[Rushtalk] IAEA Intelligence Acquisition Practices

Carl Spitzer lynux at keepandbeararms.com
Mon Jan 4 11:25:31 MST 2016

IAEA Intelligence Acquisition Practices

        By Peter Jenkins | LobeLog| December 16, 2015

Tariq Rauf, a former Canadian diplomat, and Robert Kelley, a former US
nuclear weapon scientist, have published an assessment of the
International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) handling of the Iranian case
on the website of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Both were working in the IAEA secretariat during the years that followed
Iran’s 2003 admission that it had failed to declare certain nuclear
material and activities, Rauf in the external relations division and
Kelley in the safeguards department. So their assessment benefits from
first-hand knowledge gained on the inside.

The following passage concludes their assessment:

        A structural weakness of the IAEA is that there is no
        transparent process for the supply of intelligence information
        and confirmation of its authenticity. The usual process is for a
        Member State(s) to provide the intelligence information either
        in documentation or electronic form to a special assistant in
        the Director General’s office and/or to the Deputy Director
        General for Safeguards, alternatively to give a closed briefing
        in its embassy/mission. The IAEA then deals with the information
        as described in an earlier section above. There is no
        established process to share such information with the accused
        State or with the Board of Governors….
        The supply and use of intelligence information is a sensitive
        yet complex issue…. The IAEA cannot serve as a feedback loop to
        intelligence agencies on the veracity of information provided by
        them…. Nor can or should the IAEA rely on such information
        without confirming its authenticity. This obviously leaves the
        IAEA in a difficult position as is clearly evidenced by the Iran
        PMD file where the Agency seems to have been  caught short. 
        The authors recommend that the Board put in place a methodology
        for the acceptance and use of intelligence information drawing
        from the practices of the Organization for the Prohibition of
        Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban
        Treaty Organization (CTBTO). In these two organizations,
        allegations of non-compliance can be raised by any State Party
        which provides information to the Director General, who in turn
        shares it with the Executive Council. The Executive Council is
        convened; the Accuser State puts forward its case on allegations
        of non-compliance or suspicious activities in another State
        along with supporting information/evidence. The Accused State
        has the opportunity to present its defence. Following
        deliberations, the Executive Council can stop a challenge
        inspection in the case of the OPCW or authorize an on-site
        inspection in the case of the CTBTO. Such a practice could serve
        the IAEA well…. In fact, the JCPOA contains a somewhat similar
        provision for the Joint Commission in paragraph 36 on dispute
        It is essential that the IAEA Board expeditiously come up with a
        mechanism governing the provision and handling of intelligence
        information to the IAEA Secretariat. There is great potential
        for misuse of such information and of suborning the independence
        of the Agency in the absence of such a mechanism, as abundantly
        demonstrated by the cases of Iraq, Iran and Syria in recent

A Lack of Confidence

This passage contains echoes of an intervention by the Russian
Federation’s governor to the IAEA, Grigory Berdennikov, at an IAEA
safeguards symposium in October 2014:

        The Secretariat has the right to use for safeguards
        implementation all safeguards relevant information available to
        the Agency about a State. This information includes, inter alia,
        data from open sources and data provided by third parties. It
        should be noted that third parties include not only
        States that provide information with regard to another State but
        also organizations and even private individuals.
        No  proper  mechanism  that  could  guarantee  the accuracy and
        authenticity  of information  used for safeguards purposes  is
        provided for [in the report under consideration].  In essence it
        is suggested that  all analysis  should  be done by the
        Secretariat as decisions on whether certain  data  can  be  used
        for  safeguards purposes are left entirely with the Secretariat.
        Member States, according to this approach, should simply trust
        the Secretariat’s choice of information.
        The risk here is obvious. False allegations generated
        by interested parties in order to exercise political pressure on
        a State unfortunately remain part of the current international
        landscape.  They  are  quite  common  in  many  areas, including
        non-proliferation,  and  one  should  admit  could  be  very
        important,  sometimes involving issues of war and peace.
        We think that if the Secretariat decides to use any information,
        except for data obtained through its own inspection activity, it
        should duly disclose its origin and be ready to defend its
        credibility in an open discussion at the Board of Governors.
        Every State should have the right  to  publicly  defend  itself
        against  false  allegations  and accusations generated by
        interested  third  parties  or  by  the  media.”

These passages reflect a lack of confidence in the authenticity of some
of the intelligence material on Iran submitted to the Agency by member
states. There is no proof that any of this information was fabricated.
But that lack of confidence is not unreasonable, because motives for
fabrication can be imagined without straying far into the thickets of
conspiracy theory.

Grounds for Doubt

Gareth Porter has written in A Manufactured Crisis that, according to a
former German foreign ministry official, German intelligence obtained
the “alleged studies” that underpinned the PMD case against Iran from a
member of the Mujahideen E-Khalq (MEK) in 2004. MEK hostility to the
Islamic Republic is well-documented. Is it inconceivable that this
source forged or fabricated that material? The material was never shown
to Iran in full and it contains factual inaccuracies and anomalies for
which a satisfactory explanation has never been offered.

In autumn 2007, the US, UK, France, and Israel were furious with the
Agency’s then Director General Mohamad El Baradei because he had agreed
to a work-plan with Iran and was well on his way to clearing the
Agency’s last remaining “issues of concern.” Those issues cleared, these
states would be bereft of sources of pressure on Iran to submit to their

In that situation there could have been a temptation to produce
information that would appear to corroborate aspects of the “alleged
studies.” Initially El Baradei and some of his advisers had doubted the
authenticity of these studies. But in early 2008 the studies, apparently
corroborated by fresh information, metamorphosed into a “possible
military dimension.” From then on they were the West’s instrument of
choice for keeping Iran under international pressure. In November 2011,
they formed the core of an IAEA assessment that persuaded EU member
states to adopt harsh economic sanctions against Iran, and Asian states
to comply with US secondary sanctions.

Was any temptation to fabricate resisted? One would like to think so.
But, given the Stuxnet program to sabotage Iran’s centrifuge machines,
and hints that a hostile intelligence agency commissioned the
assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, one has to wonder whether
certain states would have hesitated to resort to fabrication to get
themselves out of a spot of difficulty in autumn 2007.

Such speculations explain the lack of confidence implicit in the
recommendations of Rauf and Kelley, and the intervention of Berdennikov.
The IAEA Board of Governors can ignore that lack of confidence—and may
well choose to do so. But that will be short-sighted. Over time allowing
distrust in the Agency’s intelligence-acquisition practices to fester
can weaken international acceptance of the Agency as an impartial and
objective verifier of compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Rauf and Kelley recommend drawing lessons from OPCW and CTBT practices
and provisions. No doubt there are other options. Reconciling source
protection with transparency and due process may not be easy. But a
collective Board effort to find a solution can heal some of the
divisions within the IAEA membership that perceptions of Western lack of
scruples in prosecuting the case against Iran have helped to cause.

Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following
studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He served in
Vienna (twice), Washington, Paris, Brasilia and Geneva. He specialized
in global economic and security issues. His last assignment (2001-06)
was that of UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN (Vienna). Since 2006 he has
represented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership,
advised the Director of IIASA and set up a partnership, ADRgAmbassadors,
with former diplomatic colleagues, to offer the corporate sector dispute
resolution and solutions to cross-border problems. He was an associate
fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from 2010 to 2012. He
writes and speaks on nuclear and trade policy issues.

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