U.S. Intelligence Found Iran Nuke Document Was Forged

WASHINGTON (IPS) — U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, which purportedly describes an Iranian plan to do experiments on what the newspaper described as a “neutron initiator” for an atomic weapon, is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.

Philip Giraldi, who was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, told IPS that intelligence sources say that the United States had nothing to do with forging the document, and that Israel is the primary suspect. The sources do not rule out a British role in the fabrication, however.

The Times of London story published Dec. 14 did not identify the source of the document. But it quoted “an Asian intelligence source” – a term some news media have used for Israeli intelligence officials – as confirming that his government believes Iran was working on a neutron initiator as recently as 2007.

The story of the purported Iranian document prompted a new round of expressions of U.S. and European support for tougher sanctions against Iran and reminders of Israel’s threats to attack Iranian nuclear programme targets if diplomacy fails.

U.S. news media reporting has left the impression that U.S. intelligence analysts have not made up their mind about the document’s authenticity, although it has been widely reported that they have now had a full year to assess the issue.

Giraldi’s intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the purported Iran document had been fabricated by a foreign intelligence agency. But their suspicions of fraud were prompted in part by the source of the story, according to Giraldi.

“The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government,” Giraldi said.

The Times is part of a Murdoch publishing empire that includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post. All Murdoch-owned news media report on Iran with an aggressively pro-Israeli slant.

The document itself also had a number of red flags suggesting possible or likely fraud.

The subject of the two-page document which the Times published in English translation would be highly classified under any state’s security system. Yet there is no confidentiality marking on the document, as can be seen from the photograph of the Farsi-language original published by the Times.

The absence of security markings has been cited by the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as evidence that the “alleged studies” documents, which were supposedly purloined from an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related programme early in this decade, are forgeries.

The document also lacks any information identifying either the issuing office or the intended recipients. The document refers cryptically to “the Centre”, “the Institute”, “the Committee”, and the “neutron group”.

The document’s extreme vagueness about the institutions does not appear to match the concreteness of the plans, which call for hiring eight individuals for different tasks for very specific numbers of hours for a four-year time frame.

Including security markings and such identifying information in a document increases the likelihood of errors that would give the fraud away.

The absence of any date on the document also conflicts with the specificity of much of the information. The Times reported that unidentified “foreign intelligence agencies” had dated the document to early 2007, but gave no reason for that judgment.

An obvious motive for suggesting the early 2007 date is that it would discredit the U.S. intelligence community’s November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran had discontinued unidentified work on nuclear weapons and had not resumed it as of the time of the estimate.

Discrediting the NIE has been a major objective of the Israeli government for the past two years, and the British and French governments have supported the Israeli effort.

The biggest reason for suspecting that the document is a fraud is its obvious effort to suggest past Iranian experiments related to a neutron initiator. After proposing experiments on detecting pulsed neutrons, the document refers to “locations where such experiments used to be conducted”.

That reference plays to the widespread assumption, which has been embraced by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran had carried out experiments with Polonium-210 in the late 1980s, indicating an interest in neutron initiators. The IAEA referred in reports from 2004 through 2007 to its belief that the experiment with Polonium-210 had potential relevance to making “a neutron initiator in some designs of nuclear weapons”.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the terrorist organisation Mujahedeen-e Khalq, claimed in February 2005 that Iran’s research with Polonium-210 was continuing and that it was now close to producing a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon.

Sanger and Broad were so convinced that the Polonium-210 experiments proved Iran’s interest in a neutron initiator that they referred in their story on the leaked document to both the IAEA reports on the experiments in the late 1980s and the claim by NCRI of continuing Iranian work on such a nuclear trigger.

What Sanger and Broad failed to report, however, is that the IAEA has acknowledged that it was mistaken in its earlier assessment that the Polonium-210 experiments were related to a neutron initiator.

After seeing the complete documentation on the original project, including complete copies of the reactor logbook for the entire period, the IAEA concluded in its Feb. 22, 2008 report that Iran’s explanations that the Polonium-210 project was fundamental research with the eventual aim of possible application to radio isotope batteries was “consistent with the Agency’s findings and with other information available to it”.

