Iran

Iranian Operatives Plotted To Kidnap Brooklyn Journalist

From the other side of the world, the regime plots ways to chill free speech.

|

On Tuesday, an unsealed Justice Department indictment exposed a shocking international kidnapping plot. According to federal prosecutors, Iranian intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani and three other foreign intelligence assets conspired to kidnap Iranian American author and journalist Masih Alinejad from her home in Brooklyn.

Alinejad is a champion of women's rights and an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As host of Voice of America Persian's show Tablet, she has reported extensively on the regime's human rights abuses, particularly those carried out against women.

Recently, she supported Iranian women protesting laws requiring head coverings, tweeting in solidarity, "More women from inside Iran [are speaking out] against #ForcedHijab & risking jail by saying No to Islamic Republic….Iranian people risk everything to reject whole regime." Despite her American citizenship and residency, however, the abduction plot reveals that Alinejad was risking it all, too, by speaking out from Brooklyn.

Third-country captures are commonly employed by Iranian intelligence to eliminate critics, dissidents, and human rights advocates. Operatives used a similar tactic to abduct and eventually execute journalist Ruhollah Zam in 2020. Had the FBI not raised the alarm, Alinejad's future seemed similarly grim. Upon the revelation, she tweeted, "I'm glad to be alive and appreciate your support. Spare a thought for many other Iranian dissidents kidnapped and executed by this regime."

In a statement, Audrey Strauss, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, lamented, "A U.S. citizen living in the United States must be able to advocate for human rights without being targeted by foreign intelligence operatives." Indeed, the foiled plot represents a chilling attempt by foreign actors to silence an activist exercising her right to free expression on American soil.

The indictment details an elaborate kidnapping plot under the direction of the Iranian intelligence network. Planning reportedly stretched back as far as June 2020. According to federal prosecutors, Farahani enlisted private investigators under false pretenses to stalk Alinejad and her family. He even set up a high-definition livestream of her Brooklyn home.

The operatives traced routes from her home to the waterfront, planning to lure her onto a chartered high-speed military style boat heading to Venezuela, whose socialist regime is friendly to Iran. They then intended to capture Alinejad and force her to return to Iran. The four kidnappers named by the FBI are Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori. All are presently at large in Iran.

The would-be abductors are charged with kidnapping conspiracy, sanctions violations conspiracy, and bank and wire fraud conspiracy. "This is not some far-fetched movie plot," said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. in a statement. "We allege a group, backed by the Iranian government, conspired to kidnap a U.S. based journalist here on our soil and forcibly return her to Iran. Not on our watch."

Although the FBI caught on before the plot could be carried out, these events nonetheless set a terrifying precedent for dissidents, journalists, and human rights advocates at home and abroad. Iran's abduction attempt is an assault not just on Alinejad but on the very tenets of freedom. No person on American soil should live in fear of retaliation for simply speaking out to defend human rights.

NEXT: Want To Close the Tax Gap? Cut Taxes.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That’s nothing.

    The Capitol police shot an unarmed protester for trespassing on public property.

    1. lol. Death for traitors.

        1. Have you heard me utter that bumper sticker drivel?

          1. Your speech doesn’t even rise to bumper sticker level.

      1. Does that mean you’ll be committing suicide?

    2. Non-sequitur for the win!!!

    3. and breaking and entering.

      1. Didn’t the cops open the doors for them and let them in? Trespassing, maybe, but not B&E.

        1. From a video when she was shot and killed, you can see her climbing through a broken window in the door.

        2. That said there really needs to be a earnest inquest into her death. Whether the cop could have used a less lethal means of repelling the crowd is of interest. Why didn’t he know that other officers were coming up behind her and if only waited a few seconds longer then the outcome would have surely been less tragic. These are some of the questions I’d like answered.

