|Several media outlets reported this month on an alarming finding from a new U.S. government study: Iran’s intelligence ministry, as CNN put it, constitutes “a terror and assassination force 30,000 strong.”
The claim that the intelligence ministry has a whopping 30,000 employees, first reported by a conservative website, spread to other outlets including Wired and the public radio show the Takeaway and landed elsewhere online, even on the intelligence ministry’s Wikipedia page. All cited the new government study, put out by an arm of the Library of Congress called the Federal Research Division.
So how did the government researchers come up with the number? They searched the Internet—and ended up citing an obscure, anonymous website that was simply citing another source.
The trail on the 30,000 figure eventually ends with a Swedish terrorism researcher quoted in a 2008 Christian Science Monitor article. But the researcher, Magnus Ranstorp, said he isn’t sure where the number came from. “I think obviously that it would be an inflated number” of formal employees, said Ranstorp.
We inquired with six Iran experts, and none knew of any evidence for the figure. Some said it might be in the ballpark while others questioned its plausibility.
“Whether the figures emanate from Iran or from western reporting, they are generally exaggerated and either meant as self-aggrandizing propaganda, if self-reported by Iran, or just approximations based on usually scant data or evidence,” said Afshon Ostovar, a senior Middle East analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses who writes frequently on Iran. The number “could be more or less accurate, but there's no way to know.”
Gary Sick, a longtime Iran specialist in and out of government, said the entire Federal Research Division study “has all the appearance of a very cheap piece of propaganda and should not be trusted."
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2004—Do You Feel Safer Now?
|As David Niewert points out over at Orcinus, we’ve found more weapons of mass destruction in the hands of domestic terrorists than in Iraq, yet our government’s efforts to stop another Oklahoma City are haphazard at best:
It's been largely speculation, up until now, that domestic terrorism is not a significant component of this administration's "war on terror." But in its handling of the Texas cyanide bomb case, it's becoming especially apparent that this is precisely the case…
But what's really problematic is the kind of intelligence-gathering gap this lack of communication actually represents. Certainly it raises questions about how thoroughly, and with what energy, the current investigation is being pursued. It's especially important to determine whether there are more of these bombs out there, as several of the news reports so far have suggested. …
Notably, this is the second such case already this year, and both have been cracked due to sheer blind luck. Another would-be domestic-terrorism attack was recently prevented because relatives and friends grew concerned. One has to wonder how long we're going to stay lucky.
While our government flouts international law and common sense with its handling of the non-POWs at Guantanamo and expends tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives in Iraq, its anti-terrorist activities at home are sometimes, to put it charitably,downright pathetic:
Documents naming Winchester [Virginia] as one of 10 potential meeting places for suspected domestic terrorist conspirators were found a year ago, but most local law enforcement officials did not know about it until Thursday.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Nutters plan a walled city in Idaho. Greg Dworkin on new gun policy polling. Sandy relief in the House, and we learn how and why the Rules Committee is protecting the bill from most cuts. Conservative Crazies, from Bachmann, to Sandy Hook Truthers, to yet another anti-gay crusader exposed. A glitch repeatedly pinpoints one man's house as the location of lost cell phones. And finally, a video that shows just what can happen with some of these gunslinging hero fantasies. Can you guess?