Turkey blows Israel’s cover for Iranian spy ring

The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.

Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.

Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident . In that confrontation at sea, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish-organized convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine Turks were killed.

Netanyahu finally apologized to Erdogan by phone in March after President Obama negotiated a compromise formula. But for more than a year before that, the Israeli leader had resisted entreaties from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to heal the feud.

Top Israeli officials believe that, despite the apology, the severe strain with Erdogan continues. The Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, is also suspect in Israel because of what are seen as friendly links with Tehran; several years ago, Israeli intelligence officers are said to have described him facetiously to CIA officials as “the MOIS station chief in Ankara,” a reference to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United States continued to deal with Fidan on sensitive matters, however.

Though U.S. officials regarded exposure of the Israeli network as an unfortunate intelligence loss, they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants. This practice of separating intelligence issues from broader policymaking is said to be a long-standing U.S. approach.

U.S. officials were never sure whether the Turkish disclosure was done in retaliation for the flotilla incident or was part of a broader deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations.

Israeli intelligence had apparently run part of its Iranian spy network through Turkey, which has relatively easy movement back and forth across its border with Iran. The Turkish intelligence service, known as the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.

U.S. officials assessed the incident as a problem of misplaced trust, rather than bad tradecraft. They reasoned that the Mossad, after more than 50 years of cooperation with Turkey, never imagined the Turks would “shop” Israeli agents to a hostile power, in the words of one source. But Erdogan presented a unique challenge, as he moved in 2009 to champion the Palestinian cause and, in various ways, steered Ankara away from what had been, in effect, a secret partnership with Jerusalem.

The Israeli-Turkish intelligence alliance was launched in a secret meeting in August 1958 in Ankara between David Ben-Gurion, then Israel’s prime minister, and Adnan Menderes, then Turkey’s prime minister. “The concrete result was a formal but top-secret agreement for comprehensive cooperation” between the Mossad and Turkish intelligence, wrote Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in their 2012 book, “Spies Against Armageddon.”

The groundwork had been laid secretly by Reuven Shiloah, the founding director of the Mossad, as part of what he called a “peripheral alliance strategy.” Through that partnership, Israelis provided training in espionage to the Turks and, ironically, also to Iranians under the shah’s government, which was toppled in 1979.

Fidan, the Turkish spy chief, is a key Erdogan adviser. He became head of the MIT in 2010 after serving as a noncommissioned officer in the Turkish army and gaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in Ankara. After Fidan took over the Turkish service, “he rattled Turkey’s allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel,” according to a recent profile in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal also noted U.S. fears that Fidan was arming jihadist rebels in Syria.

The Netanyahu-Erdogan quarrel, with its overlay of intelligence thrust and parry, is an example of the kaleidoscopic changes that may be ahead in the Middle East. The United States, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are all exploring new alliances and struggling to find a new equilibrium — overtly and covertly.

Read more from David Ignatius’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Read more about this issue: David Ignatius: Rouhani sees a nuclear deal in 3 months Soli Ozel: The protests in Turkey won’t be the last Fareed Zakaria: Israel dominates the new Middle East Sonet Cagaptay: Syria becomes a wedge between the United States and Turkey Dani Rodrik: Turkey’s miscarriage of justice

By David Ignatius, Published: October 17

Find this story at 17 October 2013
© The Washington Post Company

CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup

Documents Provide New Details on Mosaddeq Overthrow and Its Aftermath
National Security Archive Calls for Release of Remaining Classified Record
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 435

Decades of Delay Questioning CIA Rationales

Have the British Been Meddling with the FRUS Retrospective Volume on 1953?
Foreign Office Worried over “Very Embarrassing” Revelations, Documents Show

The United Kingdom sought to expunge “very embarrassing” information about its role in the 1953 coup in Iran from the official U.S. history of the period, British documents confirm. The Foreign Office feared that a planned State Department publication would undermine U.K. standing in Iran, according to declassified records posted on the National Security Archive’s Web site today.

The British censorship attempt happened in 1978, but London’s concerns may play a role even today in holding up the State Department’s long-awaited history – even though U.S. law required its publication years ago.

The declassified documents, from the Foreign Office (Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1968), shed light on a protracted controversy over crucial gaps in the State Department’s authoritative Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The blank spots on Iran involve the CIA- and MI6-backed plot to overthrow the country’s prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. Six decades after his ouster, some signs point to the CIA as the culprit for refusing to allow basic details about the event to be incorporated into the FRUS compilation.[1]

Recently, the CIA has declassified a number of records relating to the 1953 coup, including a version of an internal history that specifically states the agency planned and helped implement the coup. (The National Security Archive obtained the documents through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.) This suggests that ongoing CIA inflexibility over the FRUS volume is not so much a function of the agency’s worries about its own role being exposed as a function of its desire to protect lingering British sensitivities about 1953 – especially regarding the activities of U.K. intelligence services. There is also evidence that State Department officials have been just as anxious to shield British interests over the years.

Regardless of the reasons for this continued secrecy, an unfortunate consequence of withholding these materials is to guarantee that American (and world) public understanding of this pivotal episode will remain distorted. Another effect is to keep the issue alive in the political arena, where it is regularly exploited by circles in Iran opposed to constructive ties with the United States.

Background on FRUS and the Mosaddeq Period

By statute, the FRUS series is required to present “a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record” of American foreign policy.[2] That law came about partly as a consequence of the failure of the original volume covering the Mosaddeq period (published in 1989) to mention the U.S. role in his overthrow. The reaction of the scholarly community and interested public was outrage. Prominent historian Bruce Kuniholm, a former member of State’s Policy Planning Staff, called the volume “a fraud.”[3]

The full story of the scandal has been detailed elsewhere,[4] but most observers blamed the omission on the intelligence community (IC) for refusing to open its relevant files. In fact, the IC was not alone. Senior Department officials joined in opposing requests for access to particular classified records by the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC), the group of independent scholars charged with advising the Department’s own Office of the Historian.[5] The head of the HAC, Warren Cohen, resigned in protest in 1990 citing his inability to ensure the integrity of the FRUS series. Congress became involved and, in a display of bipartisanship that would be stunning today (Democratic Senator Daniel P. Moynihan getting Republican Jesse Helms to collaborate), lawmakers passed a bill to prevent similar historical distortions. As Cohen and others pointed out, while Moscow was disgorging its scandalous Cold War secrets, Washington was taking a distinctly Soviet approach to its own history.[6]

By 1998, State’s historians and the HAC had decided to produce a “retrospective” volume on the Iran coup that would help to correct the record. They planned other volumes to cover additional previously airbrushed covert activities (in Guatemala, the Congo, etc.). It was a promising step, yet 15 years later, while a couple of publications have materialized, several others have not – including the Iran volume.[7]

Institutional Delays

A review of the available minutes of HAC meetings makes it apparent that over the past decade multiple policy, bureaucratic, and logistical hurdles have interfered with progress. Some of these are routine, even inevitable – from the complications of multi-agency coordination to frequent personnel changes. Others are more specific to the realm of intelligence, notably a deep-seated uneasiness in parts of the CIA over the notion of unveiling putative secrets.