    4. Ken, I wish the woman hadn’t been killed but I’m not surprised she was given how fucking crazy those people were acting but my question for you is if her death really bothers you how in the hell do you support people like Trump and your garden variety conservative when they get boners when cops kill or hurt people. Trump was laughing about cops roughing up people. Trump wanted to unleash the military on protesters. I just don’t get you.

      1. He will make a lot more sense if you realize that he is actually self aware and just that craven.

        He fully plays into the stolen election lie even though he has admitted in the past that he knows it is not true, but useful for “de legitimizing Biden”. He plays his fellow Trump cultists mercilessly.

        1. It’s entertaining watching you leftist democrats interact. Reinforcing your shared delusions.

      2. in a year+ of protests, enforcement being “unleashed” has happened zero times. The Capitol was the closest with a woman shot to death for no discernible reason. Others have looted, set buildings on fire, assaulted people by the score, and not once did cops kill anyone. Protesters, meanwhile, managed to kill dozens. Predictably, the cities where “defund” was the loudest are experiencing crime waves.

        1. The government shooting unarmed protesters is an indefensible outrage, and it has been that way throughout American history.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Massacre

          The crown tried and convicted two British soldiers of manslaughter for the Boston Massacre, and what the mob did to provoke those British soldiers was far worse than anything Ashli Babbitt did.

          By dismissing the injustice done to her, these people are exposing themselves as unpatriotic authoritarians and moral defectives. Every time the subject of Ashli Babbitt comes up, they can’t seem to pass up the opportunity to disgrace themselves further. We should keep giving them lots of opportunities.

          1. “The government shooting unarmed protesters is an indefensible outrage”

            Kent State in May 1970 and a couple weeks later in Jackson State. To this day, you won’t have any trouble at all finding those who’ll bend over backwards to defend the killings.

            1. I have found nobody said “They DESERVED it”. I have heard that about Babbitt.

              1. There’s a lot of space between Ken’s ‘indefensible outrage’ and ‘they deserved it.’ About Babbit? I think the ‘she deserved it’ comes out of contempt for the stupidity of her action, trying to ‘stop the steal’ without any idea or plan, however half assed and ill conceived, of how to go about doing so. John Wilkes Booth jumped down onto the stage and broke his leg after shooting Lincoln. He deserved it, as far as I’m concerned.

      3. You have no problem with Democrats cheering on far more death and destruction throughout 2020?

    5. “That’s nothing.

      The Capitol police shot an unarmed protester for trespassing on public property.”

      That’s nothing. Our friends the Saudis chopped a Washington journalist into little pieces.

      1. Kashoggi was not a ‘Washington journalist’. NYT’s publishing a few things of his doesn’t make him a journalist, and he was not even an American citizen.

        He was a foreigner, killed by other foreigners, on foreign soil. Not our business at all.

        1. “He was a foreigner”

          He’s nothing.

    6. The justification for her death is a separate issue from the legitimacy of that protest. As far as I know peaceful demonstration is protected except when it actually threatens people or damaged property or disrupts lawful proceedings like what happened there.

      1. We were told that those don’t matter as long as they were “MOSTLY” peaceful…which 1/6 undeniably was.

    7. I thought Trump was EVIL for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the same basic thing.

  2. And meanwhile the Biteme admin is still stroking off the terrorist Iranian regime. Why exactly?

    1. We must reengage with Iran and restart trade and the nuclear treaty. These are clearly serious people who can be trusted.

      1. Follow the money. Especially Hunter’s money.

  3. The FBI gets it right every now and again.

    1. Once upon a time, the FBI did play a major role in bringing down the KKK. It was around the same time they were trying to blackmail MLK into committing suicide, though.

      -jcr

  4. Alinejad is a champion of women’s rights and an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As host of Voice of America Persian’s show Tablet, she has reported extensively on the regime’s human rights abuses, particularly those carried out against women.

    Give it time, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube will ban her soon enough.

    1. Yeah, I’m surprised she hasn’t been deplatformed yet.

      Alinejad, currently based in New York, had a message for feminists in the West.

