Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amiri Told CIA Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Programme:Gareth Porter

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

(This is a cross post from 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).


  1. Mr Porter Thank you for this excellent piece.If you are reading this:Do not the think tanks & policy makers in US appreciate the devastation & complete destabalisation of this region in case Iran is attacked?
    On PTV(Pakistan Television), in an live interview, Secretary Clinton(during her current Pakistan visit), stated the differences between India & Pakistan stem from historical differences but Iran is a threat to her neighbors,and a threat to the world & if needed we will stop this threat.Your comment Mr Porter on Secretary Clinton's bold view?

  2. This is Gareth Porter. Thanks very much for your comment, Rais, and for your important question. The answer is that the U.S. military and other Defense officials do indeed appreciate the destabilizing implications of any war with Iran, and have opposed it in large part for that reason. (Other reasons would include the fact that US warships would be at risk in any such conflict, and that the price of oil would skyrocket.) But as I'm sure you are aware, the objective facts in the region are not only factors shaping U.S. policy toward Iran. Domestic U.S. politics have taken over to a considerable extent, and they are dominated by pro-Israeli money. That is an objective reality that must be reckoned with in predicing the outcomes of US policymaking, unfortunately.

  3. Dear Mr Porter
    Thank you for the response.I am indeed honored. Indeed,there is a strong understanding in this part of the world, about the pro Israeli factor involvement. However, this will be extreme foolishness & self destructive on part of American to actually attack or allow Israel to attack Iran. I share with you a link to a news/views posted n Pakistan Observer today:

  4. Interesting article, but could it be closer to the truth that Amiri probably duped the CIA into believing he was a high value asset worth all the fuss and then, once getting him to the USA his handlers realised that he was very low grade.
    After all Curve Ball's background certainly did not live up to all the time, money and effort wasted on him.

  5. Dear Gareth
    There are a lot of people,from the mainstream & not so mainstream media in US & Israel,that have created a hype of Iran on self destructive mode.Secretary Clinton spoke on the same lines while in Pakistan. One Ryan Mauro,of FRONTPAGEMAG.COM states: "The Iranian regime does not just seek the destruction of Israel, but seeks to overthrow the pro-American Sunni Arab regimes, ushering in an era of Shiite dominance of the region. These Arab countries, despite their public denials, are wishing for the very scenario that the Obama Administration is trying to prevent: An Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And there are growing signs that such a strike is being prepared for.
    The call for a “Greater Iran” stretching from Palestine to Afghanistan and vanquishing Saudi Wahhabism by the head of Hezbollah in Iran shocked the media, but the entire Middle East was already well-aware of this objective. The Iranians waged a proxy war against Yemen and Saudi Arabia last year, providing a tremendous amount of support to the radical Shiite Houthi rebels. The regime has been trying to dominate Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories via proxies, and the governments of the Arabian Peninsula have accused Iran of stirring up unrest in their lands for years."
    He goes on to say......"The Saudis are as threatened as Israel by Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Aaron Klein, the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of, told FrontPage. He has broken numerous stories about the fear of Iran expressed by Arab officials behind the scenes."
    Question:What will be the drop scene Gareth?Opinion please.

  6. Indeed Yvonne, CIA may have been misled into so believing but Porter states correctly,in my estimation,the presence of a strong pro Israeli Lobby that wants it believed that Iran is actively involved in creation of the bomb by midnight. Just like Madam Secretary's statement that Osama is alive & in Pakistan(her visit to Pakistan currently).
    Grounds laid down to suit steps suited to vested interests?

  7. The million dollar question:What is game plan for Iran? For PAKISTAN?
    Answers anyone?
    Bottom Line?

  8. With no love lost for Iran, any attack on Iran will create devastation. This is my tuppence:
    Just as in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, the Washington air is thick with unsubstantiated claims about weapons of mass destruction.
    n reality, the growing confrontation between Washington and Iran has less to do with nuclear weapons or Iraqi resistance and more with the fact that Iran has emerged as the main strategic beneficiary of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran and its allies now offer the only effective challenge to US domination of the Middle East and its resources.
    Israel has repeatedly signaled a willingness to attack Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy fails to dis suade Iran from continuing on its current threaten ing course.
    Last year, Israeli officials leaked the details of a secret Israeli air attack against a convoy transport ing Iran-supplied arms in Sudan that was headed for Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to be smuggled through tunnels to Hamas. The officials stressed that the long distances involved signaled Israeli preparedness to launch other aerial operations against Iran if necessary.
    Israeli strikes are likely to be hampered by long distances to targets and the need for extensive air-to-air refueling from slow-moving aerial tankers.According to in order to mitigate the Iranian threat & protect US interests, US should:
    -Recognize Israel's right to self-defense against a hostile Islamist dictatorship that also threat ens U.S. interests and regional stability.
    -Prepare for war with Iran.
    -Deploy missile defenses to defend Israel and other U.S. allies from Iranian missile attacks.
    -The United States should also hold more fre quent missile defense exercises with Israel and other allies.
    -Mitigate the impact of a possible Iranian-instigated oil crisis
    -Veto any Security Council resolution that does not acknowledge Iran's provocations and continued defiance of U.N. resolutions.
    -Enhance deterrrence against Iranian attacks.
    With such Advisers who needs enemies?