In the Fall of 2001, an ominous development for the HO gave a sense of where much of the power lay in its relationship with the CIA. According to notes of a public HAC meeting in October 2001, the CIA, on instructions from the Director of Central Intelligence, decided unilaterally “that there could be no new business” regarding FRUS until the two sides signed an MOU. Agency officials said the document would address legitimate IC concerns; HAC members worried it would mainly boost CIA control over the series. The agency specifically held up action on four volumes to make its point, while HAC historians countered that the volumes were being “held hostage” and the HO was being forced to work “under the threat of ‘blackmail’.”[8]

The CIA held firm and an agreement emerged in May 2002 that, at least from available information, appears to bend over backwards to give the IC extraordinary safeguards without offering much reassurance about key HO interests. For instance, the MOU states that the CIA must “meet HO’s statutory requirement” – hardly something that seems necessary to spell out. At the same time, it allows the CIA to review materials not once, but again even after a manuscript has passed through formal declassification, and once more after it is otherwise in final form and ready for printing. In the context of the disputed Iran volume, HAC members worried about the “random” nature of these provisions which gave the agency “a second bite at the apple.”[9] The implication is that the CIA will feel little obligation to help meet the HO’s legal requirement if it believes its own “equities” are at stake. (This of course may still affect the Iran volume, currently scheduled for 2014 publication.)

Is It the British?

As mentioned, the CIA has begun to release documentation in recent years making explicit its connection to the Mosaddeq overthrow. Even earlier, by 2002, the State Department and CIA jointly began compiling an Iran retrospective volume. These are not signs of a fundamental institutional unwillingness to publish American materials on the coup (although parts of the CIA continued to resist the notion). The HO even tried at least twice previously to organize a joint project with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Iran, but the idea evidently went nowhere.[10]

In 2004, two years later, the State Department’s designated historian finished compiling the volume. According to that historian, he included a number of records obtained from research at the then-Public Record Office in London. Among his findings was “material that documents the British role.” He added that he had also located State Department records “that illustrate the British role.”[11] By no later than June 2006, the Iran volume had entered the declassification queue. At the June 2006 HAC session, CIA representatives said “they believed the committee would be satisfied with the [declassification] reviews.”

Up to that point, the agency’s signals seemed generally positive about the prospects of making public previously closed materials. But in the six years since, no Iran volume has emerged. Even State’s committee of historians apparently has never gotten a satisfactory explanation as to why.[12]

When the IC withholds records, “sources and methods” are often the excuse. The CIA is loath to release anything it believes would reveal how the agency conducts its activities. (For many years, the CIA kept secret the fact that it used balloons to drop leaflets over Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and would not confirm or deny whether it compiled biographical sketches of Communist leaders.) On the other hand, clandestine operations have been named in more than 20 other FRUS publications.[13] One of these was the retrospective volume on PBSUCCESS, the controversial overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. Furthermore, the agency has released troubling materials such as assassination manuals that demonstrate how to murder political opponents using anything from “edge weapons” to “bare hands.” In 2007, in response to a 15-year-old National Security Archive FOIA request, the CIA finally released its file of “family jewels” detailing an assortment of infamous activities. from planning to poison foreign leaders to conducting illegal surveillance on American journalists.

If the agency felt it could part with such high-profile sources and methods information, along with deeply embarrassing revelations about itself, why not in the Iran case? Perhaps the British are just saying no, and their American counterparts are quietly going along.

State Department Early Warning – 1978

The FCO documents in this posting (Documents 22-35) strongly support this conclusion. Theytell a fascinating story of transatlantic cooperation and diplomatic concern at a turbulent time. It was a State Department official who first alerted the FCO to plans by the Department’s historians to publish an official account of the 1953 coup period. The Department’s Iran expert warned that the records could have “possibly damaging consequences” not only for London but for the Shah of Iran, who was fighting for survival as he had 25 years earlier (Document 22). Two days later, FCO officials began to pass the message up the line that “very embarrassing things about the British” were likely to be in the upcoming FRUS compilation (Document 23). FCO officials reported that officers on both the Iran and Britain desks at State were prepared to help keep those materials out of the public domain, at least for the time being (Document 33). Almost 35 years later, those records are still inaccessible.

The British government’s apparent unwillingness to acknowledge what the world already knows is difficult for most outsiders to understand. It becomes positively baffling when senior public figures who are fully aware of the history have already acknowledged London’s role. In 2009, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw publicly remarked on Britain’s part in toppling Mosaddeq, which he categorized as one of many outside “interferences” in Iranian affairs in the last century.[14] Yet, present indications are that the U.K. government is not prepared to release either its own files or evidently to approve the opening of American records that might help bring some degree of closure to this protracted historic – and historiographical – episode.

(Jump to the British documents)

NOTES

[1] A recent article drawing attention to the controversy is Stephen R. Weissman, “Why is U.S. Withholding Old Documents on Covert Ops in Congo, Iran?” The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2011. ( http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0325/Why-is-US-withholding-old-documents-on-covert-ops-in-Congo-Iran )

[2] Section 198, Public Law 102-138.

[3] Bruce Kuniholm, “Foreign Relations, Public Relations, Accountability, and Understanding,” American Historical Association, Perspectives, May-June 1990.

[4] In addition to the Kuniholm and Weissman items cited above, see also Stephen R. Weissman, “Censoring American Diplomatic History,” American Historical Association, Perspectives on History, September 2011.

[5] Joshua Botts, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, “‘A Burden for the Department’?: To The 1991 FRUS Statute,” February 6, 2012, http://history.state.gov/frus150/research/to-the-1991-frus-statute.

[6] Editorial, “History Bleached at State,” The New York Times, May 16, 1990.

[7] Retrospective compilations on Guatemala (2003) and the intelligence community (2007) during the 1950s have appeared; collections on the Congo and Chile are among those that have not.

[8] HAC minutes, October 15-16, 2001, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/october-2001.

[9] HAC minutes, July 22-23, 2002, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/july-2002; and December 14-15, 2009, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/december-2009.

[10] HAC minutes, July 22-23, 2002, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/july-2002.

[11]HAC minutes, March 6-7, 2006, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/march-2006.

[12] See HAC minutes for July 12-13, 2004, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/july-2004; September 20-21, 2004, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/september-2004; September 8-9, 2008, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/september-2008; for example.

[13] Comments of then-FRUS series editor Edward Keefer at the February 26-27, 2007, HAC meeting, http://history.state.gov/about/hac/february-2007.

[14] Quoted in Souren Melikian, “Show Ignores Essential Questions about Iranian King’s Role,” The International Herald Tribune, February 21, 2009.

Washington, D.C., August 19, 2013 – Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States’ role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.