      “What breaks my heart is just the hypocrisy of all those feminists outside Iran,” she told the CBC.

      “A Barbie girl wearing hijab can make news for CNN, for – you know, for all media,” she said. “But millions of girls, from the age of seven, who will be kicked out from a school because of not wearing hijab, they cannot be news.”

  5. The police in the UK have arrested four people for posting racist messages on social media directed at professional athletes.

    And it isn’t enough to be pro-free speech or non-racist over there either. You must be anti-racist.

    “The England players had highlighted the issue of racism by taking the knee before their matches, a protest which some fans booed.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to tackle online abuse, but he and other ministers have been accused of hypocrisy for not condemning those who booed the players at the start of the tournament.”

    https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/uk-police-arrest-four-over-racist-abuse-england-soccer-players-2021-07-15/

    1. In fact, apparently, it’s not enough to be anti-racist over there either. You must be anti-free speech–or is that being redundant?

  6. Had the FBI not raised the alarm, Alinejad’s future seemed similarly grim.

    Just curious where we are on #DefundThePolice.

    1. All the funds the police want! Unless they are capital police trying to stop an angry armed mob.

  7. Oh, don’t worry. Biden will send them another plane full of cash, and everything will be fine.

  8. I’m not sure how to feel about this, I’ve seen pictures of her. She looks exactly like the sort of person you’d pay somebody to kidnap.

    1. I think I saw that movie.

  9. The goatfucker regime still has a hit out on Salman Rushdie, although they pretend to have walked that back.

    -jcr

    1. They don’t fuck goats. They only milk the goats and sometimes eat them on religious holidays. They do fuck sheep though. They are easier to control and softer to cuddle with afterwards.

      1. Is this relayed from a friend for someone asking for a friend? 😉

      2. I refer to them as the goatfucker regime because Khomeini once wrote a fatwa that said goatfucking is halal. I’m not making this up.

        -jcr

        1. “…a fatwa that said goatfucking is halal.”

          So the Religion of Peace condones bestiality. What did he say about ass raping boys, or are goats just a more acceptable alternative?

          1. Islam is a terrible religion.

    2. On Tuesday, an unsealed Justice Department indictment exposed a shocking international kidnapping plot.

      i was thinking: “How is this shocking? Had the writer ever heard of Salman Rushdie or Ex-Muslim Secularist Ibn Warraq or Ex-Muslim Atheist Wafa Sultan?

  10. https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/counterintelligence/alireza-shahvaroghi-farahani

    Not sure what I expected a goatfucker regime minion to look like, but I wouldn’t have guessed that a pudgy little schmuck like this would be up to anything more than trying to pay strippers with counterfeit 20s.

    -jcr

    1. My money would be on the chick with all the hair.

  11. Conspire to kidnap an American citizen on American soil?

    Yes, that is pretty bad. Very bad, in fact. I cannot imagine someone from another country coming here and doing that.

    So would the proper response be to send a drone or a SEAL time over to Iran? I believe there is a precedent for that.

    1. Who do they think they are? Only Americans operate carte blanche in the the territory of other sovereign nations. Jeez. Just like the cops in the country do what they want because fuck you that’s why, our military does the same thing around the world.

      1. One can condemn and stop brutal police at home while equally condemning and putting an end to Iranian Islamofascist terrorist kidnappers. Walk and chew gum and all that.

        The U.S.’s first wars (The First and Second Barbary Wars) were with Islamic pirates kidnapping U.S. Citizens on the high seas. Dispatching kidnappers with Elite Armed Forces and/or accurate drones would be in keeping with that tradition and with our present ongoing war with the Islamofascist World.

        1. Meanwhile patriots were killin Injuns. You gonna go kill some Injuns?

          1. Not harmless Native American, of course. The “Injuns,” as you call them, were not on a Jihad for conquering the U.S. and the West and ultimately conquest of the Planet. So, apples and hand grenades.