The IAEA report said the issue of Polonium-210 – and thus the earlier suspicion of an Iranian interest in using it as a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon – was now considered “no longer outstanding”.

New York Times reporters David Sanger and William J. Broad reported U.S. intelligence officials as saying the intelligence analysts “have yet to authenticate the document”. Sanger and Broad explained the failure to do so, however, as a result of excessive caution left over from the CIA’s having failed to brand as a fabrication the document purporting to show an Iraqi effort to buy uranium in Niger.

The Washington Post‘s Joby Warrick dismissed the possibility that the document might be found to be fraudulent. “There is no way to establish the authenticity or original source of the document…,” wrote Warrick.

But the line that the intelligence community had authenticated it evidently reflected the Barack Obama administration’s desire to avoid undercutting a story that supports its efforts to get Russian and Chinese support for tougher sanctions against Iran.

This is not the first time that Giraldi has been tipped off by his intelligence sources on forged documents. Giraldi identified the individual or office responsible for creating the two most notorious forged documents in recent U.S. intelligence history.

In 2005, Giraldi identified Michael Ledeen, the extreme right-wing former consultant to the National Security Council and the Pentagon, as an author of the fabricated letter purporting to show Iraqi interest in purchasing uranium from Niger. That letter was used by the George W. Bush administration to bolster its false case that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons programme.

Giraldi also identified officials in the “Office of Special Plans” who worked under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith as having forged a letter purportedly written by Hussein’s intelligence director, Tahir Jalail Habbush al-Tikriti, to Hussein himself referring to an Iraqi intelligence operation to arrange for an unidentified shipment from Niger.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. His latest book, with John Kiriakou, is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Read other articles by Gareth.

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  1. Rehmat said on December 29th, 2009 at 3:40pm #

    Every time Obama or Hillary Clinton refer to the unacceptability of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, they refer to non-existent Iranian weapons and ignore hundreds of Israeli nuclear warheads. The American mantra reconfirmed by Obama-Clinton is “no nuclear weapons in the Middle East”. Who can disagree with this? Who want nuclear weapons in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter? The difficulty with the American mantra could not be more simple or compelling. It is false in its premises and false in the facts. Americans have accepted nuclear weapons in the Middle East, so long as they are Israelis. And Israel had nuclear weapons for over thirty years, hundreds of war loads and missile capable of reaching every capital in the region. Every time an American official intones the mantra that “nuclear weapons are unacceptable in the region”, the hypocrisy bell clangs. Therefore, my critical indicator of change in American policy regarding Palestine is this: Would Obama say that all nuclear weapons in the Middle East are unacceptable, including those of Israel? So far there has been a resounding silence, except the hypocrisy bell. Clang! Clang!”


  2. Mulga Mumblebrain said on December 30th, 2009 at 2:47am #

    Well spake Rehmat! One must never forget for an instant that we are dealing with evil, insanely racist, psychopaths whenever we think of the racist, religiously demented fundamentalist leadership of Israel, their stooges in the corrupt US ruling class, and their lackeys in the West. Iran is suffering exactly the same campaign of lies and propaganda that Iraq did before the crucifixion of that country on the altar of Judeofascist supremacism. And, as you could have bet your life on, nowhere in the sewer of human iniquity that is the Western media is their one propagandist with the basic decency and honesty to admit it is so. Instead, like the craven curs that they are, they go along willingly, knowing, as they do, that a second’s honesty, even inadvertant, would label them as an unreliable element, not 100% ‘on-board’ with their Zionist owners’ agenda, and the cushy, over-paid life of a professional liar and hatemonger will be over.
    I would imagine that this story will simply be suppressed. That is a standard technique of this rabble of liars. Publish the Zionazi lie hysterically, push it fervently, then, when it is shown to be untrue, ignore that revelation. Just like the Zionazi traffic in stolen body parts. When first exposed this sordid business was denied by the Zionazis with hysterical outrage. Vitriol and bile were hissed and spat in all directions. ‘Blood libel!!!!’ (a favourite)’ Boycott Sweden, boycott Ikea’ (how they would have preferred to carpet-bomb them! )Now, when it is revealed that the story was indeed true, the Western media sewer, loyal like pariah dogs to their owners, simply ignores the revelation.
    When Iran is attacked, probably on February 28th so that the religiously fanatic Jews may celebrate it properly with real bloodletting rather than mere re-enactments where children gaily re-create Haman’s hanging, taking turns to have their necks snapped, or be the enthusiastic executioners, the vermin of the Western media mire will have blood, including that of children, up to their elbows. This example of Western media duplicity, mendacity and evil is even more rank than the charade before the onslaught on Iraq, simply because that precedent is so clear. But the swine who infest the Western media system, handpicked on entering ‘journalism’ and carefully vetted thereafter to ensure no trace of basic decency or honour is ever exhibited, just total loyalty to the Boss, in most cases a Zionist Jew or simulacrum like Rupert Moloch, will sink to the occasion, then pat themselves on the back, like the self-deluding psychopaths they are, for a job well done defending ‘Western Civilization’.