The explicit reference to the CIA’s role appears in a copy of an internal history, The Battle for Iran, dating from the mid-1970s. The agency released a heavily excised version of the account in 1981 in response to an ACLU lawsuit, but it blacked out all references to TPAJAX, the code name for the U.S.-led operation. Those references appear in the latest release. Additional CIA materials posted today include working files from Kermit Roosevelt, the senior CIA officer on the ground in Iran during the coup. They provide new specifics as well as insights into the intelligence agency’s actions before and after the operation.
This map shows the disposition of bands of “ruffians,” paid to demonstrate by coup organizers, early on August 19, 1953. The bands gathered in the bazaar and other sections of southern Tehran, then moved north through the capital. Thug leaders’ names appear at left, along with the estimated size of their groups, and their targets. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)

The 1953 coup remains a topic of global interest because so much about it is still under intense debate. Even fundamental questions — who hatched the plot, who ultimately carried it out, who supported it inside Iran, and how did it succeed — are in dispute.[1]

The issue is more than academic. Political partisans on all sides, including the Iranian government, regularly invoke the coup to argue whether Iran or foreign powers are primarily responsible for the country’s historical trajectory, whether the United States can be trusted to respect Iran’s sovereignty, or whether Washington needs to apologize for its prior interference before better relations can occur.
Pro-Shah police, military units and undercover agents became engaged in the coup starting mid-morning August 19. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)

Also, the public release of these materials is noteworthy because CIA documents about 1953 are rare. First of all, agency officials have stated that most of the records on the coup were either lost or destroyed in the early 1960s, allegedly because the record-holders’ “safes were too full.”[2]

Regarding public access to any remaining files (reportedly about one cubic foot of material), the intelligence community’s standard procedure for decades has been to assert a blanket denial. This is in spite of commitments made two decades ago by three separate CIA directors. Robert M. Gates, R. James Woolsey, and John M. Deutch each vowed to open up agency historical files on a number of Cold War-era covert operations, including Iran, as a sign of the CIA’s purported new policy of openness after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.[3]
Tanks played a critical role on August 19, with pro-Shah forces gaining control of some 24 of them from the military during the course of the day. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)

A clear sign that their pledge would not be honored in practice came after the National Security Archive filed a lawsuit in 1999 for a well-known internal CIA narrative about the coup. One of the operation’s planners, Donald N. Wilber, prepared the account less than a year later. The CIA agreed to release just a single sentence out of the 200-page report.

Despite the appearance of countless published accounts about the operation over the years – including Kermit Roosevelt’s own detailed memoir, and the subsequent leak to The New York Times of the 200-page CIA narrative history[4] — intelligence agencies typically refused to budge. They have insisted on making a distinction between publicly available information on U.S. activities from non-government sources and official acknowledgement of those activities, even several decades after the fact.
Anti-Mosaddeq armed forces converged on his house (left side of map) beginning around 4:00 pm, eventually forcing him to escape over a garden wall before his house was destroyed. By then, Zahedi had already addressed the nation from the Radio Transmission Station. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)

While the National Security Archive applauds the CIA’s decision to make these materials available, today’s posting shows clearly that these materials could have been safely declassified many years ago without risk of damage to the national security. (See sidebar, “Why is the Coup Still a Secret?”)

Archive Deputy Director Malcolm Byrne called for the U.S. intelligence community to make fully available the remaining records on the coup period. “There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past. The basic facts are widely known to every school child in Iran. Suppressing the details only distorts the history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides.”

To supplement the recent CIA release, the National Security Archive is including two other, previously available internal accounts of the coup. One is the narrative referred to above: a 1954 Clandestine Services History prepared by Donald N. Wilber, one of the operation’s chief architects, which The New York Times obtained by a leak and first posted on its site in April 2000.

The other item is a heavily excised 1998 piece — “Zendebad, Shah!” — by an in-house CIA historian. (The Archive has asked the CIA to re-review the document’s excessive deletions for future release.)

The posting also features an earlier declassification of The Battle for Iran for purposes of comparison with the latest release. The earlier version includes portions that were withheld in the later release. As often happens, government classification officials had quite different — sometimes seemingly arbitrary — views about what could and could not be safely made public.

Read together, the three histories offer fascinating variations in perspective — from an agency operative to two in-house historians (the last being the most dispassionate). Unfortunately, they still leave wide gaps in the history, including on some fundamental questions which may never be satisfactorily answered — such as how to apportion responsibility for planning and carrying out the coup among all the Iranian and outside actors involved.

But all 21 of the CIA items posted today (in addition to 14 previously unpublished British documents — see Sidebar), reinforce the conclusion that the United States, and the CIA in particular, devoted extensive resources and high-level policy attention toward bringing about Mosaddeq’s overthrow, and smoothing over the aftermath.

DOCUMENTS

CIA Records

CIA Internal Histories

Document 1 (Cover Sheet, Summary, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C, Appendix D, Appendix E): CIA, Clandestine Services History, Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 – August 1953, Dr. Donald N. Wilber, March 1954

Source: The New York Times

Donald Wilber was a principal planner of the initial joint U.S.-U.K. coup attempt of August 1953. This 200-page account is one of the most valuable remaining records describing the event because Wilber wrote it within months of the overthrow and provided a great deal of detail. Like any historical document, it must be read with care, taking into account the author’s personal perspective, purpose in writing it, and audience. The CIA routinely prepared histories of important operations for use by future operatives. They were not intended to be made public.

Document 2: CIA, Summary, “Campaign to Install a Pro-Western Government in Iran,” draft of internal history of the coup, undated

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This heavily excised summary was almost certainly prepared in connection with Donald Wilber’s Clandestine Services History (Document 1). By all indications written not long after the coup (1953-54), it includes several of the phrases Wilber used — “quasi-legal,” and “war of nerves,” for example. The text clearly gives the impression that the author attributes the coup’s eventual success to a combination of external and internal developments. Beginning by listing a number of specific steps taken by the U.S. under the heading “CIA ACTION,” the document notes at the end (in a handwritten edit): “These actions resulted in literal revolt of the population, [1+ lines excised]. The military and security forces joined the populace, Radio Tehran was taken over, and Mossadeq was forced to flee on 17 [sic] Aug 53.”

Document 3 a & b: CIA, History, The Battle for Iran, author’s name excised, undated (c. mid-1970s) – (Two versions – declassified in 1981 and 2011)

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This posting provides two separate releases of the same document, declassified 30 years apart (1981 and 2011). Each version contains portions excised in the other. Though no date is given, judging from citations in the footnotes The Battle for Iran was written in or after 1974. It is marked “Administrative – Working Paper” and contains a number of handwritten edits. The author was a member of the CIA’s History Staff who acknowledges “the enthusiastic cooperation” of the agency’s Directorate of Operations. The author provides confirmation that most of the relevant files were destroyed in 1962; therefore the account relies on the relatively few remaining records as well as on public sources. The vast majority of the covert action portion (Section III) remains classified, although the most recent declassification of the document leaves in some brief, but important, passages. An unexpected feature of the document (Appendix C) is the inclusion of a series of lengthy excerpts of published accounts of the overthrow designed, apparently, to underscore how poorly the public understood the episode at the time.

Document 4: CIA, History, “Zendebad, Shah!”: The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, August 1953, Scott A. Koch, June 1998

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

The most recent known internal history of the coup, “Zendebad, Shah!” was written by an in-house agency historian in 1998. It is heavily excised (but currently undergoing re-review by the CIA), with virtually all paragraphs marked Confidential or higher omitted from the public version. Still, it is a useful account written by someone without a stake in the events and drawing on an array of U.S. government and published sources not available to the earlier CIA authors.

CIA Records Immediately Before and After the Coup

Document 5: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 14, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Kermit Roosevelt conveys information about rapidly unfolding events in Tehran, including Mosaddeq’s idea for a referendum on his remaining in office, the prospect of his closing the Majles, and most importantly the impact President Eisenhower’s recent letter has had in turning society against the prime minister. The U.S. government publicized Eisenhower’s undiplomatic letter turning down Mosaddeq’s request for financial aid. The move was one of the ways Washington hoped to weaken his political standing.

