Government report on Iranian spy agency pulled from circulation
A Library of Congress report claimed that Iran has one of the largest spy agencies in the Middle East. Now, a ProPublica reporter questions the legitimacy of the figures because of uncertainty about who wrote it and where they got their information.
A Library of Congress report from December said that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security is one of the largest intelligence agencies in the Middle East. But an investigation by ProPublica calls into question whether that report is legitimate because of uncertainty about its authors.
Reporter Justin Elliot wrote that the information came out of a little known office of the Library of Congress called the Federal Research Division after the report was commissioned by the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office.
Noah Schactman, editor of Wired magazine’s national security blog Danger Room, told The Takeaway in January that, according to the report, Iran’s intelligence agency employs a network of about 30,000 agents throughout Iran and overseas.
Many of the details are still unclear, however. There is no a specific author listed on the Library of Congress report so no one knows who wrote it, said Elliot. It is also unclear if paid operatives or informants were included in the 30,000 agents.
Wired has since updated their story and the Library of Congress says the widely cited report has been pulled from circulation.
"Ironically this 30,000 number actually did end up on Iran's Ministry of Intelligence Wikipedia page after some of the press coverage,” Elliot said.
The study was first published by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, after they were leaked a copy. The story was then picked up by Wired and The Takeaway among other outlets.
"When you start to look at the sourcing of the report, it becomes pretty clear that whoever wrote this [Library of Congress report] was just inputting search terms into Google and printing whatever came up first," Elliot said.
But the information included in the report could still be true. Of six Iran experts Elliot showed the documet, some thought the number could be accurate while others felt 30,000 was too high.
"I'm still trying to figure out the origins of this 30,000 number," he said. "The earliest reference I've been able to find is from an Arabic language magazine out of London in the late 90s, so it seems to have been out there for nearly 20 years at least."
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