Distorting NIAC's Court Defeat
Last September, Seid Hassan Daioleslam, an American of Iranian origins, won a major court victory against the informal Iranian U.S. lobby in Washington. The decision legitimated Mr. Daioleslam’s investigative research that exposed the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its president, Trita Parsi, as lobbyists for the Iranian regime.
But on May 5 M.J. Rosenberg wrote an article that turns upside down the trial outcome and even the facts established in the case. This article points out Rosenberg’s many errors.
The drama began in 2007 when Mr. Daioleslam, editor of the Iranian American Forum, began to expose NIAC and Parsi’s lobbying campaign on behalf of the Iranian Regime, the world’s leading sponsor of Islamist terrorism. Seeking to “hit him hard,” NIAC and Parsi filed their defamation complaint against Mr. Daioleslam in 2008.
The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum, which seeks to protect the right of independent investigative journalists to report freely on Islamist terrorism, coordinated Mr. Daioleslam’s pro bono representation by Sidley Austin LLP (Sidley). Senior Litigation Partner Mr. Timothy Kapshandy served as the lead attorney in Mr. Daioleslam’s defense.
After over five years of litigation, the United States District Court for D.C. not only dismissed the suit against Seid Hassan Daioleslam but also ordered over $183,000 in sanction penalties against NIAC and Parsi for their “discovery abuses.”
Rosenberg works hard to portray this outcome as favorable to NIAC and Parsi, but he fails.
Rosenberg claims that “(a)t the end of this five-year process, no evidence was found to substantiate the accusation that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian regime.” No: the documents produced during discovery, the pre-trial process where parties exchange information in preparation for trial, not only suggest that NIAC was created with the mission to lobby on behalf of the regime, but also suggest that Parsi had arguably been serving the Mullahs’ interest in the U.S. since as early as 1997.
Rosenberg bemoans the “tall order” NIAC and Parsi faced in proving their defamation claim in court. Hardly: Defamation, for public figures, is proven when a false statement is intentionally published with reckless disregard to its truth. NIAC and Parsi’s complaint in fact claimed that Mr. Daioleslam “knew” that his writings were false.
However, the complaint “failed to identify which statements they perceive as defamatory and to put forth specific evidence of actual malice relating to those statements.” NIAC and Parsi even “implied at the motions hearing that the summary judgment record did not contain all articles, videos, or other documents that might support their case.” Not only could they not provide any evidence of Mr. Daioleslam defaming but they also could not prove that any of Mr. Daioleslam’s articles were false.
Rosenberg sinks even lower when he attacks the professionalism and integrity of D.C. District Court Judge John D. Bates, the presiding judge and retired military veteran whose service included a “tour in Vietnam.” He writes that “convincing the very conservative, Bush appointed Judge John Bates…that Daioleslam acted with malice was probably impossible.” Judge Bates swore an oath to “administer justice without respect to persons.” The reality is that in his 23-page decision granting summary judgment, Judge Bates carefully explained why each of NIAC and Parsi’s claims of defamation were meritless. To insinuate judicial bias is a desperate attempt at delegitimizing Judge Bates’ court.
Rosenberg’s biggest falsehood is the incredulous characterization of the infamous substantial sanction penalty ordered against NIAC and Parsi, describing the $183,000 order as simply “shifting” some of the legal ‘discovery’ costs.” In reality, NIAC and Parsi were sanctioned by a federal court for malfeasance because it was “necessary to punish past discovery abuses or deter future abuses.”
These abuses included withholding 4,159 calendar appointments from production, concealing 5500 emails with the “untrue” claim that they did not include agreed upon search terms and attempting to hide office computers and servers (a full list of the offenses can be read here). Rosenberg’s characterization of the events being that “NIAC complied” with its discovery requests is a blatant distortion of what actually transpired.
Lastly, Rosenberg claims that Mr. Daioleslam’s victory failed “to substantiate the accusation that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian regime.” Yet the Washington Times reported in 2009 that law enforcement “experts” believed the emails between Parsi and the Iranian Ambassador to the UN, which were made public as a result of the discovery of the trial, offered “evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.”
These emails were also the basis for former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl's repeated request for Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate NIAC.
It should come as no surprise that Rosenberg would author such an unintelligible work of fiction targeting Dr. Pipes. Rosenberg, who was forced to resign unceremoniously from his foreign policy fellowship at Media Matters due to his frequent and inexcusable use of the term ‘Israel Firster,’ has shilled for NIAC dating back to 2009. Rosenberg has also long made it his priority to mischaracterize Dr. Pipes’s positions with such fanaticism that one could only wonder if he is obsessed.
NIAC and Parsi brought the suit against Mr. Daioleslam under their own volition. They only have themselves to blame for their embarrassing and costly defeat.
Straining credulity, Rosenberg’s piece is simply an incoherent fabrication of these events.
Sam Nunberg serves as Director of The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.