Document 6: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 15, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Responding to the resignation of Mosaddeq supporters from the Majles, Kermit Roosevelt fires off a plan to ensure that other Majles members keep the parliament functioning, the eventual goal being to engineer a no-confidence in Mosaddeq. The memo provides an interesting clue on the subject of whether CIA operatives ever bought votes in the Majles, about which other CIA sources are vague. Roosevelt urges that as many deputies as possible be “persuaded” to take bast in the parliament. “Recognize will be necessary expend money this purpose and determine precisely who does what.” At the conclusion of the document he appears to tie this scheme into the previously elaborated — but clearly evolving — coup plan.

Document 7: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 16, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Roosevelt reports on developing plans involving Fazlollah Zahedi, the man who has been chosen to replace Mosaddeq. CIA sources, including the Wilber history, indicate that the military aspects of the plan were to be largely Zahedi’s responsibility. This memo supports that (even though many details are excised), but also provides some insight into the differences in expectations between the Americans and Zahedi. With some skepticism (“Zahedi claims …”), Roosevelt spells out a series of events Zahedi envisions that presumably would bring him to the premiership, albeit in a very round-about way. His thinking is clearly prompted by his declared unwillingness to commit “‘political suicide’ by extra-legal move.”

Document 8: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 17, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

The CIA’s Tehran station reports on the recent resignations of independent and opposition Majles members. The idea, an opposition deputy tells the station, was to avert Mosaddeq’s planned public referendum. The memo gives a bit of insight into the fluidity and uncertainty of developments with each faction undoubtedly elaborating their own strategies and tactics to a certain degree.

Document 9: CIA, note to Mr. [John] Waller, July 22, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This brief note conveys much about both U.S. planning and hopes for Mosaddeq’s overthrow. It is a request from Kermit Roosevelt to John Waller and Donald Wilber to make sure that a formal U.S. statement is ready in advance of “a ‘successful’ coup.” (See Document 10)

Document 10: CIA, note forwarding proposed text of State Department release for after the coup, August 5, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This draft text from the State Department appears to be a result of Roosevelt’s request (Document 9) to have an official statement available for use after completion of the operation. The draft predates Mosaddeq’s ouster by two weeks, but its language — crediting “the Iranian people, under the leadership of their Shah,” for the coup — tracks precisely with the neutral wording used by both the State Department and Foreign Office in their official paperwork after the fact.

Document 11: CIA, Memo, “Proposed Commendation for Communications Personnel who have serviced the TPAJAX Operation,” Frank G. Wisner to The Acting Director of Central Intelligence, August 20, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Wisner recommends a special commendation for the work performed by the communications specialists who kept CIA headquarters in contact with operatives in Iran throughout the coup period. “I am sure that you are aware of the exceptionally heavy volume of traffic which this operation has necessitated,” Wisner writes — an unintentionally poignant remark given how little of that documentation has survived.

Document 12: CIA, Memo, “Commendation,” Frank G. Wisner to CNEA Division, August 26, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Wisner also requests a commendation for John Waller, the coup overseer at CIA headquarters, “for his work in TPAJAX.” Waller’s conduct “in no small measure, contributed to the successful result.”

Document 13: CIA, “Letter of Commendation [Excised],” author and recipient names excised, August 26, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Evidently after reflection, Frank Wisner concludes that there are troubling “security implications” involved in providing a letter of commendation for a covert operation.

Document 14: CIA, Memo, “Anti-Tudeh Activities of Zahedi Government,” author’s name excised, September 10, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

A priority of the Zahedi government after the coup was to go after the Tudeh Party, which had been a mainstay of support for Mosaddeq, even if the relationship was mostly one of mutual convenience. This is one of several memos reporting details on numbers of arrests, names of suspected Central Committee members, and planned fate of arrestees. The report claims with high specificity on Soviet assistance being provided to the Tudeh, including printing party newspapers at the embassy. Signs are reportedly mixed as to whether the party and pro-Mosaddeq elements will try to combine forces again.

Document 15: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], September 21, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Roosevelt reports on an intense period of political maneuvering at high levels in the Zahedi government. Intrigues, patronage (including a report that the government has been giving financial support to Ayatollah Behbehani, and that the latter’s son is angling for a Cabinet post), and corruption are all dealt with in this memo.

Document 16: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], September 24, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

A restless Zahedi is reported to be active on a number of fronts including trying to get a military tribunal to execute Mosaddeq and urging the Shah to fire several senior military officers including Chief of Staff Batmangelich. The Shah reportedly has not responded to Zahedi’s previous five messages.

Document 17: CIA, Memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], October 2, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

According to this account, the Shah remained deeply worried about Mosaddeq’s influence, even while incarcerated. Roosevelt reports the Shah is prepared to execute Mosaddeq (after a guilty verdict that is a foregone conclusion) if his followers and the Tudeh take any threatening action.

Document 18: CIA, Memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], October 9, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Iranian politics did not calm down entirely after the coup, as this memo indicates, reporting on “violent disagreements” between Zahedi and his own supporter, Hoseyn Makki, whom Zahedi threatened to shoot if he accosted any senators trying to attend a Senate session. Roosevelt also notes two recent payments from Zahedi to Ayatollah Behbehani. The source for these provocative reports is unknown, but presumably is named in the excised portion at the top of the memo.

Document 19: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], October 20, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Roosevelt notes a meeting between the new prime minister, Zahedi, and Ayatollah Kashani, a politically active cleric and once one of Mosaddeq’s chief supporters. Kashani reportedly carps about some of his former National Front allies. Roosevelt concludes Zahedi wants “split” the front “by wooing Kashani away.”

Document 20: CIA, Propaganda Commentary, “Our National Character,” undated

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This appears to be an example of CIA propaganda aimed at undermining Mosaddeq’s public standing, presumably prepared during Summer 1953. Like other examples in this posting, the CIA provided no description when it released the document. It certainly fits the pattern of what Donald Wilber and others after him have described about the nature of the CIA’s efforts to plant damaging innuendo in local Iranian media. In this case, the authors extol the virtues of the Iranian character, particularly as admired by the outside world, then decry the descent into “hateful,” “rough” and “rude” behavior Iranians have begun to exhibit “ever since the alliance between the dictator Mossadeq and the Tudeh Party.”

Document 21: CIA, Propaganda Commentary, “Mossadeq’s Spy Service,” undated

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This propaganda piece accuses the prime minister of pretending to be “the savior of Iran” and alleges that he has instead built up a vast spying apparatus which he has trained on virtually every sector of society, from the army to newspapers to political and religious leaders. Stirring up images of his purported alliance with “murderous Qashqai Khans” and the Bolsheviks, the authors charge: “Is this the way you save Iran, Mossadeq? We know what you want to save. You want to save Mossadeq’s dictatorship in Iran!”

British Records

Document 22 : FCO, Summary Record, “British-American Planning Talks, Washington,” October 10-11, 1978

Source: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO) FCO 8/3216, File No. P 333/2, Folder, “Iran: Release of Confidential Records,” 1 Jan – 31 Dec 1978 (hereafter: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216)

In October 1978, a delegation of British FCO officials traveled to Washington for two days of discussions and comparing of notes on the world situation with their State Department counterparts. The director of the Department’s Policy Planning Staff, Anthony Lake (later to serve as President Bill Clinton’s national security advisor), led the American side. Other participants were experts from various geographical and functional bureaus, including Henry Precht, the head of the Iran Desk.

Beginning in paragraph 22, Precht gives a dour summary of events in Iran: “the worst foreign policy disaster to hit the West for many years.” In a fascinating back-and-forth about the Shah, Precht warns it is “difficult to see how the Shah could survive.” The British politely disagree, voicing confidence that the monarchy will survive. Even his State Department colleagues “showed surprise at the depth of Mr. Precht’s gloom.”

