The Iranian nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri was recently executed in Iran for treason. He was accused of passing on national secrets related to the Iranian nuclear program to the United States. He defected to the United States in 2009 but in 2010 he returned home in order to be with his family. Shortly after his return, he was imprisoned. According to New York Magazine,
In 2009, Amiri, an expert in radioactive isotopes, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, leading to Iranian accusations that he had been kidnapped by the West. Months later, Amiri reappeared in the U.S. following an apparent defection facilitated by the CIA, but things only got weirder from there.
Once in America, Amiri published a series of mysterious and contradictory online videos. In the first video, recorded with a shaky webcam and released on Iranian state television, Amiri said that he had been kidnapped in Medina, Saudi Arabia, by the CIA and Saudi intelligence and was being held captive in the U.S. In a second video, well-produced with Amiri sitting next to a chess set, he explained that he was fine and free, and pursuing a graduate degree in America. That video was published on YouTube. In a third video, released on Iranian TV again, Amiri was back to insisting he was in the U.S. against his will, and said he was being hunted by the CIA.
Then, to everyone’s shock, Amiri arrived at the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., and asked officials there if he could go home.
The New York Times reported that Amiri was passing on intelligence to the CIA while working in Iran’s nuclear program. Feeling like his position was about to be compromised, he defected to the United States leaving behind his wife and son.
By 2009, the C.I.A. had apparently decided that the chances he would be detected were rising, and offered to get him out of the country. The agency promised him $5 million and a new identity. Mr. Amiri believed his estranged wife would never leave Iran, and he decided to go alone, without his son.
After he was interviewed in Washington, he ended up near Tucson, under the agency’s national resettlement program, which provides cover and protection for cooperative foreign spies. But he immediately missed his young son, and began calling home. Iranian intelligence agencies pressured his family, and by one account threatened to harm his son.- New York Times
Iran was probably already onto his spying before he left for Hajj but their suspicions were confirmed when he went missing. I don’t think any cover story, no matter how airtight, would have saved him from his fate. Iran has and always will be suspicious of America, “the Great Satan.”
Did the Clinton’s personal server have a role in his death?
According to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), the Iranian nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri was mentioned several times in the e-mails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal e-mail server. The server’s nonexistent security left its contents vulnerable to foreign nations and terrorist organizations. On 7 August 2016 when he appeared on Face the Nation, Sen. Cotton tried to make the clear connection between Clinton’s server and the death of Amiri. (On the video below, at the time marker 4:55, you can watch Sen. Cotton discuss Clinton’s server and the death of Amiri) The e-mails mentioning Amiri were released last year on WikiLeaks.
The State Department and the Clinton campaign have both responded to these allegations.
But the Clinton campaign fired back on Monday, releasing a statement that accused Donald Trump and his supporters of using “increasingly desperate rhetoric to attack Hillary Clinton and make absurd accusations because they have no ideas for the American people.”
The State Department Monday also denied any link between the email release and Amiri’s case, noting that Clinton and the department had spoken publicly about the case back in 2010.
“We’re not going to comment on what may have led to this event,” a State Department spokesperson, Elizabeth Trudeau, told reporters.
Trudeau noted that “there was public reporting on this topic back in 2010,” referencing Clinton’s news conference.
“This is not something that became public when the State Department released those emails,” she added, noting that none of the emails mentioning Amiri were classified or retroactively classified as such — as some emails sent to Clinton were — upon their public release, a sign the Amiri material was not considered too sensitive to release publicly.- CNN
Having your source killed because information is carelessly leaked, is a case officer’s worst nightmare. A case officer can spend quite a bit of time grooming someone to spy against their government for the United States. The information that the source provides is valuable for national security and is usually classified as top-secret SCI, because if the information was leaked then the source’s role or position could be revealed. If the source’s government gets a hold of the leaked information, the source could be imprisoned or executed for treason.
I have mentioned this before when covering the Clinton e-mail server scandal. Leaking human intelligence can have grave consequences for both the sources and handlers. Foreign countries collect most of their information on the Unites States from open source intelligence and they will not pass up an opportunity to gather intelligence from the a server left unattended, especially from the Secretary of State and State Department. Another opportunity the leaked e-mails, classified or not, can provide is a validation of the foreign intelligence agencies’ assumptions about the United States. It could keep them on the trail of something that they were not supposed to follow and work against our efforts to keep our national interests secret.
In this case it seems like Amiri had several things working against him, the leaked e-mails confirming Iran’s assumptions and accusations, weak cover story, Amiri’s own behavior, and Iran is already extremely paranoid when it comes to the US.
Editorial cartoon courtesy of Robert L. Lang