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Inconsistencies in FBI account of Iran Plot
Editor's note: We provide the transcript of the interview with the renown investigative journalist Gareth Porter by Scott Horton of the Antiwar Radio on 17 Ocober 2011 in which Porther exposes the damning holes in the account of the US authorities on their latest allegations against Iran.
Welcome back to the show.
Out next guest is Gareth Porter. He is the author of this new article we are running at antiwarradio.com/porter entitled “US Officials Petal False Intel to Support Terror Plot Claims.” It’s a follow up to his piece “FBI Account of Terror Plot Suggests Sting Operation.” This is an article about how what you believe isn’t true. Welcome back to the show, Gareth, how are you doing?
Porter: I’m fine thanks, glad to be back Scott.
Scott: It seems like every time I interview you it’s about how what they say isn’t correct and…
Porter: I’m sure both you and your listeners will all be extremely shocked to hear that the Obama administration would pedal false intel to support its weak claim with regard to Iran.
Scott: Well I’m not sure why they even need to bother. They invaded Uganda over the weekend without so much as a wink and a nod to lie! They don’t even care. Why don’t they just nuke Tehran tomorrow and say they did it because they felt like it!
Porter: Because this is all about building public support of course for a policy of isolating Iran further. You know I don’t subscribe to the idea that they have a plan to go to war, I think this is about further, more serious sanctions against Iran but nevertheless it is the same thing we have encountered many times in your program which is the articulation of false information and arguments to the American public through the news media.
Scott: Even if they are just focused on sanctions now, Flynt Leverett was pointing out on the show last week an idea that Ron Paul often expresses: that we tend to go to war with countries that we put sanctions on first. And specially with the nuclear deal that the Iranians were trying again to push for the nuclear swap on the 20% enriched uranium, with that falling now to they wayside and with all these accusations of not just terrorism but an attempted plot inside the United States, that means that we are further down the path to war now. Even though that is not the immediate goal here (to go to war), it makes it much (much) harder for anyone who is even trying to workout some kind of deal inside the government to be able to do so.
Porter: Don’t get me wrong, I think this is an extremely serious development, the whole notion that they are using this alleged plot to push for more extreme sanctions against Iran does have very far reaching and extremely dangerous implications, there is no question about it.
Scott: Now this story is as complicated as it can be, so I am going to turn my microphone off and you explain what the heck is going on with these people.
Porter: Just to recapitulate, you know the initial story that I did focuses primarily on a central fact that the news media has completely ignored up to now, I am the only person who has reported this so far as I know and I am pretty sure I haven’t missed anything.
That is that in the FBI account of the conversation/contacts between this Iranian American named Mansour Arbabsiar and the DEA-“the narc” who was posing as a Mexican drug cartel official, they have, three weeks of meetings, we don’t know how many meetings were held between them, which are not documented at all, there is not a single quote from these three weeks of meetings, from late June to the middle of July, and its during that period of course that Arbabsiar makes his pitch and make it clear why he wants to meet with this guy that he thinks is a member of a drug cartel, and that of course is from my point of view, the giveaway that what really happened is quite different to what we are being told. Because if in fact there was a pitch for a terrorist action, whether it was kidnapping or something even more serious like an assassination attempt then the FBI would have been immediately called in and all those meetings would have been recorded and they would have been able to cite the statements by Arbabsiar saying “we want a hit job on the ambassador”. They have nothing like that. So, it is simply not plausible that in fact they didn’t record those meeting, if there was any kind of statement suggesting, even hinting at terrorism, and that is at the heart of problem I think we have with the FBI’s account of these series of meetings.
Scott: Ok, so in the mainstream news, well I don’t know about mainstream news, but many commentators have pointed out that “well, looks like this didn’t really turn into a terrorism plot until the DEA informant made it that way, but we suppose that at least it started out as a kidnapping plot.” But you’re saying that there is no proof of that, they don’t even claim that it started as that, they just say “oh yeah…”
Porter: There is no proof of that. They’ve been saying that, I mean this is the alleged testimony of the DEA informant, who of course as we’ve talked about previously was accused of a narcotics offence in the US who was let off in return for cooperating to help investigate and basically pin charges on other people. So he is simply an instrument of the FBI and the administration in this case, and is unreliable as a source of information, there is no independent verification in this at all. Then we also have the fact that Arbabsiar at some point, and I’m convinced it was before his arrest, was also turned and became part of the sting operation as well with the purpose of implicating a higher up in the Qods force and I think what they were really aiming at was this General Shalai. This is the person who the Americans apparently believe was involved in the Iranian relationship with Muqtada al-Sadar’s Mahdi army. So that’s the guy they really wanted to pin this on and clearly they saw Arbabsiar as an instrument for doing that. So all of Arbabsiar claims in his confessions, which were done after his arrest…and by the way we learned from the FBI’s statement on this that Arbabsiar both gave a series of oral confession in the form of interviews and signed a typed-written statement which someone else wrote, so….(laugh) some parts of his confessions were not even by Arbabsiar himself, they were by somebody else.
Scott: Now what information do you have on when he was flipped?