In the course of his presentation (paragraph 23), Precht notes almost in passing that the State Department is reviewing its records from 1952-1954 for eventual release. A British representative immediately comments that “if that were the case, he hoped HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] would be consulted.”

Document 23: FCO, Minute, B.L. Crowe to R.S. Gorham, “Anglo-American Planning Talks: Iran,” October 12, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This memo recounts Precht’s dramatic presentation on Iran two days earlier (see previous document). “His was essentially a policy of despair,” the author writes. When the British follow up with the Americans about Precht’s outlook of gloom, they find that State Department and National Security Council (NSC) staff were just as bewildered by his remarks. One NSC staff member calls them “bullshit.” Policy Planning Director Lake laments the various “indiscreet and sensitive things” the Americans said at the meeting, and asks the British to “be very careful” how they handle them.

“On a completely different subject,” the minute continues, “Precht let out … that he was having to go through the records of the 1952/53 Mossadeq period with a view to their release under the Freedom of Information Act [sic]. He said that if released, there would be some very embarrassing things about the British in them.” (Much of this passage is underlined for emphasis.) The note goes on: “I made a strong pitch that we should be consulted,” but the author adds, “I imagine that it is American documents about the British rather than documents on which HMG have any lien which are involved.” (This is a point that may still be at issue today since the question of discussing American documents with foreign governments is very different from negotiating over the use of foreign government records.)

Document 24: FCO, Letter, R.J. Carrick to B.L. Crowe, October 13, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

An FCO official reports that Precht recently approached another British diplomat to say that “he hoped we had not been too shocked” by his recent presentation. He says Precht acknowledged being “over-pessimistic” and that in any event he had not been offering anyone’s view but his own.[5] According to the British, NSC staff members put more stock in the assessments of the U.K. ambassador to Tehran, Sir Anthony Parsons, than in Precht’s. The writer adds that U.S. Ambassador to Iran William Sullivan also shares Parsons’ judgment, and concludes, without indicating a source, that even “Henry Precht has now accepted Sullivan’s view!”

Document 25: FCO, Letter, R.S. Gorham to Mr. Cullimore, “Iran: The Ghotbi Pamphlet and the Mussadeq Period,” October 17, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This cover note (to Document 24) refers to Precht’s revelation about the impending American publication of documents on the Mosaddeq period. The author suggests giving some consideration to the implications of this for “our own record of the time.”

Document 26: FCO, Letter, B.L. Crowe to Sir A. Duff, “Anglo-American Planning Talks,” October 19, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

FCO official Brian Crowe summarizes the October 10-11 joint U.S.-U.K. talks. The document is included here mainly for the sake of comprehensiveness, since it is part of the FCO folder on the FRUS matter. The writer repeats the remark from State’s Anthony Lake that “some of the comments” from the U.S. side on Iran (among other topics) were “highly sensitive” and should not be disclosed – even to other American officials.

Document 27: FCO, Letter, J.O. Kerr to B.L. Crowe, “Talks with the US Planners: Iran,” October 24, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This brief note shows that word is moving up the line in the FCO about the forthcoming FRUS volume on Iran. The writer conveys a request to have the U.K. embassy in Washington check the risks involved in the potential release of U.S. documents, and “when the State Department propose to raise them formally with us.”

Document 28: FCO, letter, G.G.H. Walden to B.L. Crowe, “Anglo-American Planning Talks: Iran,” November 10, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

Still more interest in the possible State Department release is reflected in this short note, now a month after the joint U.S.-U.K. talks. Here and elsewhere, the British notes erroneously report that the release will come under the Freedom of Information Act (or the Public Information Act, as given here); they are actually slated for inclusion in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

Document 29: FCO, R.S. Gorham cover note to Streams, “Iran: Release of Confidential Records,” attaching draft letter to Washington, November 14, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This note and draft are included primarily because they are part of the FCO file on this topic. However, the draft letter does contain some different wording from the final version (Document 31).

Document 30: U.S. Embassy London, Letter, Ronald I. Spiers to Sir Thomas Brimelow, March 24, 1975

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

Three years before Precht’s revelation to his British counterparts, the U.K. sought general guidance from the State Department about how the U.S. would handle “classified information received from Her Majesty’s Government.” The month before, robust amendments to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act had gone into effect. This letter from the number two official in London at the time, Ronald Spiers, offers a detailed response. Britain’s awareness of the new amendments and anxiousness about their implications (including the fairly abstruse question of how secret documents would be handled in court cases) show how sensitive an issue the British considered protection of their information to be. The U.S. Chargé is equally anxious to provide the necessary reassurances. (More than a decade later, Spiers would sharply oppose efforts by the State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee to gain access to restricted documentation for the FRUS series.[6])

Document 31: FCO, Letter, R.S. Gorham to R.J.S. Muir, “Iran: Release of Confidential Records,” November 16, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

The British embassy in Washington is alerted to the possibility of documents being released on the 1952-54 period. The FCO clearly expects that, as apparently has been the case in the past, “there should be no difficulty for the Americans in first removing … copies of any telegrams etc from us and US documents which record our views, even in the case of papers which are not strictly speaking ‘official information furnished by a foreign government.'” (This raises important questions about how far U.S. officials typically go to accommodate allied sensibilities, including to the point of censoring U.S. documents.) “What is not clear,” the letter continues, “is whether they could withhold American documents which referred to joint Anglo/US views about, say, the removal of Musaddiq in 1953.”

Document 32: British Embassy in Washington, Letter, R.J.S. Muir to R.S. Gorham, “Iran” Release of Confidential Records,” December 14, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This follow-up to Gorham’s earlier request (Document 31) is another reflection of U.K. skittishness about the pending document release. The embassy officer reports that he has spoken to Henry Precht “several times” about it, and that the British Desk at the State Department is also looking into the matter on London’s behalf. The objective is to persuade the Department to agree to withhold not only British documents but American ones, too.

Document 33: British Embassy in Washington, Letter, R.J.S. Muir to R.S. Gorham, “Iran: Release of Confidential Records,” December 22, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

The embassy updates the FCO on the status of the Iran records. Precht informs the embassy that he is prepared to “sit on the papers” to help postpone their publication. Precht’s priority is the potential impact on current U.S. and U.K. policy toward Iran. Conversely, a historian at the State Department makes it clear that his office feels no obligation even to consult with the British about any non-U.K. documents being considered. The historian goes on to say “that he had in the past resisted requests from other governments for joint consultation and would resist very strongly any such request from us.” But the same historian admits that the embassy might “be successful” if it approached the policy side of the Department directly.

The embassy letter ends with a “footnote” noting that State Department historians “have read the 1952-54 papers and find them a ‘marvelous compilation.'”

Interestingly, a handwritten comment on the letter from another FCO official gives a different view about the likely consequences of the upcoming document publication: “As the revolution [in Iran] is upon us, the problem is no longer Anglo-American: the first revelations will be from the Iranian side.” In other words, the revolution will bring its own damaging results, and the revolutionaries will not need any further ammunition from the West.

Document 34: FCO, Cover Note, Cohen (?) to Lucas, circa December 22, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

In a handwritten remark at the bottom of this cover note, an unidentified FCO official voices much less anxiety than some of his colleagues about the possible repercussions of the disclosure of documents on Iran. Referring to a passage in paragraph 3 of the attached letter (see previous document), the writer asks: “why should we be concerned about ‘any other documents’?” The writer agrees with the cover note author’s suggestion to “let this matter rest for a while,” then continues: “I think we ought positively to seek the agreement of others interested to Y.” (“Y” identifies the relevant passage on the cover note.)

