FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2004
Schumer: Subway Spy Expulsions Show NY Is At Security Risk From Iranian Diplomats; Urges Powell To Clean House At Iran's Un Mission
State Department announced Tuesday US has kicked out 2 security guards from Iran's UN Mission for spying – photographing infrastructure, public transportation and NYC landmarks; was third time Iranian guards got caught taking pictures
Senator asks Secretary of State for complete, top-to-bottom review of Iranian Embassy operations, suggests limiting Iranian diplomatic personnel allowed i
Standing in front of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations on Manhattan's East Side, US Senator Charles E. Schumer said today that the State Department expelling two Iranian diplomatic security guards from the United States for spying shows that New York faces a security risk from Iranian diplomats that must be remedied immediately.
Schumer today asked US Secretary of State Powell for a complete, top-to-bottom review of Iranian diplomatic operations in the United States, and suggested to him the possibility of limiting the number of Iranian diplomatic personnel allowed in United States. "This isn't a question of a few bad apples landing here," Schumer said. "Bushel after bushel, batch after batch, the Iranians are bringing rotten apples into the United States, and it's putting everyone in New York at risk."
Yesterday, the US State Department confirmed that they have expelled two security guards at Iran's UN mission for photographing "sensitive" sites in New York after two previous warnings about such picture-taking. The United States took action after the FBI observed the pair videotaping infrastructure, public transportation and New York City landmarks in May. The two guards were expelled Saturday because they "engaged in activities that were not consistent with their duties," which generally interpreted as diplomatic language for spying.
The United States had warned Iran twice before about such photography this year after other groups of Iranian Mission guards were caught by authorities engaged in similar activities – the guards expelled on Saturday were the third such set of Iranian officials caught filming or photographing potential terror targets this year.
The first photographing incident by Iranian guards took place in June 2002. The second occurred in November, when the NYPD revealed that two Iranian citizens were questioned while taking video images of the subway tracks on the No. 7 line in Queens. When those two Iranians, who had arrived in the United States less than a month prior were questioned by NYPD officers on the scene, they allegedly (and incorrectly) claimed diplomatic immunity because they worked for the Iranian Mission.
After that event, Schumer wrote to Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, asking him to use his influence to get his employees to cooperate with the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force investigating the incident. Schumer warned the Iranian Ambassador that if his mission didn't waive diplomatic immunity and answer NYPD-FBI questions about why the guards were videotaping subway operations at 1:30 AM on a Sunday, they may have their visas revoked and be removed from the United States.
"I can't think of a single good reason why anyone would be videotaping how the subway works in the middle of the night – not one." Schumer said in November. "If we are ever going to trust Iran's cooperation in the War on Terrorism, we need to get some answers to these questions right now."
The November guards left the United States soon after either under their own volition or at the encouragement of the Iranian Mission.
Schumer said today that the pattern of repeat offenders raises serious questions about Iranian diplomatic future in United States. He asked Secretary of State Colin Powell for a complete, top-to-bottom review of Iranian Embassy operations and suggested limiting Iranian diplomatic personnel allowed in US.
"Three instances in less than one year would appear to comprise a pattern of repeat offenders that raises serious questions about the Iranian diplomatic future in United States," Schumer said.
Last year, the US Department of State named Iran as one of seven nations that is a State Sponsor of Terror. Last summer, British authorities arrested the former Iranian Ambassador to Argentina, who had been accused by an Argentine magistrate of involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires while heading the Iranian embassy there. The bombing killed 85 people and injured about 300. Seven other Iranians have been accused by Argentine authorities in connection with the bombing.