The Lady Speaks

You Did What With Google?!

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, comes this report from the Washington Post:

When the State Department recently asked the CIA for names of Iranians who could be sanctioned for their involvement in a clandestine nuclear weapons program, the agency refused, citing a large workload and a desire to protect its sources and tradecraft.

Frustrated, the State Department assigned a junior Foreign Service officer to find the names another way — by using Google. Those with the most hits under search terms such as “Iran and nuclear,” three officials said, became targets for international rebuke Friday when a sanctions resolution circulated at the United Nations. [emphasis mine]

Gee whiz….why would the CIA be worried about State learning of its ‘sources and tradecraft’? Oh, right. Valerie Plame was on a team that was publicly named, despite her covert status. And their focus was….? Yep, Iran.

Policymakers and intelligence officials have always struggled when it comes to deciding how and when to disclose secret information, such as names of Iranians with suspected ties to nuclear weapons. In some internal debates, policymakers win out and intelligence is made public to further political or diplomatic goals. In other cases, such as this one, the intelligence community successfully argues that protecting information outweighs the desires of some to share it with the world. [emphasis mine]

Probably by arguing that it lost a valuable asset when Brewster-Jennings was outed with Valerie Plame?

But that argument can also put the U.S. government in the awkward position of relying, in part, on an Internet search to select targets for international sanctions.

None of the 12 Iranians that the State Department eventually singled out for potential bans on international travel and business dealings is believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran’s most suspicious nuclear activities.

And here’s the meat:

That may be why the junior State Department officer, who has been with the nonproliferation bureau for only a few months, was put in front of a computer.

An initial Internet search yielded over 100 names, including dozens of Iranian diplomats who have publicly defended their country’s efforts as intended to produce energy, not bombs, the sources said. The list also included names of Iranians who have spoken with U.N. inspectors or have traveled to Vienna to attend International Atomic Energy Agency meetings about Iran.

It was submitted to the CIA for approval but the agency refused to look up such a large number of people, according to three government sources. Too time-consuming, the intelligence community said, for the CIA’s Iran desk staff of 140 people. The list would need to be pared down. So the State Department cut the list in half and resubmitted the names.

[snip]

U.S., French and British officials came to agree that it was better to stay away from names that would have to be justified with sensitive information from intelligence programs, and instead put forward names of Iranians whose jobs were publicly connected to the country’s nuclear energy and missile programs. European officials said their governments did not rely on Google searches but came up with nearly identical lists to the one U.S. officials offered.

 Read the whole thing here.

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December 11, 2006 - Posted by | America, Bush, Government, Iran, National Security, Plame case, Politics, State Dept

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