N.Y. Times reporter says harebrained schemeto foil Tehran likely helped advance program
In his last year of office, President Clinton approved of an unusual scheme to transfer classified data that likely helped Iran advance its nuclear weapons program, according to New York Times reporter James Risen in his new book “State of War.”
Risen says the CIA used a double-agent Russian scientist to hand over a blueprint for a nuclear bomb to Iran.
The White House plan actually was to derail the Iranian program by passing on fatal flaws, says Risen, but the deliberate errors were so rudimentary they would have been easily fixed by Russian nuclear scientists, reported the online Post Chronicle, which said the story was recounted last night by radio host and former Justice official Mark Levin.
Risen’s book has been in the news for its revelations about the Bush administration’s controversial NSA domestic anti-terror surveillance operation.
The Clinton operation, in early 2000, was code named Operation Merlin and “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA,” Risen writes.
A defector from Russia was to offer Tehran the blueprint for a “firing set,” the sophisticated mechanism that triggers a nuclear explosion.
CIA officers told the Russian the Iranians already had that technology and the scheme was to find out the full extent of Tehran’s nuclear capability.
But the Russian inserted a note in the package indicating he could help fix the flaws if he were paid the right price.
Iran’s announcement Monday that it successfully has enriched uranium was the third major development this year on the way to producing an atomic bomb, leaving only one more step.
That next development – metalizing the enriched uranium to fit it into a warhead – could come as soon as four months from now, says author Jerry Corsi, who has watched the predictions in his book “Atomic Iran” unfold since it was published one year ago.
In a nationally televised speech Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that with the production of enriched uranium, “I formally declare that Iran has joined the club of nuclear countries.”
The audience, which included top military commanders and clerics, broke into cheers of “Allahu akbar!” or “Allah is greatest!”
In January, Iran successfully tested a missile with solid fuel, and last week, a U.S. official reported Iran now has ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Tehran has rejected a demand by the U.N. Security Council to stop all uranium enrichment activity by April 28.