  9. If Israel does attack iran there is absolutely nothing to stop Iran from sending over a few shebab 3s in to Tel Aviv ... these people can't handle a few fireworks/fertiliser bombs from Hamas so how would they react if something really deadly, directional and dangerous hit the capital?
    There is no way Israel will bomb Iran. It will stick to attacking Palestinian women and kids and unarmed peace activists.
    The US can not launch another war, it can not even handle the Taliban and has already retreated from Iraq which is now heavily reliant on Iranian support.
    The US is a superpower in decline which can barely afford to prop up the failed Zionist project that is Israel.
    All this speculation is nothing more than wishful thinking and sabre rattling. Iran is neither afraid of the US or Israel - unlike Saddam's Iraq it is armed and dangerous and is prepared to fight back in defence, if necessary.
    The US is trying to create unrest to destablise the country and so when useful idiots like Amiri present themselves they become so excited and fail to check the facts.

  10. Mr Porter I will go back to Summaya's question - What will be the role of Pakistan if Iran is attacked ? OR what does US expect from it ? the BILLION DOLLAR question eso so in light of US interests in Jacobabad area.

  11. Well said Yvonne & though I agree with most of what you say I would'nt be too sure of US not attacking Iran via Israel.USA unfortunately,after the fall of USSR had a wonderful opportunity to be the Big Brother & work for peace in the world,an opportunity it lost by repeated misguided policies. As we see, she has unfortunately not heeded history.
    Valid question by Zair Zabar & Summaya,I hope Gareth will make an appearance sometime today to share his views with us.

  12. Gareth
    Interesting analysis. I agree to a lot of it. My questions & do excuse my ignorance on issues that deal with a part of the world I may not have a lot of knowledge about but which intrigues me nonetheless:
    -What will America gain from Israel attacking Iran?
    -Will Israel be able to successfully sustain the attack?
    -Will America be ABLE to justify Israel attack on Iran?Will it erode USAs position in the world?
    Best Regards

  13. In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, declaring it could not live with the chance the country would get a nuclear weapons capability. In 2007, it wiped out a North Korean-built reactor in Syria. And the next year, the Israelis secretly asked the Bush administration for the equipment and overflight rights they might need some day to strike Iran’s much better-hidden, better-defended nuclear sites.They were turned down, but the request added urgency to the question: Would Israel take the risk of a strike? And if so, what would follow?
    Many argue that Israeli military action will cause Iranians to rally in support of the mullahs' regime and plunge the region into political chaos.
    "For the remainder of Mr. Obama's term, uncertainty about his administration's support for Israel will continue to dog Israeli governments and complicate their calculations. Iran will see that as well, and play it for all it's worth. This is yet another reason why Israel's risks and dilemmas, difficult as they are, only increase with time."(QUOTE:Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" )

  14. Extremely interesting discussion, it will be great if the writer could address issues raised here.

  15. Thanks to all for your responses to the article. Those who noted the irrationality of an Israeli strike against Iran are correct, because of the extremely unpredictable military consequences that would follow. I believe that Israel does not dare to strike Iran without the active support and involvement of the United States, mainly because of its fear of those military consequences without the explicit commitment by the United States to be involved after the initial strike.

    Nevertheless, I must caution against overoptimism on this issue, because of the overweaning power of the pro-Israeli lobby and pro-Israeli figures in the U.S. political elite. It is particularly influential in Congress and the news media, which my story shows has lent itself to Israeli interests in creating the false narrative of a new Iranian nuclear weapons program. The danger, therefore, is that Obama will feel that he has no choice politically but to go along with Israel somehow on an attack on Iran. I would still put the odds against such a decision at more than 50/50 at this point, but it is a serious danger, nonetheless. The point I want to emphasize is that this issue, like virtually all U.S. policy toward war and peace in the Obama era, is going to be heavily influenced by calculations of domestic politics.

  16. Well said Gareth. Indeed, a huge part of Presidential campaign lobby flowed from pro Israel lobby. So it was a foregone conclusion with him coming in as President, who will in actual be steering the ship!
    The situation can swing either way,however,the mismanagement of issues by an inexperienced man chosen as President does not auger well.

  17. Hmmmmm...... so at best,the situation is fluid!

  18. I have been extremely impressed by not only the quality of the write up but also the caliber of discussions & finesse with which conducted.I recognize the name of Yvonne Ridley.She's done great work in what she believes in ie Dr Siddiqi's case,as for Gareth Porter, one of the very few unbiased & intellectually honest writers I've had the honor to come across. Tremendous idea Yasmeen Ali, to have the writer exchange thoughts on an issue with readers.Excellent work.

