Mailonline: British housewife accused by the US of spying for Iran 'to save her brother-in-law's life'
Anne Singleton and her husband Massoud Khodabandeh are accused by the US of spying for Iran
Mrs Singleton admits she once trained at the Iraq-based People's Mujahideed of Iran camp
But she says she left the group as it was like a 'cult'
She denies the accusations of espionage
PUBLISHED: 01:35, 17 February 2013 | UPDATED: 01:36, 17 February 2013
A British housewife and her husband have been accused of spying for Iran in a leaked US government report.
Anne Singleton, 53, is alleged to have been blackmailed into training with the Iranian secret service during a visit to Tehran in 2002.
The Pentagon-commissioned report claims that Mrs Singleton and her Iranian husband, Massoud Khodabandeh, 56, agreed to work for the regime in return for saving the life of his jailed brother.
The entrance to Camp Ashraf, the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedeen (MEK) where Anne Singleton says she once trained to fire weapons
Iranian agents are also said to have threatened to confiscate his mother’s extensive property in the Iranian capital. Mrs Singleton strenuously denies the allegations.
The report, written by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress and privately circulated in Washington, says the couple agreed to spy on opponents of the Iranian regime, including the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK), of which Mrs Singleton and her husband were once members.
The report alleges that: ‘In 2002 Singleton met in Tehran with Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran [MOIS] agents who were interested in her background. She agreed to co-operate with them to save her brother-in-law’s life.’
It adds: ‘During her stay in Tehran, she received training from MOIS. After her return to England, she launched the iran-interlink.org website in the winter of 2002.
‘Afterwards, she made many trips to Iran and Singapore – the country where the agency contacts its foreign agents.’
Iran sponsors terrorism all over the world and last year was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria. As tension between the West and Iran increases over Tehran’s nuclear programme, British security agencies are keeping a watch on MOIS activities.
Last year Iran was forced to downgrade its diplomatic presence in the UK after the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked. Since then it has struggled to secure intelligence on dissident groups.
Security sources said last night that the Iranian regime relies on agents in the West to spy on dissidents and conduct propaganda operations to discredit opponents.
Last night the couple, who run a Middle East communications company from their Victorian semi-detached home in Leeds, threatened to take legal action over the claims.
Lord Alex Carlile QC, an expert on Iran, has said the People¿s Mujahideen of Iran is a 'credible opposition' party and should be removed from a list of banned terrorist organisations
Mrs Singleton, a mother of one, said: ‘The report was withdrawn. It wasn’t published anyway. It was leaked deliberately by a journalist in America.’
She added: ‘The MEK just made all that up. Yes, I have been to Iran, but they have concocted a picture which is entirely false.’
David Osborne, chief of the Federal Research Division which compiled the report, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The report was revised on the Division’s own initiative and resubmitted to the Pentagon. I do not know when it will be reposted to the US government site.’
By her own admission, Mrs Singleton once belonged to the MEK and was trained at its camp in Iraq to fire weapons. She later fell out with the group, describing it as a cult.
The couple were also named in a 2007 report by the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom called Spying For The Mullahs: Iran’s Agents In The UK.
The report said: ‘Khodabandeh and Singleton appear to lead a small number of individuals in an aggressive demonisation campaign against the MEK.’
Lord Carlile QC, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation and a member of the Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, has lobbied to have the People’s Mujahideen of Iran removed from a list of banned terrorist organisations.
‘They are a credible opposition to the regime,’ he said. ‘To call them a cult is like saying that any political party is a cult.
Widely Cited Government Study on Iranian Spies ‘Pulled for Revisions’
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi briefs journalists after a meeting in Tehran on May 21, 2011. A widely cited government study on Iran's intelligence ministry has been taken down. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)
An official with the Library of Congress says a widely cited but poorly sourced report his office did on Iran's intelligence ministry has been pulled from circulation.
"The report was pulled for revisions after the Division staff identified a passage that should have been caveated but was missed in the initial reviews," said Federal Research Division chief David Osborne in an email. "The report will be re-posted when revised."
Osborne declined to specify the passage in question. It might have had nothing to do with the 30,000 figure.
Another section of the report prompted a married couple branded as spies for Iran to consider legal action.
The report that a British woman and her Iranian-born husband are operatives for Iran's intelligence ministry. The husband, , is a former-member-turned-fierce-critic of the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK), a small exile group that has long fought the government of Iran and was recently from the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations.
The report even includes their pictures:
The Zucker piece in turn cites a 2005 post on another called iranterror.com. That site also states Khodabandeh and his wife are operatives for Iranian intelligence, but does not offer any sources or evidence.
Even though it relied on questionable sourcing, the report effectively extended the imprimatur of the U.S. government to the claim that the couple are spies.
Asked about the various criticisms of the report, Pentagon spokeswoman Anne Edgecomb told ProPublica: "We believe its findings will enrich the discussions and concepts of policy makers."
She declined to comment further.
The MEK's official website seized on the government report this month, publishing claiming that "a recent investigative report by [the] Pentagon ... revealed that Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh are agents of the mullahs' Ministry of Intelligence and Security."
Khodabandeh and his wife, Anne, who also worked with the MEK in the 1980s and 90s, were incensed by the government report.
"Everything they've said is just made up," Anne Khodabandeh told ProPublica.
Massoud Khodabandeh wrote a response on Huffington Post blasting the report for its reliance on pro-MEK sources. The couple, who are based in the United Kingdom, run an anti-MEK and consider the group a dangerous cult. (That charge that has been by some outside observers but by the MEK.)
The study claims that after Khodabandeh left the MEK in 1996, he and Anne "agreed to work for [Iran's intelligence ministry] and spy on MEK." It claims that the intelligence ministry used threats against Khodabandeh's family in Tehran to compel the couple to cooperate.
Earlier this month, Anne Khodabandeh emailed Osborne, the Federal Research Division chief, saying that "my solicitor would like to know the actual provenance of the report for further action." Osborne responded that the report had been pulled down for (again unspecified) revisions.
"The fact that the document was leaked to [Washington Free Beacon reporter] Mr. Bill Gertz or otherwise publicized is not the fault of the Library of Congress," Osborne wrote Jan. 9. "It is not and will not be posted to any Library of Congress site."
Anne Khodabandeh told ProPublica she and her husband are holding off on legal action at this point because of the potential expense involved, and the fact that the report does not name its author.