Foreign Policy Blogs

C.I.A helped Iran??

One of the more shocking stories regarding Iranian nuclear program I read this weekend was The New York Times’ article “U.S. Subpoenas Times Reporter Over Book on C.I.A.” The author, James Risen, who is a reporter for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize winner, received a subpoena requiring him to provide documents and to testify before a grand jury about his sources for a chapter of his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.”  The chapter in question is about the C.I.A.’s effort to disrupt Iranian nuclear research.

The C.I.A’s plot was simple: The agency sent a Russian nuclear scientist – who was secretly working for the C.I.A. – to Vienna in February 2000 to give plans for a nuclear bomb triggering device to an Iranian official under the pretext that he would provide further assistance in exchange for money. In the plans, the C.I.A. had hidden a technical flaw in the designs. But the plan went haywire as soon as it started: The scientist immediately spotted the flaw. Mr. Risen reported that the C.IA. still went ahead with the operation, so the scientist decided on his own to alert the Iranians that there was a problem in the designs, thinking they would not take him seriously otherwise.

In the book, Mr. Risen described the operation as reckless, arguing that Iranian scientists may have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws.” He also wrote that a C.I.A. case officer, believing that the agency had “assisted the Iranians in joining the nuclear club,” told a Congressional intelligence committee about the problems, but that no action was taken. (The New York Times)

If these allegations against the C.I.A are indeed true, there is no doubt that the agency failed miserably. Instead of issuing subpoenas against the reporter, there should be subpoenas against the C.I.A agents who came up with this flawed plan.



Sahar Zubairy

Sahar Zubairy recently graduated from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas- Austin with Masters in Global Policy Studies. She graduated from Texas A&M University with Phi Beta Kappa honors in May 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. In Summer 2008, she was the Southwest Asia/Gulf Intern at the Henry L. Stimson Center, where she researched Iran and the Persian Gulf. She was also a member of a research team that helped develop a website investigating the possible effects of closure of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf by Iran.

Great Decisions Discussion group