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Top intelligence official revives Iran doubts

by Demetri Sev­astop­u­lo in Wash­ing­ton

The senior US intel­li­gence offi­cial on Tues­day stressed that a recent report on Iran had con­clud­ed that Tehran had halt­ed only one part of its alleged nuclear weapons pro­gramme.

Admi­ral Michael McConnell, direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence, said the Novem­ber nation­al intel­li­gence esti­mate had con­clud­ed that Tehran had ceased only efforts to covert­ly enrich ura­ni­um and design nuclear war­heads. “The only thing that they’ve halt­ed was nuclear weapons design, which is prob­a­bly the least sig­nif­i­cant part of the pro­gramme,” he told the Sen­ate intel­li­gence com­mit­tee.

Adm McConnell said Iran con­tin­ued to devel­op ura­ni­um enrich­ment tech­nol­o­gy and longer-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

Crit­ics of the US admin­is­tra­tion’s approach on Iran had seized on the NIE as evi­dence that the US had exag­ger­at­ed the threat. In response, Robert Gates, defence sec­re­tary, gave a tough speech on Iran a few days lat­er, stress­ing that the report had con­firmed for the first time that Tehran had estab­lished a nuclear weapons pro­gramme.

A spokesman for Adm McConnell said on Tues­day he was not back­ing away from the NIE’s con­clu­sions but sim­ply con­cerned that there had been too much focus on one ele­ment of the report.

Adm McConnell was giv­ing Con­gress his annu­al assess­ment of threats to the US. He also raised con­cerns about North Korea’s nuclear activ­i­ties.

“While Pyongyang denies a pro­gramme for ura­ni­um enrich­ment, and they deny their pro­lif­er­a­tion activ­i­ties, we believe North Korea ­con­tin­ues to engage in both,” he said.

The US is try­ing to con­vince Pyongyang to pro­vide a full dec­la­ra­tion of its nuclear activ­i­ties as part of a deal reached in six-par­ty talks aimed at denu­clearis­ing the Kore­an penin­su­la. North Korea has already missed the dead­line of the end of last year to pro­vide the dec­la­ra­tion.

Adm McConnell expressed con­cern about the increased abil­i­ty of al-Qae­da to oper­ate in the bor­der area of Pak­istan and Afghanistan, and said the organ­i­sa­tion was improv­ing its abil­i­ty to attack the US.

He also raised con­cerns about a grow­ing influx of “west­ern recruits” into the trib­al areas of the Pak­istan-Afghanistan bor­der since mid-2006.

At the same hear­ing, Gen­er­al Michael Hay­den, direc­tor of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, con­firmed pub­licly for the first time that the US had used the inter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique of water­board­ing — or sim­u­lat­ed drown­ing — on three detainees cap­tured since the 9/11 attacks.

Gen Hay­den said the CIA used the tech­nique on Khaled Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mas­ter­mind of the attacks, and two oth­er detainees. He said the CIA had not used water­board­ing for almost five years.


One comment for “Top intelligence official revives Iran doubts”

  1. For­tu­nate­ly for this guy, the US prob­a­bly won’t do to this guy what he claims he did to oth­er guys...:

    Ex-CIA ter­ror­ism ana­lyst charged with clas­si­fied leaks, dis­clos­ing covert ID
    By Lau­ra Rozen

    Senior For­eign Affairs Reporter

    By Lau­ra Rozen | The Envoy – 01/23/2012

    The Jus­tice Depart­ment has charged a for­mer CIA counter-ter­ror­ism ana­lyst with reveal­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion to jour­nal­ists, includ­ing the iden­ti­ty of a covert U.S. intel­li­gence inter­roga­tor.

    “John Kiri­ak­ou, a CIA intel­li­gence offi­cer from 1999 to 2004, ille­gal­ly divulged infor­ma­tion about two CIA employ­ees and their involve­ment in clas­si­fied oper­a­tions between 2007 and 2009, the Jus­tice Depart­ment said in a state­ment,” CNN report­ed.


    Kiri­ak­ou made head­lines when he claimed in a 2007 inter­view that the con­tro­ver­sial sim­u­lat­ed drown­ing inter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique known as “water-board­ing” had got­ten a senior al-Qai­da oper­a­tive to break in 35 sec­onds.

    “From that day on, he answered every ques­tion,” Kiri­ak­ou told ABC News’ Bri­an Ross in Decem­ber 2007, refer­ring to Abu Zubay­dah. “The threat infor­ma­tion he pro­vid­ed dis­rupt­ed a num­ber of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.”

    (Kiri­ak­ou was lat­er hired as a con­sul­tant by ABC News, the New York Times’ Bri­an Stel­ter report­ed in 2009.)

    But for­mer­ly clas­si­fied Jus­tice Depart­ment mem­os released in 2009 showed that Zubay­dah was in fact sub­ject­ed to water­board­ing 83 times in August 2002, as first not­ed by the New York Times. And it fur­ther emerged that Kiri­ak­ou was not actu­al­ly present dur­ing the water­board­ing of Zubay­dah, as he implied. The con­tro­ver­sial inter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique has since been banned by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

    Kiri­ak­ou was hired in 2009 as a deputy inves­ti­ga­tor to the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee. He left the com­mit­tee in March 2011, a Sen­ate source said.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 23, 2012, 12:16 pm

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