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December 11, 2006, 4:28 pm
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Seeking Iran Intelligence, U.S. Tries Google
Internet Search Yields Names Cited in U.N. Draft Resolution
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 11, 2006; Page A01
When the State Department recently asked the CIA for names of Iranians
who could be sanctioned for their involvement in a clandestine nuclear
weapons program, the agency refused, citing a large workload and a
desire to protect its sources and tradecraft.
Frustrated, the State Department assigned a junior Foreign Service
officer to find the names another way -- by using Google. Those with
the most hits under search terms such as "Iran and nuclear," three
officials said, became targets for international rebuke Friday when a
sanctions resolution circulated at the United Nations.
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Policymakers and intelligence officials have always struggled when it
comes to deciding how and when to disclose secret information, such as
names of Iranians with suspected ties to nuclear weapons. In some
internal debates, policymakers win out and intelligence is made public
to further political or diplomatic goals. In other cases, such as this
one, the intelligence community successfully argues that protecting
information outweighs the desires of some to share it with the world.
But that argument can also put the U.S. government in the awkward
position of relying, in part, on an Internet search to select targets
for international sanctions.
None of the 12 Iranians that the State Department eventually singled
out for potential bans on international travel and business dealings is
believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran's most suspicious
"There is nothing that proves involvement in a clandestine weapons
program, and there is very little out there at all that even connects
people to a clandestine weapons program," said one official familiar
with the intelligence on Iran. Like others interviewed for this story,
the official insisted on anonymity when discussing the use of
What little information there is has been guarded at CIA headquarters.
The agency declined to discuss the case in detail, but a senior
intelligence official said: "There were several factors that made it a
complicated and time-consuming request, not the least of which were
well-founded concerns" about revealing the way the CIA gathers
intelligence on Iran.
That may be why the junior State Department officer, who has been with
the nonproliferation bureau for only a few months, was put in front of
An initial Internet search yielded over 100 names, including dozens of
Iranian diplomats who have publicly defended their country's efforts as
intended to produce energy, not bombs, the sources said. The list also
included names of Iranians who have spoken with U.N. inspectors or have
traveled to Vienna to attend International Atomic Energy Agency
meetings about Iran.
It was submitted to the CIA for approval but the agency refused to look
up such a large number of people, according to three government
sources. Too time-consuming, the intelligence community said, for the
CIA's Iran desk staff of 140 people. The list would need to be pared
down. So the State Department cut the list in half and resubmitted the
In the end, the CIA approved a handful of individuals, though none is
believed connected to Project 1-11 -- Iran's secret military effort to
design a weapons system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The
names of Project 1-11 staff members have never been released by any
government and doing so may have raised questions that the CIA was not
willing or fully able to answer. But the agency had no qualms about
approving names already publicly available on the Internet.
"Using a piece of intel on project 1-11, which we couldn't justify in
open-source reporting, or with whatever the Russians had, would have
put us in a difficult position," an intelligence official said.
"Inevitably, someone would have asked, 'Why this guy?' and then we
would have been back to the old problem of justifying intelligence."
Re: Seeking Iran Intelligence, U.S. Tries Google p1..
That, just that one line would have been enough.
Stop posting them on usenet! You are abusing copyrights!
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