Document 35: FCO, Meeting Record, “Iran: Policy Review,” December 20, 1978

Source : British National Archives, FCO 8/3351, File No. NB P 011/1 (Part A), Title “Internal Political Situation in Iran”

British Foreign Secretary David Owen chairs this FCO meeting on the unfolding crisis in Iran. It offers a window into London’s assessment of the revolution and British concerns for the future (including giving “highest priority to getting paid for our major outstanding debts”). The document also shows that not everyone at the FCO believed significant harm would necessarily come to British interests from the FRUS revelations. Although he is speaking about events in 1978, I.T.M. Lucas’ comment could apply just as forcefully to the impact of disclosing London’s actions in 1953: “[I]t was commonly known in [the Iranian] Government who the British were talking to, and there was nothing we could do to disabuse public opinion of its notions about the British role in Iran.” (p. 2)

NOTES

[1] Just in the last several years, books in English, French and Farsi by Ervand Abrahamian, Gholam-Reza Afkhami, Mohammad Amini, Christopher de Bellaigue, Darioush Bayandor, Mark Gasiorowski (and this author), Stephen Kinzer, Abbas Milani, Ali Rahnema, and others have focused on, or at least dealt in depth with, Mosaddeq and the coup. They contain sometimes wide differences of view about who was behind planning for the overthrow and how it finally played out. More accounts are on the way (including an important English-language volume on Iranian domestic politics by Ali Rahnema of the American University of Paris).

[2] Tim Weiner, “C.I.A. Destroyed Files on 1953 Iran Coup,” The New York Times, May 29, 1997.

[3] Tim Weiner, “C.I.A.’s Openness Derided as a ‘Snow Job’,” The New York Times, May 20, 1997; Tim Weiner, op. cit., May 29, 1997. (See also the link to the Archive’s lawsuit, above.)

[4] Kermit Roosevelt, Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1979); The New York Times, April 16, 2000.

[5] Precht recalls that he was originally not slated to be at the meetings, which usually deputy assistant secretaries and above attended. But the Near East division representative for State was unavailable. “I was drafted,” Precht said. Being forced to “sit through interminable and pointless talk” about extraneous topics “when my plate was already overflowing” on Iran contributed to a “sour mood,” he remembered. (Henry Precht e-mail to author, June 2, 2011.)

[6] Joshua Botts, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, “‘A Burden for the Department’?: To The 1991 FRUS Statute,” February 6, 2012, http://history.state.gov/frus150/research/to-the-1991-frus-statute.

Posted – August 19, 2013
Edited by Malcolm Byrne
For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne 202/994-7043 or mbyrne@gwu.edu

Find this story at 19 August 2013

© 1995-2013 National Security Archive

Israel suspected over Iran nuclear programme inquiry leaks

Western officials believe Israel may have leaked information from IAEA investigation in bid to raise global pressure on Tehran

A satellite image of Iran’s military complex at Parchin. The IAEA is investigating Tehran’s past nuclear activities and current aspirations. Photograph: DigitalGlobe – Institute for Science and International Security

Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of leaks implicating Iran in nuclear weapons experiments in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran and halt its programme.

Western diplomats believe the leaks may have backfired, compromising a UN-sanctioned investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activities and current aspirations.

The latest leak, published by the Associated Press (AP), purported to be an Iranian diagram showing the physics of a nuclear blast, but scientists quickly pointed out an elementary mistake that cast doubt on its significance and authenticity. An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists declared: “This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax.”

The leaked diagram raised questions about an investigation being carried out by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors after it emerged that it formed part of a file of intelligence on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work held by the agency.

The IAEA’s publication of a summary of the file in November 2011 helped trigger a new round of punitive EU and US sanctions.

Western officials say they have reasons to suspect Israel of being behind the most recent leak and a series of previous disclosures from the IAEA investigation, pointing to Israel’s impatience at what it sees as international complacency over Iranian nuclear activity.

The leaks are part of an intensifying shadow war over Iran’s atomic programme being played out in Vienna, home to the IAEA’s headquarters.

The Israeli spy agency, the Mossad, is highly active in the Austrian capital, as is Iran and most of the world’s major intelligence agencies, leading to frequent comparisons with its earlier incarnation as a battleground for spies in the early years of the cold war.

The Israeli government did not reply to a request for comment and AP described the source of the latest leak only as “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic programme”.

An “intelligence summary” provided to AP with the graph appeared to go out of its way to implicate two men in nuclear weapons testing who had been targeted for assassination two years ago. One of them, Majid Shahriari, was killed on his way to work in Tehran in November 2010 after a motorcyclist fixed a bomb to the door of his car. The other, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, was wounded in a near identical attack the same day.

A book published earlier this year by veteran Israeli and American writers on intelligence, called Spies Against Armageddon, said the attacks were carried out by an assassination unit known as Kidon, or Bayonet – part of the Mossad.

One western source said the “intelligence summary” supplied with the leaked diagram “reads like an attempt to justify the assassinations”.

According to one European diplomat, however, the principal impact of the leak would be to compromise the ongoing IAEA investigation into whether Iran has tried to develop a nuclear weapon at any point. “This is just one small snapshot of what the IAEA is working on, and part of a much broader collection of data from multiple sources,” the diplomat said.

“The particular document turns out to have a huge error but the IAEA was aware of it and saw it in the context of everything it has. It paints a convincing case.”

Sources who have seen the documents said the graph was based on a spreadsheet of data in the IAEA’s possession which appears to analyse the energy released by a nuclear blast. The mistake was made when that data was transposed on to a graph, on which the wrong units were used on one of the axes.

There is widespread belief among western governments, Russia, China and most independent experts that evidence is substantial for an Iranian nuclear weapons programme until 2003. There is far less consensus on what activities, if any, have been carried out since. The IAEA inquiry has so far not found a “smoking gun”.

Analysts say that the recent leaks may have shown the IAEA’s hand, revealing what it knows and does not know, and therefore undermined the position of its inspectors in tense and so far fruitless talks with Iranian officials about the country’s past nuclear activities.

Iran rejects the evidence against it as forged and has not granted access to its nuclear scientists or to a site known as Parchin where IAEA inspectors believe the high-explosive components for a nuclear warhead may have been tested.

The IAEA says it has evidence that the site is being sanitised to remove any incriminating traces of past experiments.

David Albright, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said he had no knowledge of who was behind the leak but added: “Whoever did this has undermined the IAEA’s credibility and made it harder for it to do its work.”

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
The Guardian, Monday 10 December 2012 20.47 GMT

Find this story at 10 December 2012

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

DIY graphic design

This week the Associated Press reported that unnamed officials “from a country critical of Iran’s nuclear program” leaked an illustration to demonstrate that “Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.” The article stated that these officials provided the undated diagram “to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted.”

The graphic has not yet been authenticated; however, even if authentic, it would not qualify as proof of a nuclear weapons program. Besides the issue of authenticity, the diagram features quite a massive error, which is unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level.

The image released to the Associated Press shows two curves: one that plots the energy versus time, and another that plots the power output versus time, presumably from a fission device. But these two curves do not correspond: If the energy curve is correct, then the peak power should be much lower — around 300 million ( 3×108) kt per second, instead of the currently stated 17 trillion (1.7 x1013) kt per second. As is, the diagram features a nearly million-fold error.

