CIA Recruited Iranian Officials to Defect
A 'handful' left in US plot to disrupt nuke program
By Lucas Laursen,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2007 6:00 AM CST
Ali Reza Asghari, the former Iranian general who went missing at the beginning of 2007. He may have defected.   (Fars News Agency / Wikipedia)
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(Newser) – The CIA plotted to recruit Iranian officials to defect and managed to entice a handful to do so over the last two years, reports the Los Angeles Times. The secret program, begun in 2005, was intended to disrupt Iranian nuclear research. The primary criterion for recruitment, according to a former CIA official, was: "Who, if removed from the program, would have the biggest impact on slowing or stopping their progress?"

While those who defected may have slowed the Iranian program, the information they gave the CIA was limited, according to sources. Iranian officials have blasted US "espionage" and demanded explanations in a letter sent to Washington after an American intelligence report revealed extensive operations in the country, according to Iran's foreign minister. It was not clear if the defection plan was mentioned in the report.