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December 18, 2015

Media Misses: U.S. Intelligence Wrong on Iran Nukes

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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on Dec. 2, 2015 that Iran was actively designing a nuclear weapon until at least 2009—rebutting a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that concluded Iran was no longer working to develop nuclear arms.

The IAEA report contradicted intelligence estimates and statements by the United States and other Western intelligence agencies that received considerable attention at the time from press and policymakers.

The New York Times notes that the report, based only “on partial answers Iran provided after reaching its nuclear accord with the West in July, concluded that Tehran conducted ‘computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device’ before 2004. It then resumed the efforts during President Bush’s second term and continued them into President Barack Obama’s first year in office (“Nuclear Agency Says Iran Worked on Weapons Design Until 2009,” Dec. 2, 2015)."

The Times reports that although the IAEA “found no evidence” that Iran had succeeded in developing a nuclear weapon that “may have been because Iran refused to answer several essential questions, and appeared to have destroyed potential evidence in others.”

On December 15 the IAEA closed its investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities, a development noted in The Washington Post (“Nuclear probe on Iran is closed,” December 16) and The Baltimore Sun (“Nuclear weapons probe of Iran is closed by U.N.,” December 16), among other outlets.

The Post reported that the IAEA’s announcement occurred the same day as reports emerged of an internal U.N. report documenting that Iran had violated resolutions from the world bod by firing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead on October 10.

The Sun’s coverage of the IAEA decision was delivered in a nine sentence news brief. Neither The Sun or The Post noted that the decision followed an investigation, which as The New York Times and an Associated Press story in The Los Angeles Times (“U.N. ends Iran nuclear inquiry; The move, part of a deal with six nations, leaves questions about suspected weapons work unanswered,” December 16), reported, faced Iranian obstinacy against providing investigators full cooperation.

None of the above mentioned papers noted that the IAEA conclusion countered a 2007 U.S. NIE that concluded Iran was no longer working to develop a nuclear weapon.

This is particularly surprising in the case of The Baltimore Sun, which as recently as July 21 (“No more ‘military option’”) ran a guest editorial by Ray McGovern that championed the merits of the 2007 NIE. McGovern, a former intelligence official and co-founder of fringe-group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), has routinely expounded conspiracy theories regarding the Iraq war and the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terror attacks—some of which appear on a “9/11 truth” Web site.

The Sun has published at least eight editorials or letters to the editor by McGovern in the last three years alone, some alleging that Israel manipulates intelligence on Iranian nuclear ambitions (July 31, 2012 “Is Israel fixing the intel?”) and others blaming the U.S. for Russian imperialism (July 15, 2014, “When the U.S. welched on Shevardnadze”).

In a letter sent to The Sun on Aug., 4, 2015, CAMERA noted both McGovern’s history as an anti-Israel “truther” as well as problems with the 2007 NIE that he touted. CAMERA noted that among other issues, that NIE defined “nuclear weapons program” to exclude “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment the fringe activist heralds.”

While questions remain about the extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, some media don’t seem interested in reporting them, even those who have previously offered editorial space to flog a since debunked intelligence assessment.

Posted by SD at December 18, 2015 10:19 AM

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