This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax.

In any case, the level of scientific sophistication needed to produce such a graph corresponds to that typically found in graduate- or advanced undergraduate-level nuclear physics courses.

While such a graphic, if authentic, may be a concern, it is not a cause for alarm. And it certainly is not something proscribed by the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran, nor any other international agreements to which Iran is a party. No secrets are needed to produce the plot of the explosive force of a nuclear weapon — just straightforward nuclear physics.

Though the image does not imply that computer simulations were actually run, even if they were, this is the type of project a student could present in a nuclear-science course. The diagram simply shows that the bulk of the nuclear fission yield is produced in a short, 0.1 microsecond, pulse. Since the 1950s, it has been standard knowledge that, in a fission device, the last few generations of neutron multiplication yield the bulk of the energy output. It is neither a secret, nor indicative of a nuclear weapons program.

Graphs such as the one published by the Associated Press can be found in nuclear science textbooks and on the Internet. For instance, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, by physicists Samuel Glasstone and Philip Dolan, features a similar diagram as its Figure 7.84. This iconic book is freely available online and is considered to be the open-source authority on the subject of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon effects. Another graphic can be found in Figure 2.11 of the textbook The Physics of the Manhattan Project.

By Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress | 28 November 2012

Find this story at 28 November 2012

Copyright © 2012 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.

AP Exclusive: Graph suggests Iran working on bomb

The undated diagram that was given to the AP by officials of a country critical of Iran’s atomic program allegedly calculating the explosive force of a nuclear weapon _ a key step in developing such arms. The diagram shows a bell curve and has variables of time in micro-seconds and power and energy, both in kilotons _ the traditional measurement of the energy output, and hence the destructive power of nuclear weapons. The curve peaks at just above 50 kilotons at around 2 microseconds, reflecting the full force of the weapon being modeled. The Farsi writing at the bottom translates “changes in output and in energy released as a function of time through power pulse” (AP Photo)

VIENNA (AP) — Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by The Associated Press.

The diagram was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon. The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named.

The International Atomic Energy Agency — the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog — reported last year that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the “nuclear explosive yield” of potential weapons. A senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue confirmed that the graph obtained by the AP was indeed one of those cited by the IAEA in that report. He spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.

The IAEA report mentioning the diagrams last year did not give details of what they showed. But the diagram seen by the AP shows a bell curve — with variables of time in micro-seconds, and power and energy both in kilotons — the traditional measurement of the energy output, and hence the destructive power of nuclear weapons. The curve peaks at just above 50 kilotons at around 2 microseconds, reflecting the full force of the weapon being modeled.

The bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in Japan during World War II, in comparison, had a force of about 15 kilotons. Modern nuclear weapons have yields hundreds of times higher than that.

The diagram has a caption in Farsi: “Changes in output and in energy released as a function of time through power pulse.” The number “5” is part of the title, suggesting it is part of a series.

David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is used by the U.S. government as a go-to source on Iran’s nuclear program, said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more “to understand the process” than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.

“The yield is too big,” Albright said, noting that North Korea’s first tests of a nuclear weapon were only a few kilotons. Because the graph appears to be only one in a series, others might show lower yields, closer to what a test explosion might produce, he said.

The senior diplomat said the diagram was part of a series of Iranian computer-generated models provided to the IAEA by the intelligences services of member nations for use in its investigations of suspicions that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran denies any interest in such a weapon and has accused the United States and Israel of fabricating evidence that suggests it is trying to build a bomb.

Asked about the project, Iran’s chief IAEA delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said he had not heard of it. IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the agency had no comment.

Iran has refused to halt uranium enrichment, despite offers of reactor fuel from abroad, saying it is producing nuclear fuel for civilian uses. It has refused for years to cooperate with the U.N. nuclear agency’s efforts to investigate its program.

Iran’s critics fear it could use the enriched uranium for military purposes. Such concerns grew this month when the IAEA said Iran is poised to double its output of higher-enriched uranium at its fortified underground facility — a development that could put Tehran within months of being able to make the core of a nuclear warhead.

In reporting on the existence of the diagrams last year, the IAEA said it had obtained them from two member nations that it did not identify. Other diplomats have said that Israel and the United States — the countries most concerned about Iran’s nuclear program — have supplied the bulk of intelligence being used by the IAEA in its investigation.

“The application of such studies to anything other than a nuclear explosive is unclear to the agency,” the IAEA said at the time.

The models were allegedly created in 2008 and 2009 — well after 2003, the year that the United States said Tehran had suspended such work in any meaningful way. That date has been questioned by Britain, France, Germany and Israel, and the IAEA now believes that — while Iran shut down some of its work back then — other tests and experiments continue today.

With both the IAEA probe and international attempts to engage Iran stalled, there are fears that Israel may opt to strike at Tehran’s nuclear program. The Jewish state insists it will not tolerate an Iran armed with nuclear arms.

An intelligence summary provided with the drawing linked it to other alleged nuclear weapons work — significant because it would indicate that Iran is working not on isolated experiments, but rather on a single program aimed at mastering all aspects of nuclear arms development.

The IAEA suspects that Iran has conducted live tests of conventional explosives that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon at Parchin, a sprawling military base southeast of Tehran. The intelligence summary provided to the AP said data gained from those tests fed the model plotted in the diagram. Iran has repeatedly turned down IAEA requests to visit the site, which the agency fears is undergoing a major cleanup meant to eliminate any traces of such experiments.

By GEORGE JAHN
— Nov. 27 11:43 AM EST

Find this story at 27 November 2012

© 2012 Associated Press

Researcher: CIA, NSA may have infiltrated Microsoft to write malware

Did spies posing as Microsofties write malware in Redmond? How do you spell ‘phooey’ in C#?

June 18, 2012, 2:46 PM — A leading security researcher has suggested Microsoft’s core Windows and application development programming teams have been infiltrated by covert programmer/operatives from U.S. intelligence agencies.

If it were true it would be another exciting twist to the stories of international espionage, sabotage and murder that surround Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame, the most successful cyberwar weapons deployed so far, with the possible exception of Windows itself.

Nevertheless, according to Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of antivirus and security software vendor F-Secure, the scenario that would make it simplest for programmers employed by U.S. intelligence agencies to create the Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame viruses and compromise Microsoft protocols to the extent they could disguise downloads to Flame as patches through Windows Update is that Microsoft has been infiltrated by members of the U.S. intelligence community.

[ FREE DOWNLOAD: 68 great ideas for running a security department ]

Having programmers, spies and spy-supervisors from the NSA, CIA or other secret government agencies infiltrate Microsoft in order to turn its technology to their own evil uses (rather than Microsoft’s) is the kind of premise that would get any writer thrown out of a movie producer’s office for pitching an idea that would put the audience to sleep halfway through the first act.

Not only is it unlikely, the “action” most likely to take place on the Microsoft campus would be the kind with lots of tense, acronymically dense debates in beige conference rooms and bland corporate offices.

The three remarkable bits of malware that attacked Iranian nuclear-fuel development facilities and stole data from its top-secret computer systems – Flame Duqu and Stuxnet – show clear signs of having been built by the same teams of developers, over a long period of time, Hypponen told PC Pro in the U.K.

