Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

“Spy” Told CIA Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Program

Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri, who recently “redefected” to Iran after claiming to have been abducted by the United States, allegedly told the CIA that Tehran does not have an active nuclear weapons program.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

Contrary to a news media narrative that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri has provided intelligence on covert Iranian nuclear weapons work, CIA sources familiar with the Amiri case say he told his CIA handlers that there is no such Iranian nuclear weapons program, according to a former CIA officer.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism official, told IPS that his sources are CIA officials with direct knowledge of the entire Amiri operation.

The CIA contacts say that Amiri had been reporting to the CIA for some time before being brought to the U.S. during Hajj last year, Giraldi told IPS, initially using satellite-based communication. But the contacts also say Amiri was a radiation safety specialist who was "absolutely peripheral" to Iran's nuclear program, according to Giraldi.

Amiri provided "almost no information" about Iran's nuclear program, said Giraldi, but had picked up "scuttlebutt" from other nuclear scientists with whom he was acquainted that the Iranians have no active nuclear weapon program.

Giraldi said information from Amiri's debriefings was only a minor contribution to the intelligence community's reaffirmation in the latest assessment of Iran's nuclear program of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)'s finding that work on a nuclear weapon has not been resumed after being halted in 2003.

Amiri's confirmation is cited in one or more footnotes to the new intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear program, called a "Memorandum to Holders", according to Giraldi, but it is now being reviewed, in light of Amiri's "re- defection" to Iran.

An intelligence source who has read the "Memorandum to Holders" in draft form confirmed to IPS that it presents no clear-cut departure from the 2007 NIE on the question of weaponization. The developments in the Iranian nuclear program since the 2007 judgment are portrayed as "subtle and complex", said the source.

CIA officials are doing their best to "burn" Amiri by characterizing him as a valuable long-term intelligence asset, according to Giraldi, in part in order to sow as much distrust of him among Iranian intelligence officials as possible.

But Giraldi said it is "largely a defense mechanism" to ward off criticism of the agency for its handling of the Amiri case.

"The fact is he wasn't well vetted," said Giraldi, adding that Amiri was a "walk- in" about whom virtually nothing was known except his job.

Although an investigation has begun within the CIA of the procedures used in the case, Giraldi said, Amiri's erstwhile CIA handlers still do not believe he was a double agent or "dangle".

What convinced CIA officers of Amiri's sincerity, according to Giraldi, was Amiri's admission that he had no direct knowledge of the Iranian nuclear program.

A "dangle" would normally be prepared with some important intelligence that the U.S. is known to value.

Amiri's extremely marginal status in relation to the Iranian nuclear program was acknowledged by an unnamed U.S. official who told The New York Times and Associated Press Friday that Amiri was indeed a "low-level scientist", but that the CIA had hoped to use him to get to more highly placed Iranian officials.

Giraldi's revelations about Amiri's reporting debunks a media narrative in which Amiri provided some of the key evidence for a reversal by the intelligence community of its 2007 conclusion that Iran had not resumed work on nuclear weapons.

An Apr. 25 story by Washington Post reporters Joby Warrick and Greg Miller said the long-awaited reassessment of the Iranian nuclear program had been delayed in order to incorporate a "new flow of intelligence" coming from "informants, including scientists with access to Iran's military programs&."

They quote Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair as explaining in an interview that the delay was because of "information coming in and the pace of developments".

Warrick and Miller reported that Amiri had "provided spy agencies with details about sensitive programs including a long-hidden uranium-enrichment plant near the city of Qom." Their sources were said to be "current and former officials in the United States and Europe".

Warrick and Miller could not get CIA officials to discuss Amiri. Instead they quoted the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) as saying that Amiri "has been associated with sensitive nuclear programs for at least a decade".

NCRI is the political arm of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), the anti-regime Iranian terrorist organization which has been a conduit for Israeli intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program.

On Jun. 8, David E. Sanger of the New York Times cited "foreign diplomats and some American officials" as sources in reporting that a series of intelligence briefings for members of the U.N. Security Council last spring amounted to "a tacit admission by the United States that it is gradually backing away" from the 2007 NIE. Sanger referred to "new evidence" that allegedly led analysts to "revise and in some cases reverse" that estimate's conclusion that Iran was no longer working on a nuclear weapon.

Sanger cited "Western officials" as confirming that Amiri was providing some of the new information.

Three days later, the Washington Post ran another story quoting David Albright, director of the Institute for Science and International Security, as saying that the intelligence briefings for Security Council members had included "information about nuclear weaponization" obtained from Amiri.

Albright said he had been briefed on the intelligence earlier that week, and the Post reported a "U.S. official" had confirmed Albright's account.

Subsequently, ABC News reported that Amiri's evidence had "helped to contradict" the 2007 NIE, and McClatchy Newspapers repeated Albright's allegation and the conclusion that the new assessment had reversed the intelligence conclusion that Iran had ceased work related to weaponization.

In creating that false narrative, journalists have evidently been guided by personal convictions on the issue that are aligned with certain U.S., European and Israeli officials who have been pressuring the Barack Obama administration to reject the 2007 estimate.

For the Israelis and for some U.S. officials, reversing the conclusion that Iran is not actively pursuing weaponization is considered a precondition for maneuvering U.S. policy into a military confrontation with Iran.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Although sometimes characterized as a Republican “maverick” for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a stalwart advocate of the Bush-era policies on torture and warrantless wiretapping, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


A right-wing Christian and governor of Kansas, Brownback previously served in the U.S. Senate, where he gained a reputation as a leading social conservative as well as an outspoken “pro-Israel” hawk on U.S. Middle East policy.


Steve Forbes, head of the Forbes magazine empire, is an active supporter of a number of militarist policy organizations that have pushed for aggressive U.S. foreign policies.


Stephen Hadley, an Iraq War hawk and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, now chairs the U.S. Institute for Peace.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.


Print Friendly

A recent vote in the European Parliament shows how President Trump’s relentless hostility to Iran is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran.


Print Friendly

The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”


Print Friendly

Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.


Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


RightWeb
share