[News] CIA Told that Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Programme

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 20 11:04:31 EDT 2010

Amiri Told CIA Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Programme
Analysis by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, 19 Jul (IPS) - 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 programme, 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 programme, according to Giraldi.

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

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 programme 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 programme, 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 weaponisation. The developments 
in the Iranian nuclear programme since the 2007 judgment are 
portrayed as "subtle and complex", said the source.

CIA officials are doing their best to "burn" Amiri by characterising 
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 defence 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 programme.

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 
programme 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 
programme 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 programme.

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 
weaponisation" 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 weaponisation.

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 weaponisation is 
considered a precondition for manoeuvring U.S. policy into a military 
confrontation with Iran.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist 
specialising 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.

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