Do We Have Spies Inside Iran?
1:04 PM, Oct 29, 2007 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Over at his new blog "http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/schoenfeld/1151#more-1151 target=_blank>connecting the dots," Gabriel Schoenfeld--who is always a "must read" when it comes to intelligence matters--is discussing Kenneth Timmerman's new book, Shadow Warriors. I have not yet read Timmerman's book, but Schoenfeld is discussing one of Timmerman's claims that I have looked into--that is, I've tried to look into it as much as I can. According to Schoenfeld, Timmerman writes that "to this day, the CIA has no spies in Iran" and he attributes this claim to "numerous agency insiders and other sources."
Schoenfeld points out that if the CIA did have spies inside Iran, Langley would have an incentive to tell journalists like Timmerman that they didn't. It is a fair point. The Agency certainly does have a strong incentive to protect its most important sources. Despite his "distrust" of Timmerman's account, Schoenfeld says his "best guess, knowing a bit about CIA difficulties in recruiting human sources, is that his claim about the agency's non-coverage of Iran is accurate."
I am also inclined to believe Timmerman is right. Here's why.
In 2006, Chris Wallace of Fox News interviewed Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who was then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra was asked what we know about Iran's nuclear program:
During the same session, Wallace also interviewed Jane Harman, Hoekstra's Democratic counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee. Harman concurred with Hoekstra: "We don't know. Our intelligence is thin. I don't think we have enough sources. I don't think our analysis is sharp enough."
Is it possible that the CIA hid its sources inside Iran from the senior ranking Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, so much so that they went on television warning that we didn't have any real significant intel inside Iran? Maybe, but that certainly isn't likely. You could argue that Hoekstra and Harman did not say that the CIA had no spies at all inside Iran, which is Timmerman's claim. That's true, but their statements leave us in the same place--the U.S. intelligence community is blind when it comes to Iran.