Who leaked Iranian nuclear document that turned out to be a hoax?

The leaked documentBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On November 27, the Associated Press published an alleged Iranian document which it said proved Iran was working on a nuclear bomb. The news agency said the disclosure was the latest in a series of similar leaks to the media by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program”. However, the authenticity of the document, which contained a diagram calculating the explosive force of a nuclear weapon, is now heavily disputed. An analysis of the leaked document in the latest issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists concluded that it was either massively erroneous or a hoax designed by amateurs. The Bulletin, a specialist publication founded by physicists involved in the Manhattan Project, said the document was “unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level”. The obvious question is who leaked the disputed document and why? An article in British newspaper The Guardian cites unnamed “Western officials” who claim that the diagram, along with several previous disclosures of a similar nature, was leaked by Israel “in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran”. If this is so, the leak appears to have seriously backfired and may have compromised the credibility of an ongoing investigation into the Iranian nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This is because the leaked document was part of an intelligence file on Iran’s nuclear program, compiled by the IAEA, which formed the factual basis for a new set of penalties and sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union in November of 2011. The question that some United Nations officials are now asking is, if the leaked document is indeed a hoax, how could the IAEA guarantee the authenticity of the remaining documents on its file on Iran? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #687

Hans BlixBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: Is Obama abusing the US Espionage Act? Prosecutors may still attempt to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, though their case will likely depend on exactly how he received his information. But, WikiLeaks aside, the Obama administration has made increasing use of the act to clamp down on whistleblowers.
►►Ex-head admits IAEA does work with spies (shock, horror). The International Atomic Energy Agency, which acts as the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations has been closely cooperating with the world’s spy agencies, including on Iran and Syria, for years, according to its former director. Hans Blix told RT that the IAEA’s cooperation with the world’s intelligences started following the Iraqi crisis of the 1990s. “Of course, intelligence can always try to fool everybody”, he said. “Half of the information may be true, half of it may be disinformation, and therefore they have to examine it critically”.
►►Afghanistan arrests diplomat on spying charges. Afghanistan’s State Intelligence Agency (KHAD) on Monday said that a senior foreign ministry diplomat and three other government officials had been arrested over charges of spying for Iran and Pakistan. The men were detained “on charges of spying for neighboring regions” and “the arrests were made with concrete evidence”, KHAD’s spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, said. An unnamed source in the same agency also claimed that the deputy head of KHAD’s Asia desk and two government employees had been arrested in a similar incident in the eastern Afghan province Nangarhar a month before.

News you may have missed #479 (Iran edition)

  • Iran arrests alleged CIA agent. Iran’s intelligence minister, Heidar Moslehi, has told the country’s state TV that authorities arrested an Iranian that he says was working for the CIA, and allegedly set up a network of aides to gather information during anti-government protests last week.
  • Yemen charges family with spying for Iran. Yemeni prosecutors allege that Muhammad al-Hatmi was a paid Iranian agent from 1998 to 2010, and passed money to rebels so they could expand their activities into Saudi Arabia. Al-Hatmi’s wife and son have been charged with aiding him by conveying money and communications.
  • Leaked intelligence report claims Iran intensifies uranium hunt. The Associated Press has published the findings of a leaked intelligence report, from an undisclosed IAEA member-country, which claims that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met secretly last month with senior Zimbabwean mining officials “to resume negotiations […] for the benefit of Iran’s uranium procurement plan”.

Senior Iranian scientist defected to CIA: report

Shahram Amiri

Shahram Amiri

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
ABC News appears to confirm earlier rumors, which intelNews reported on last December, that a senior Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the CIA. The Iranian government had initially accused American and Saudi intelligence agencies of kidnapping Shahram Amiri, a central figure in the Iranian nuclear research program, who disappeared last June during a hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. However, as intelNews reported last year, French intelligence sources  claimed that Amiri’s defection was facilitated through a carefully planned intelligence operation involving the CIA, as well as French and German operatives. Moreover, the alleged defector was said to have secretly briefed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Frankfurt, Germany, before they traveled to Iran to inspect a previously undeclared Iranian nuclear facility near the city of Qum. According to ABC News, which cites “people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials”, not only has Amiri defected to the CIA, but he has already been “extensively debriefed” since his defection. Read more of this post

BREAKING NEWS: Bomb blast kills Iranian physicist

Masoud Ali Mohammadi

Dr. Mohammadi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Iran’s state broadcaster has said a government physicist was “martyred” earlier this morning in a suspicious blast outside his home. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency reports that police forces have sealed off the area around the Tehran residence of Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, whom it described as a “dedicated revolutionary professor”. Dr. Ali-Mohammadi was reportedly killed by a remotely controlled explosive device that was planted at the entrance of his residence. Iranian officials hint that the remnants of the device point to the work of “outside intelligence agencies”, and some implicate the Mossad. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0239

  • Iran denies secret deal to import Kazakh uranium. Iran and Kazakhstan have denied a report that they were close to clinching a deal to transfer to Iran 1,350 tons of Kazakh purified uranium ore. The IAEA has declined comment.
  • US travel security lapses to mark end of the line for DHS? The US Department of Homeland Security “is adrift and treated as an orphan by the rest of the [US intelligence] community but is so badly staffed by low quality people that no other agency will ever take them seriously”, according to an anonymous former senior US intelligence official.