  3. Maryb said on January 2nd, 2010 at 1:23pm #

    The Times carried this toxic article yesterday written by Dr Liam Fox (yes a medical doctor who is supposed to ‘Do no harm’) who is the shadow Defence Minister and is likely to take office if Cameron wins this year.

    January 1, 2010

    The world must neutralise Tehran’s toxic threat (headline)

    Iran’s aggression, whether through its pursuit of the bomb or its sponsoring of terror, has to be met with sanctions that bite

    This is pure war mongering courtesy of Murdoch and see here how words are twisted. Fox (who set up an outfit called the Atlantic Bridge for fellow like minded souls) quotes the UN chief inspector Olli Heinonen as saying ‘that Iran’s nuclear activities are “not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon”.’

    Keith on medialens takes Fox apart on this –
    ‘The quote he uses is not a quote from Olli Heinonen, but from unnamed persons who claim he said that in a closed door meeting. Liam Fox claims that that was said about Iran’s nuclear activity, but it was only said about a document that Olli Heinonen said the agency “did not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated.”
    How did Liam Fox manage to misrepresent that quote on two counts.’

    Congratulations to Gareth Porter who has been acknowledged by Pulse Media as one of their 20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009.

    Independent historian and star investigative journalist for IPS Gareth Porter is known for the scholarly rigor of his research and analysis and for the frequent scoops which have undermined official propaganda. Like fellow IPSer Jim Lobe, Porter follows Amira Hass’s famous dictum about journalism in constantly monitoring the centers of power. He has been driving a truck through the carefully constructed edifice of lies and deception of successive administrations as often as they have been erected. In 2009 alone he has produced several in-depth reports casting doubt over the administration’s rationale for war in Iraq, the Taliban-al Qa’ida connection, and the alleged Iranian experiments with a ‘neutron initiator’ for an atomic bomb.

  4. Maryb said on January 2nd, 2010 at 2:34pm #

    These are the Board members of The Atlantic Bridge
    Note Lieberman there.

    Their Aim
    The Atlantic Bridge was founded by Dr. Liam Fox MP in 1997 with the simple aim of ‘Strengthening the Special Relationship’ exemplified by the Reagan-Thatcher partnership of the 1980s. It is our firm belief that the promotion of close and strong relations between the United Kingdom & United States, which is at the heart of ‘Strengthening the Special Relationship’, provides public benefit on both sides of the Atlantic. Our goal is to act as the natural and pre-eminent forum for the development of transatlantic solutions for common challenges. To those ends, The Atlantic Bridge has worked to re-establish and foster a strong, well-positioned network of like-minded people in politics, business, academia, law and journalism on both sides of the Atlantic.

    How we achieve our aim

    •Develop and publicize new and relevant policy ideas, building on the common thinking which underpins the natural transatlantic alliance between Britain and America.

    •Further public education on both sides of the Atlantic in areas of common interest, focusing particularly but not exclusively on free trade, economics, health and science.

    •By holding a series of political and social events, establish both a strong cross-fertilization of ideas and effective personal links and relationships between people of like-minded views in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

    Some Newspeak there.