      2. Your moral compass is deeply skewed. So is your understanding of equivalence.

    2. Yes, the Iranian regime has a substantial budget for these kinds of things after Obama gave them $150 billion of appeasement money.

  12. Do we believe the FBI? I don’t trust them. Defund the FBI/ATF makes sense to me.

  13. lol Flowers By Irene is entirely more a friend to Valerie Jarrett than Masih Alinejad

  14. This patently stupid story was created to dehumanize Iranians and increase public animosity towards the regime, and by less than masterful government copywriters at that. So of course Reason fell for it.

    1. Better let their defense attorneys know.

    2. Funny, I’m half-Iranian and don’t feel at all dehumanized by this, and I’m quite sure none of my relatives do, either. I’d love to for those minions of the mullahs involved in this to get the Soleimani treatment, but given that one of their best friends sits in the Oval Office right now, I’m not holding my breath for it.

      1. Greetings and good to know there are many fans of Liberty and Secularism among work-a-day Iranians. Sorry for our crazy U.S. Elections and the crazy Electorate who brought us Sleepy, Creepy, Crazy, Cranky, Tankie, Corn-Pop, Lunch-Bucket, Basement-Bunker, Shotgun Joe. Rest assured, I didn’t vote for him.

    3. Masih Alinejad was not dehumanized by this story, though she is dehumanized by the Islamofascist Ayatollahs of Iran and their henchmen. Whatever are you talking about?

    4. ?: What are they paying you to post this drivel? I hope you are making more than “50 cents.”

    5. I don’t think any of that is necessary to increase animosity for the Iranian regime. They’re already inhuman monsters. No help needed.

  15. > “The operatives traced routes from her home to the waterfront, planning to lure her onto a chartered high-speed military style boat heading to Venezuela[.]”

    “I want to meet some US Marines. You got any ideas?”

    “Well…”

  16. Too bad they didn’t kidnap P.S.W.B. and his family while they were there in the neighborhood. I bet his kids could probably at least get live in-person schooling in Tehran.

  17. Well the American spooks did something. Good.

    Israeli spooks can tell you what Rouhani had for breakfast.

    1. Israeli spooks could probably tell you what his last meal will be. 😉

  18. While we can focus on Iran the real issue here is the rise of attacks on Journalist. That authoritarian countries will now seek to capture or kill Journalist outside their country is worrisome. We have seen this from a number of countries and it should be addressed no matter what country does such attacks.

    1. The Chinese harassment of Uighurs in other Countries who speak out is far, far more pervasive than Iran’s feeble efforts.

      1. It’s not an either/or dick-measuring contest on human rights abuses, it’s both/and.

        Shia Islamic Iran, for all of it’s support of Islamic terrorism abroad, has nothing to say against Red China’s persecution of the Muslim Uighurs. Same likewise is true with Sunni Islamic Saudi Arabia and all of the other Sunni Islamic nations in their non-response to Red China’s tyranny.

        Not only do Islamic nations not give a damn about the human rights of fellow Muslims, but the Islamic oil producing members of OPEC also are desperate to keep Red China as an oil customer, since they’ve lost the oil dependence of Europe, Israel, and the U.S. It has been the U.S. and Weetern allies who have been the major voices for Uighur human rights, while the Islamic world is silent.

        So Islamic Iran is complicit in both suppressing anti-Islamic dissenters and in suppressing Muslim Uighurs. Getting rid of the Mullahs and Ayatollahs in Iran and building Six Flags over Tehran would be a human rights victory worldwide. It’ll be a perfect compliment to A Whole New Disneyworld in a Secularized future Mecca and Medina.

        1. “Western” aliies, that is. Jim Morrison said it right: “The West is the best.”

    2. I agree, as long as what you say includes all dissenting voices, not just voices with press credentials and access to coctail parties.

Please to post comments