Porter: Well, the clearest indication of this is that Arbabsiar at the behest of this DEA informant, of course acting for the FBI, was told that they wanted him to go to Mexico City to be a personal insurance policy for getting the full amount promised for the hit job. Now according to the account believe it or not, Arbabsiar claims he talks to his contact, Shakuri in Tehran, and says “they want me to go to Mexico city, what should I do?”, and Shakuri says “you are on your own Bob!”, and even so Arbabsiar agrees to go to Mexico City and does fly there. Now anybody who is not completely crazy would know that he is risking his life by flying to Mexico City and putting himself in the hand of the most lethal drug cartel in the world, but he does so without even blinking an eye, immediately. That was the giveaway that he was then part of the sting operation for sure. I think it is very plausible that he became part of the sting operation much earlier, but we can talk about that more in detail.
Scott: So we were talking about, how it was that you decided that the accused in this case was actually flipped earlier on in the script than they say…
Porter: I think it’s quite possible, I am less certain about this but it is quite possible that sometime between the beginning of these contacts between Arbabsiar and the DEA, the narc, in late June and in middle of July he was brought into or guessed that he was dealing with the narc (he was either informed or guessed it), and at that point, and it may have been the United States that decided to let him know, and to invite him to become part of the sting. I make this suggestion because there is such a dramatic shift from the absence of any quote suggesting an intention to carry out a terrorist action before July 14th or before July 17th. In fact, even at the July 14th meeting where we have lots of quotes from the DEA informant talking about how he was going to start working “on doing,” (as they like to put it, in an effort to mimic the kind of language you would imagine a hit man to use!), that we were “going to do the Saudi Arabia” as he says, but nothing that they can quote from Arbabsiar along those lines up until 17th of July. Then suddenly they are able to describe in detail this plan for exploding a bomb in a restaurant that will kill 100-150 Americans, probably including senators you know, and Arbabsiar response was “F… them!” ….but that is exactly what they quote Arbabsiar as saying as if he didn’t care at all about the consequences of the plot. So this suggests to me that something happened in between that is quite dramatic, and I think it’s quite plausible that he was brought in, he became part of the sting in order to get at Shalai…that’s not the only reason, there are others but we don’t have time to go in to them.
Scott: Ok, alright, well let’s skip ahead to Ray McGovern’s piece last week where he pointed out that David Ignatius, the CIA ombudsman at the Washington Post said that the FBI and the DEA didn’t even believe their own lies until they went to David Petraeus at the CIA and he came back and said “oh yeah this is definitely true”.
Porter: Well, Petraeus may have had some role in this in terms of providing some tidbits that would support them, I have no doubt that…..
Scott: Well, he says he has evidence from the other side of the equation, in Iran, that this was true.
Porter: Right, well you know I am sure there is something that they claim they have from intercepts, they always have intercepts that they can say supported this, but so far nothing like that has surfaced. Of course it is quite possible that even if they did offer something it may have been a misreading, a misinterpretation of some sort, and 99% of the time that is the case. So I don’t see the CIA as being central to the lie being told so far, it’s an add-on to sell this to the American public. For example, in my latest piece we have a couple of instances in the past few days where the administration has leaked stories first of all to NBC news, to the guy who is called “the national investigative correspondent of NBC” and to the Washington Post, suggesting that they know Shalai was in fact a terrorist and somebody who was linked to the killing of American troops in Iraq. Of course those are two separate things, but of course they are conflated in the telling of this by the news media on behalf of the administration, they are confusing the two things. And the second story by Peter Finn of the Washington Post goes even further on the Shalai angle arguing that it is known that he was in charge of the attack in Karbala in January of 2007, he was the one who planned it.
Scott: Now that attack, people will probably remember, if I’m remembering the same one correctly here, this is the one where Iraqis, I guess, dressed in Iraqi army uniform, drove into a base in a suburban, got out and kidnapped and killed a bunch of people.
Porter: Correct, they kidnapped five Americans, and as far as we know all five were killed, eventually. So this was a major issue for the US military. But the truth is, that the 22 page memorandum that is cited by Peter Finn as the smoking gun that Shalai, this mid-level deputy Commander of the Qods force, was the planner of this attack that killed 5 Americans, was discussed by General David Petraeus at a press conference in April 26, 2007 in which he said “we don’t link this to Iran.” There is no evidence that this operation is linked to Iran. There is nothing in the 22 page memorandum, and nothing anywhere else that we have found. And he was answering an explicit question from a journalist that was asking, “is there anything linking this to Iran?” and he said “no, no, no” and continued and explicitly denied that there was any link to Iran.
Scott: I am still confused about this though, they say the money originated in Iran, and then came here, so the DEA could not have arranged that.
Porter: Ok let me talk about the money, because that is one of the other indications that there is something quite wrong with the account given by FBI. In the July 14th meeting, it is alleged in the FBI statement, that Arbabsiar is telling the DEA guy that the money has already arrived, it is in Iran, it has been prepared to be wired or to be sent, he didn’t say what was going to happen to it, he said this is all ready for you, to pay you. Now this was before there was any explicit discussion about exactly what was going to happen, before they talked about an assassination plan involving a bombing. So we are expected to believe that this 100,000 dollars which was being discussed, was already being set aside to be sent, before there was any detailed discussion about what was going to happen, you know, about an assassination plan. So this is of course not plausible, what was going on here is that clearly this 100,000 dollars was for something else. We have no idea what it was for, but clearly there was something else going on there, and the way in which this was presented by the FBI deceptively tries to present this as the pay off for the assassination plan. It just doesn’t work.
Scott: Oh right so it’s a bunch of crap just like we knew as soon as they said it on CNN, but now we can back up our arguments with real arguments. Thanks very much Gareth.