  19. Interesting discussion.
    Question for whoever may care to reply:
    How strongly is US media in favor of Israel attacking Iran?

  20. Thank you Sameeh for your kind words of praise. We are young, not even a month old,but I am grateful for the strong support,the readers and their worthy comments that has made Pakpotpourri2 for the wonderful place it is!I am very grateful to the writers too,who are making appearances on their articles & taking questions!WOW!

  21. Dear Gareth,
    Your article has inspired a very insightful discussion. However one important aspect of the 'forthcoming" adventure has not yet received the attention it deserves. You guessed right, I am talking about the Arab factor. I see the successful model of the first Gulf war (Iraq-Kuwait)being repeated , with much improved machination and to the best effect this time around. Remember, the common objective of US, Israel and Arab Middle East is to make Iran ineffective, a toothless tiger if you like.Nobody likes Iranian dominance in this region, much less the Arabs.Nuclear Iran or Non-Nuclear, does not matter.
    So, like at the first Gulf War, once again KSA, Kuwait, GCC will be first made out to be the most likely victims of Iranian "designs".A FAKE OR MANAGED ACT OF AGGRESSION ON KSA, M.E etc"by IRAN"(read US/ISRAEL), WILL provide the trigger. These front states will then be USED 'effortlessly' to provide enough justification and international support for a 'coalition' attack on Iran. US and Israel, will stay behind the scenes. The coalition will have the blessings of UN. "International Community" would then have once again triumphed against the "evil".
    I don't think US and Israel are foolish enough to attack Iran directly, and why ?When they can use their disposable friends in the area, why do the dirty work themselves ?
    What do you say ?

  22. All my Friends:
    May be i am irrelevant..but still i hv an opinion and the most difficult stask for me is to keep my opinion to myself:
    My Friends "WAR iS THE TRADE OF KINGS"..This saying was true yesterday and days before yetserday and is true as of today..There is virtually no powerfull institution here there or anywhere in the world accept for business institution. Decisions of war and peace, conflict or no conflict, terrorism or no terrorism are actually not taken at capitals hill nor they are taken by parliamentarians and Presidents and so called heads of states who are simply frontend show puppets at market place under tight clutche wires in hands of those multinationals business mafia. Decisions are actually taken on Golf courses, Club launges and Casinos of those business tychoons..Be it America be it Israel be it any other state or nation state, their controls have been actually taken over by underworld and their dealers and distributors.
    Mr. Gareth, / Ms.Yvonne Ridley if i am not ireleavant Please kindly review the situation for my interest and knowledge under the perspective and aspects of those henious Interests and objectives of underworld business mafia in this region.
    Yuvone's point is valid..whether they can afford to ignite yet another war or not? especially when they all have miserably and shamfully failed on their technology. But still i believe in desperation of the loss of their faces they are looking for yet another ditch. The war against terrorism is the 2nd name of a cow that milks nourishment for flourishment of underworld.

  23. Tanvir Sahib I will agree with Gareth's view that chances of attacking Iran are 50/50.Habib has raised a very valid point that if others can be used for attacking Iran, why do so directly? I think Iran WILL be attacked, somewhere along the line.
    Gareth, your views on Habib's comments will be appreciated.

  24. I partially agree with Gareth's views that the chanced of Usa attacking Iran are 50/50. I really do not agree with the view that others would be used to attack Iran on behalf of the US lets forget it....all of the EU nations have cultural political and geoploitical history of over 500 years and are politically much more elevated and matured than the gunslinging "Billy the kid " who just managed to get rid of the red Indians giving them the notion that they are invincible. As you can see in the case of Iraq the EU did not really buy the US rhetoric and the result is apparent. Good or bad is not the question but the question is who give the almighty right to a fanatic like Bush and Cheney Rumsfield to decide what is good or bad for the Iraqi people. I may sound anti american by my words but thats not it..i hate the two per cent American who jeopardise the safety security and freedom of the 98% nice cool beautiful people who really like to live life and enjoy it. In the early 9/11 era bush was heard commenting why do they hate us? Well if he didnt know the answer then chances are he wouldnt know it now but a glimpse of hate was displayed by the iraqi that threw a shoe at him ironically the iraqis the international crusaders had gone to liberate. The americans dont need enemies anymore they have their hands full in the white house pentagon nd the various "think tank groups" the only problem is the american do not see the problem as they really are but see the way they would like the problem to be. Well sorry it could go on and on and on so for the sake of future discussions let me close for now

  25. Israel is a possessed nation.It first bombed Iraqi Nuclear Reactor under constrution.Now it wants to bomb Bu BuShehar.US is also obsessed becuase any force in the Midlle Esat is not acceptale to it either.US is Bad Boy of the world ,it wants have its own way on srenth of what, Nuclear Bombs?

  26. Regret typograhic errors due to faulty computer