Saturday, May 06, 2006

The fog of pre-war

In the wake of CIA director Porter Goss's mysterious departure, the New York Times notes the paucity of reliable intelligence on Iran:

Such intelligence shortcomings date at least to the period before the Islamist revolution that overthrew the shah in 1979. With no American embassy in Tehran, C.I.A. officers cannot operate under diplomatic cover inside Iran. And because American sanctions ban most business and academic ties, infiltrating spies under what is known as nonofficial cover is difficult.

"I can't think of many people who'd go in under nonofficial cover and pitch senior officers of the I.R.G.C.," the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said a former veteran C.I.A. operations officer with experience in Iran. Without diplomatic immunity, an unmasked spy could be imprisoned or worse, said the former officer, who was granted anonymity to discuss intelligence methods ... operations have been directed from C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., focusing on areas where there are large numbers of Iranian immigrants, including Los Angeles, the officers said.

So a CIA operative on Iran would most likely be someone maintaining a non-official cover and based in Virginia. Like Valerie Plame. Who is mentioned in the article only in the context of the leak investigation, not her work on Iran. So was it a side benefit, or the main event, that the White House leak of her cover further weakened reliable intelligence on the next target?

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