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Iranian defector briefed UN inspectors on Iran nuclear program

Iranian nuclear facility in Qum

Qum facility

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Iranian nuclear scientist who vanished during a pilgrimage to Mecca last June has defected to the West and has briefed American and United Nations officials about Iran’s nuclear program. As intelNews reported on October 9, rumors have been circulating in the Arab press that Shahram Amiri, a senior figure in the Iranian nuclear research program, was not abducted by Saudi and Western intelligence agencies, as Iran claims, but actually defected to the West. Now British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph has cited “a source close to France’s overseas secret service, the DGSE”, who claims that Amiri’s defection was facilitated through a carefully planned intelligence operation involving the CIA, as well as French and German operatives. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0191

  • Peru-Chile spy dispute deepens. Not only was senior Peruvian Air Force officer Victor Ariza Mendoza, who was arrested in Lima last Saturday, a spy for Chile, but there were six other individuals involved in the ring, according to Peruvian authorities. Peru has even asked Interpol to get involved in the affair.
  • UN-Iran in secret nuclear negotiations, says paper. The London Times has alleged that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions against Iran and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear energy program, in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.
  • Analysis: The real spy war between CIA and DNI. For months, the CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence fought an intense and acrimonious turf battle over covert action oversight and access to White House officials. Now new details are emerging about deeper and more sensitive conflicts between the two agencies, including which agency is responsible for oversight of the CIA’s controversial and classified Predator drone program.

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Analysis: Spy agencies disagree on status of Iran’s nuclear program

M. Ahmadinejad

M. Ahmadinejad

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran’s ultimate aim is to fortify its military posture with nuclear weapons. Putting aside, however, the broad concurrence of opinion about Iran’s long-term goal, very little is clear about the immediate status of the country’s nuclear program. Iran maintains that its goal is peaceful; namely to invest in nuclear energy so as to free up large quantities of oil for exports. It is important to stress that the consensus among America’s intelligence agencies is that this is in fact Iran’s immediate goal. This was pronounced in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a publicly available annual report cooperatively authored by the heads of all 16 US intelligence agencies. The 2007 report stated “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”.  The reality is that the existence of Iran’s second uranium enrichment plant –of which, incidentally, Western and Israeli intelligence agencies have been aware for years– does not necessarily contest the findings of the 2007 NIE. IntelNews editor Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis explains why this is so on the website of the Research Institute for European and American Studies. Read article →

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Comment: How did Iran know US planned to reveal nuclear facility?

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The question may be confusing at first, but it makes perfect sense, considering the series of events. Late last week the US put together a secret plan to reveal to the world that Iran has built a previously undeclared nuclear facility to enrich uranium. However, on the morning of September 25, that is, just hours before US President Barack Obama made the revelation, Iran pre-emptied him with a formal letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, in which it volunteered the information that it has built a facility inside a mountain near the city of Qum. Now, we know that US and other Western intelligence agencies have known about the existence of that nuclear facility for many years. However, from an intelligence point of view, the revelation of the site is secondary to the issue of how Iran came to know about the US President’s plan to reveal its existence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0100

  • Iran says US is forging nuclear intelligence. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, says the US government is using forged intelligence to make the case to the UN’s nuclear watchdog group that Iran is pursuing an atomic weapons program. What is arguably missing in the Iranian nuclear debacle is conclusive IAEA confirmation of the existence of Iran’s nuclear arms program, as in the case of Syria.
  • Pakistanis call for intelligence dialogue with India. Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan’s former national security adviser, has called for a “frank dialogue” between Pakistani and Indian security services. As intelNews reported earlier this year, Durrani was fired for his dovish stance vis-à-vis India and for being “too pro-American”.
  • US official was investigated for espionage. Alberto Coll, a Cuban-American who lost a senior job at the Navy War College after he was convicted of lying about a 2004 trip to Havana, was also investigated for espionage, according to an FBI document.

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Vienna is world’s largest espionage hub, say experts

Vienna

Vienna

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A few months ago, a federal office under Austria’s Interior Ministry published a report on foreign intelligence activity in the country, in which it predicted that “Austria will remain an operational area for foreign intelligence agencies […], which will account for a consistently high number of intelligence agents”. An article in German newspaper Die Welt explains that not only does post-Cold-War Vienna continue to be “a spy hub between East and West”, but the Austrian capital now has “the highest density of [foreign intelligence] agents in the world”. Read more of this post

Israeli intelligence alleges Syrian nuclear program resumed

In September 2007, Israel launched an air attack against Syria, destroying a facility in Al Kibar that both the Israelis and the Americans claimed was a nuclear military installation. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the US and Israeli allegations. The Israelis now claim that the Syrians have resumed their nuclear program. Read more of this post

IAEA confirms US allegations of Syrian nuclear reactor

Fourteen months ago, Israel launched an air attack against Syria, destroying a facility that both the Israelis and the Americans claimed was a nuclear military installation. When Syria denied the claim, US intelligence officials released visual evidence —some from the interior of the installation— arguing that the bombed building was in fact a plutonium production reactor. After undertaking its own investigation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has now confirmed the US and Israeli allegations that Syria was covertly constructing a nuclear reactor. Interestingly, the IAEA reportedly based its investigation on “other evidence, not on the photos released by Washington”. [JF]

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