Report: CIA suspects Amiri double agent

Iranian scientist may have been "planted" 'Sunday Telegraph' reports.

Shahram Amiri 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Shahram Amiri 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who disappeared while in Saudi Arabia in June 2009 and reappeared in the US last month where he asked to return to Teheran is now suspected by US intelligence officials of being a double agent, British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph reported Sunday.
Iran — and at one point, Amiri — claimed the CIA had kidnapped him; the United States denied the allegation on Tuesday. Amiri disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009, surfacing in videos but otherwise remaining out of sight until he turned up at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington on Monday evening, asking to be sent home.
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That prompted the Obama administration's first public acknowledgment that Amiri had been in the United States. "Mr. Amiri has been in the United States of his own free will and he is free to go," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
While Iran has viewed the entire episode as an abduction, Amiri's disappearance last year fueled reports that he had defected to the United States and was providing information on Iran's nuclear program.
His return and a string of videos that emerged over the past month has raised questions. In one video that seemed to be made in an Internet cafe and was aired on Iranian TV, he claimed US and Saudi "terror and kidnap teams" snatched him. In another, professionally produced one, he said he was happily studying for a doctorate in the United States. In a third, shaky piece of footage, Amiri claimed to have escaped from US agents and insisted the second video was "a complete lie" that the Americans put out.
Amiri's strange behavior has prompted the suspicions that he may have faked defecting to plant false information among US intelligence about the state of Iran's nuclear program.
The New York Times reported Friday that Amiri was one of the sources who contributed to a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran had stopped work on its nuclear program.
Amiri received a hero's welcome upon returning to Iran last week but CIA officials have stated that he will likely face intense questioning about his defection from Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Other US intelligence sources find Amiri's defection suspect.  According to the the Sunday Telegraph report, these officials are calling into question why Iranian authorities would allow someone working in such a sensitive field to travel to Saudi Arabia alone, and why somebody planning on leaving Iran permanently would leave his family behind.