Flame used a counterfeit Microsoft security certificates to verify its trustworthiness to Iranian users, primarily because Microsoft is among the most widely recognized and trusted computer companies in the world, Hypponen said.

Faking credentials from Microsoft would give the malware far more credibility than using certificates from other vendors, as would hiding updates in Windows Update, Hypponen said.

The damage to Microsoft’s reputation and suspicion from international customers that it is a puppet of the CIA would be enough to keep Microsoft itself from participating in the operation, even if it were asked.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

“It’s plausible that if there is an operation under way and being run by a US intelligence agency it would make perfect sense for them to plant moles inside Microsoft to assist in pulling it off, just as they would in any other undercover operation,” Hypponen told PC Pro. “It’s not certain, but it would be common sense to expect they would do that.”

The suggestion piqued the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, but doesn’t have a shred of evidence to support it.

It does have a common-sense appeal, however. Planting operatives inside Microsoft would probably be illegal, would certainly be unethical and could have a long-range disadvantage by making Microsofties look like tools of the CIA rather than simply tools.

“No-one has broken into Microsoft, but by repurposing the certificate and modifying it with unknown hash collision technologies, and with the power of a supercomputer, they were able to start signing any program they wanted as if it was from Microsoft,” Hypponen said. “If you combine that with the mechanism they were using to spoof MS Update server they had the crown jewels.”

Hypponen is one of a number of security experts who have said Stuxnet and Duqu have the hallmarks of software written by traditionally minded software engineers accustomed to working in large, well-coordinated teams.

After studying the code for Duqu, security researchers at Kaspersky Labs said the malware was most similar to the kind of work done by old-school programmers able to write code for more than one platform at a time, do good quality control to make sure the modules were able to install themselves and update in real time, and that the command-and-control components ahd been re-used from previous editions.

“All the conclusions indicate a rather professional team of developers, which appear to be reusing older code written by top “old school” developers,” according to Kaspersky’s analysis. “Such techniques are normally seen in professional software and almost never in today’s malware. Once again, these indicate that Duqu, just like Stuxnet, is a ‘one of a kind’ piece of malware which stands out like a gem from the large mass of “dumb” malicious program we normally see.”

Earlier this month the NYT ran a story detailing two years worth of investigations during which a range of U.S. officials, including, eventually, President Obama, confirmed the U.S. had been involved in writing the Stuxnet and Flame malware and siccing them on Iran.

That’s far from conclusive proof that the NSA has moved its nonexistent offices to Redmond, Wash. It doesn’t rule it out either, however.

Very few malware writers are able to write such clean code that can install on a variety of hardware systems, assess their new environments and download the modules they need to successfully compromise a new network, Kaspersky researchers said.

Stuxnet and Flame are able to do all these things and to get their own updates through Windows Update using a faked Windows Update security certificate.

No other malware writer, hacker or end user has been able to do that before. Knowing it happened this time makes it more apparent that the malware writers know what they are doing and know Microsoft code inside and out.

That’s still no evidence that Microsoft could be or has been infiltrated by spies from the U.S. or from other countries.

It does make sense, but so do a lot of conspiracy theories.

Until there’s some solid indication Flame came from inside Microsoft, not outside, it’s probably safer to write off this string of associative evidence.

Even in his own blog, Hypponen makes fun of those who make fun of Flame as ineffective and unremarkable, but doesn’t actually suggest moles at Microsoft are to blame.

Find this story at 18 June 2012

By Kevin Fogarty

© 1994 – 2012 ITworld. All rights reserved.

Stuxnet was work of U.S. and Israeli experts, officials say

A damaging cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear program was the work of U.S. and Israeli experts and proceeded under the secret orders of President Obama, who was eager to slow that nation’s apparent progress toward building an atomic bomb without launching a traditional military attack, say current and former U.S. officials.

The origins of the cyberweapon, which outside analysts dubbed Stuxnet after it was inadvertently discovered in 2010, have long been debated, with most experts concluding that the United States and Israel probably collaborated on the effort. The current and former U.S. officials confirmed that long-standing suspicion Friday, after a New York Times report on the program.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the classified effort code-named Olympic Games, said it was first developed during the George W. Bush administration and was geared toward damaging Iran’s nuclear capability gradually while sowing confusion among Iranian scientists about the cause of mishaps at a nuclear plant.

The use of the cyberweapon — malware designed to infiltrate and damage systems run by computers — was supposed to make the Iranians think that their engineers were incapable of running an enrichment facility.

“The idea was to string it out as long as possible,” said one participant in the operation. “If you had wholesale destruction right away, then they generally can figure out what happened, and it doesn’t look like incompetence.”

Even after software security companies discovered Stuxnet loose on the Internet in 2010, causing concern among U.S. officials, Obama secretly ordered the operation continued and authorized the use of several variations of the computer virus.

Overall, the attack destroyed nearly 1,000 of Iran’s 6,000 centrifuges — fast-spinning machines that enrich uranium, an essential step toward building an atomic bomb. The National Security Agency developed the cyberweapon with help of Israel.

Several senior Iranian officials on Friday referred obliquely to the cyberattack in reaffirming Iran’s intention to expand its nuclear program.

“Despite all plots and mischievous behavior of the Western countries . . . Iran did not withdrawal one iota from its rights,” Kazem Seddiqi, a senior Iranian cleric, said during services at a Tehran University mosque, according to news reports from Iran.

Iran previously has blamed U.S. and Israeli officials and has said its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, such as generating electricity.

White House officials declined to comment on the new details about Stuxnet, and an administration spokesman denied that the material had been leaked for political advantage.

“It’s our view, as it is the view of everybody who handles classified information, that information is classified for a reason: that it is kept secret,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “It is intended not to be publicized because publicizing it would pose a threat to our national security.”

The revelations come at a particularly sensitive time, as the United States and five other world powers are engaged in talks with Iran on proposed cuts to its nuclear program. Iran has refused to agree to concessions on what it says is its rightful pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for this month in Moscow.

“Effectively the United States has gone to war with Iran and has chosen to do so in this manner because the effects can justify this means,” said Rafal Rohozinski, a cyber-expert and principal of the SecDev Group, referring to the slowing of Iran’s nuclear program.

“This officially signals the beginning of the cyber arms race in practice and not in theory,” Rohozinski said.

In 2006, senior Bush administration officials developed the idea of using a computer worm, with Israeli assistance, to damage Iranian centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. The concept originated with Gen. James E. Cartwright, who was then head of U.S. Strategic Command, which handles nuclear deterrence, and had a reputation as a cyber-strategist.

“Cartwright’s role was describing the art of the possible, having a view or vision,” said a former senior official familiar with the program. But “the heavy lifting” was done by NSA Director Keith Alexander, who had “the technical know-how and carried out the actual activity,” said the former official.

Olympic Games became a collaborative effort among NSA, the CIA and Israel, current and former officials said. The CIA, under then-Director Michael V. Hayden, lent its covert operation authority to the program.

The CIA and Israelis oversaw the development of plans to gain physical access to the plant. Installing the worm in plant equipment not connected to the Internet depended on spies and unwitting accomplices — engineers, plant technicians — who might connect an infected device to one of the systems, officials said.

The cyberweapon took months of testing and development. It began to show effects in 2008, when centrifuges began spinning at faster-than-normal speeds until sensitive components began to warp and break, participants said.

By Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, Published: June 1 | Updated: Saturday, June 2, 12:03 PM

© The Washington Post Company

Find this story at 1 june 2012