization NIAC Action, are American civil-society organizations working on behalf of members of the Iranian-American community and the broader American public. At a time when our nation is bitterly divided, NIAC is an important voice in our public debate on issues of enormous consequence for all Americans — and particularly for Americans of Iranian heritage — including heightened tensions in the Middle East and the risk of war, policies like the Muslim travel ban and extreme vetting, the rise in domestic hate crimes, and the protection of civil liberties.

We are deeply disturbed by the letter from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Mike Braun insinuating that this Iranian-American organization has dual loyalties, is somehow less American than other organizations in this space, and should be subject to a Justice Department investigation. While these Senators may have profound differences in opinion with NIAC, particularly on the question of escalation and potential war with Iran, the Justice Department is not the forum to resolve those debates. These tactics have no place in our political process or our national discourse, and risk turning our Justice Department into a political tool to intimidate and silence voices that disagree with whichever administration is in power. We are concerned that everyone involved in contentious policy debates, regardless of political persuasion, will be at risk.

We are proud to stand with NIAC and commend its essential contribution to the public debate.


About Face: Veterans Against the War
American Friends Service Committee
Beyond the Bomb
Daily Kos
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Foreign Policy for America
Freedom Forward
Global Zero
Granada Center for Human Rights
Historians for Peace and Democracy
Institute for Policy Studies
Irish International Immigrant Center
Jewish Voice for Peace
Justice for Muslims Collective
JVP Action
Montgomery County (MD) Civil Rights Coalition
MPower Change
Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)
Muslim Voters of America
National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
Oil Change International
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Peace Action
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Ploughshares Fund
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
The Avalan Institute for Applied Research
United We Dream
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions

Individuals – Organizations Included for Identification Purposes Only
Gordon Adams, Professor Emeritus, School of International Service, American University
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR Georgia
Salam Almarayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Reza Aslan, Renowned Author and Professor
Andrew Bacevich, President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
David Barsamian
Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Bourse & Bazaar
Zahra Billoo, CAIR San Francisco Bay Area
Audrey Bomse, National Lawyers Guild
Salih Booker, Center for International Policy
Heather Booth
Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland, Emeritus Professor
Abdul Cader Asmal
Manzoor Cheema, Project South
Juan Cole, University of Michigan
Holly Dagres
Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association
Hassan El-Tayyab, Friends Committee on National Legislation
David Emami, City Councilor, Happy Valley Oregon
Rahna Epting, Executive Director, MoveOn
Hadi Esfahani, Professor, University of Illinois
Prof. John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
Richard Falk, Princeton University
Farideh Farhi, Independent Scholar
Mateo Farzaneh, Northeastern Illinois University
Jon Finer, Former Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning at the State Department
Dr. Eugene Fisher
Lara Friedman
Mark Gasiorowski, Tulane University
Prof. Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Princeton University
Jeanette Gottlieb, Peace Corps Iran Association
Cyrus Habib, Lieutenant Governor of Washington State
Morton H. Halperin, Open Society Foundations
Amir Handjani, Truman National Security Project
William Hartung, Center for International Policy
Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN
Deepa Iyer, Solidarity Is
Mitra Jalali, St. Paul City Council
Maryam Jamshidi, University of Florida, Levin College of Law
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Persis Karim
Hoda Katebi
Tara Kaveh, Alliance San Diego
Bijan Khajehpour
Dr. Fazal Khan, University of Arizona
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association*
Ahmad Kiarostami
Stephen Kinzer, Author, “All the Shah’s Men”
Paige Knappenberger, Climate Nexus
Lawrence Korb, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense
Daniel Larison, The American Conservative
George A. Lopez, Kroc Institute, Notre Dame
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United for Iran
Robert Malley, Former Special Assistant to the President
Sarah Margon, Open Society Foundations
Edward Martin, Center for Interfaith Engagement, Eastern Mennonite University
John J. Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Nicholas Miller, Dartmouth College
Ramin Montazeri
Melody Moezzi, Author, Attorney, Activist, & Professor
Bitta Mostofi, Public Servant & Advocate
Asieh Namdar, Journalist
Bruce D. Nestor, Former President of the National Lawyers Guild
Paul R. Pillar, Quincy Institute and Georgetown University
Mitchell Plitnick, ReThinking Foreign Policy
Gobi Rahimi, Filmmaker
Nasrin Rahimieh, University of California, Irvine
Ben Rhodes, Former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama
Mahsa Rouhi, International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)
Muhammad Sahimi, NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, USC
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech
Monique Salhab, Veterans For Peace
Susan Scott, National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Azadeh Shahshahani, Project South
Samer Shehata, University of Oklahoma
Annelle Sheline, The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Debra Shushan, J Street
Nahid Siamdoust, Yale University
Arjun Singh Sethi, Georgetown University Law Center
Barbara Slavin
Nader Soltani
Lakshmi Sridaran, South Asian Americans Leading Together
Yasmine Taeb, Democratic National Committeewoman
John Tierney, Council for A Livable World
Jim Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Stephen Wertheim, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State
Dylan Williams, J Street
Carolyn Yale, Member of Peace Corps Iran Association
Stephen Young, Union of Concerned Scientists
Nahal Zamani, Center for Constitutional Rights