The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is going after American citizens who have already attended or plan to attend the New Horizon Conference (NHC), an annual forum held by an Iranian media expert to discuss major global issues.
Michael Maloof, a Virginia-based former Pentagon official and a frequent Press TV panelist, found FBI agents knocking at his door at 6:30 am, one day back in May, an article by Sander Hicks on Medium.com revealed this week.
Maloof, who had traveled to Mashhad in northeast Iran to attend last year’s NHC, is one of the many guests invited to the next iteration of the event which is to be held in the Lebanese capital of Beirut in September.
However, the agents warned him of dire consequences if he decided to accept the invitation.
In July, the FBI sent agents to the Florida home of Scott Rickard, a former translator with the US Air Force and the US National Security Agency (NSA) who once attended the New Horizon in Iran.
He, too, was threatened by the bureau to either skip the conference or face arrest, according to Hicks.
The FBI has also approached former State Department diplomat J. Michael Springmann, asking him over the phone to attend a meeting and answer a few questions about the New Horizon, but he turned down the request.
“No Thank You,” he said before hanging up the phone, Hicks said in his article.
What connects the three pundits is their naked criticism of Israel and its policies as well as the “special relationship” the regime enjoys with Washington through various outlets, including Press TV.
Hicks said the FBI’s intimidation techniques set a “new low” in America’s approach to its relationship with Tel Aviv, where it has constantly backed the regime despite its many atrocities against the people of Palestine, Lebanon and more recently Syria.
The surprise FBI visits continued days ago, when bureau’s agents raided the home of Professor Vernellia Randall, an African American academic who wrote the book „Dying while Black.”
Interestingly, Randall last attended the conference in Tehran in 2015, along with a number of African-American activists, writers, and professors to discuss the abuses suffered by the black community in the US. Randall has objected to the intrusion on her Facebook page.
Hicks, himself, revealed to Press TV that the FBI turned up at his door and warned him that New Horizon was being held by what they called “Iranian intelligence.”
They failed to back up their claims when Hicks asked them for evidence.
The FBI started to officially go after possible guests of the conference in February, when the US Treasury sanctioned the event on unfounded charges of providing Iranian intelligence community with “a platform to recruit and collect intelligence information from attendees.”
The Treasury also accused the conference’s organizers of anti-Semitism.
Nader Talebzadeh, the renowned Iranian intellectual and journalist who chairs the New Horizon organization, has filed a petition with the Treasury, appealing the decision.
“The consequence of your highly inaccurate and inflammatory allegations have had the result of seriously damaging our reputation, costing us a major loss of business and longtime friendships,” he wrote in the petition.
“The NHC is a forum for free thought and expression of these thoughts,” he wrote. “It is held in Iran because Iran has been the focus of mass demonization since 1979, when Iran announced its sovereignty and freedom from US control.”
In an interview on an Iranian television channel, Talebzadeh said in February the sanctions were planned by “Zionists inside America,” including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
He rejected the charges of anti-Semitism, saying New Horizon usually hosts Jewish guests such as American activist and political scientist Norman Finkelstein as well as Miko Peled, an Israeli-American activist and author.
Over the years the New Horizon has hosted international dissidents, and critics of US-Israeli policies, including New York’s Rabbi Dovid Weiss, and Lauren Booth, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s sister-in-law, who converted to Islam nine years ago.
Hicks was one of the guests in last year’s conference in Mashhad. Also in attendance was former CIA official Phil Giraldi, an outspoken critic of the US-Israel ties.
Following the US ban, which meant the guests could not travel to Iran, Talebzadeh and his team decided to take this year’s conference to Beirut.
However, some of the guests, including Springmann, have already turned down the invitation as a result of the FBI pressure.
“New Horizon is a place where Americans who have already sacrificed for their country are free to question why Israel can slaughter hundreds of protestors in Gaza, bomb Palestinian homes, and be utterly free from censure from the US government and mainstream media,” Hicks wrote.