The CIA is claiming that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri was spying for the CIA while he was living in Iran and then that he later voluntarily defected to the United States. Amiri, on the other hand, is claiming that the CIA kidnapped him while he was on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, drugged him, and forcibly brought him to the United States, where, he says, he was imprisoned and tortured.
Yesterday, my blog post called for the appointment of a special prosecutor in the matter, given the seriousness of the allegations against the CIA, which, if true, would involve federal criminal offenses under U.S. law.
I pointed out that several CIA agents were, in fact, convicted by an Italian court of kidnapping a foreigner in Italy and renditioning him to Egypt for the purpose of torture. In that case, the CIA falsely denied involvement in the man’s disappearance and even created a ruse to disguise its criminal wrongdoing. The CIA agents who were convicted are now felons and fugitives on the lam, and the CIA absolutely refuses to return them to Italy to serve out their sentences.
Thus, while the CIA’s unsworn assertions in the Amiri case have been enough for the mainstream press, with obvious nationalistic fervor, to quickly jump to the side of the CIA in the controversy, obviously the CIA has no credibility in the matter. The only way to get to the truth of what actually happened is with a special criminal prosecutor with the power to subpoena witnesses from the CIA and a federal judge with the courage to enforce them.
In the meantime, however, there is a way that the CIA could put much of the controversy to rest: by releasing videotaped CIA interrogations of Amiri after he supposedly defected.
It’s pretty clear that Amiri was flown out of Saudi Arabia to the United States on a U.S. military or CIA plane. Surely, the CIA would have been smart enough to have videotaped interactions with Amiri during that flight, if for no other reason than to protect itself from the possibility that Amiri might later claim that he was kidnapped and renditioned to the United States.
If Amiri had been spying for the United States and then was defecting, as U.S. officials claim, then such videotapes would most likely reflect a man casually interacting with CIA officials on that flight.
Moreover, after Amiri arrived in the United States, there had to have been numerous interviews and interrogations over the one-year period of time that he was here in the United States. Surely, the CIA would have videotaped them. Why not release them?
Of course, the worst thing the CIA could do is destroy any videotaped interviews and interrogations of Amiri, which is what the CIA did with its 92 videotapes of interrogations of accused terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashri. That destruction led to the appointment of a special criminal prosecutor, John Durham, to determine if criminal laws were violated in the destruction of those tapes.
Of course, if the tapes confirm the CIA’s account of events, that certainly isn’t going to do Amiri any good in Iran. But it would be ironic for the CIA to use that as a reason for refusing to release the tapes given its obvious attempt to retaliate against Amiri by trying to get him executed by Iranian authorities for spying and treason.
In fact, come to think of it, wouldn’t you think that Amiri might be somewhat reticent about returning to the brutal, dictatorial regime in Iran claiming he had been kidnapped, tortured, and renditioned while knowing that the CIA could easily release videotapes showing the contrary?