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Seymour Hersh: US Training Iranian Terrorists in Nevada

The Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group despite its inclusion on the State Department's list of foreign terrorists.

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AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, you end your piece by quoting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at Fort Bliss in Texas acknowledging the U.S. has some ideas as to who might have been involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved, you know, being questioned about—this was the day after—a few days after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientists. He said, "I can tell you one thing: the [United States] was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does."

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I think that’s technically correct. I don’t think there’s any other way to read that comment as—the use of that last graph as an ironic statement, perhaps. I think it’s correct that—also, it’s to my knowledge—this isn’t in the piece, because only one particular source about it, but I do understand that we really don’t know what’s going to happen 'til after it happens, and then we are put on notice. We do get notice that something has happened before it's released to the public. We have that kind of communication, essentially through Israel. Israel is obviously a little closer to everything that’s going on than we are. But we’re certainly—we’re not picking targets. I doubt that now. At least I don’t have any evidence we are. But we’re providing general intelligence.

And it’s not an accident that the first units of the  MEK to show up in Nevada, late '04, early ’05—and it was months and months of training. It's not—the first word used by two different people about it was "commo," communications, and "crypto." The point is that—there was a story in the  Washington Post just the other day here describing how America has been using drones to overfly Iran for at least three years. I would argue that, long before that, we’ve been using American satellites flying high that can’t be detected. And obviously, you can uplink and downlink communications to satellites. You can—if you’re on the ground and you find out something very useful tactically—by training the  MEK in communications and how to use encrypt communications, you’re also enabling them to become an asset on the ground for us.

There was a period, I would say, in the Bush administration—I also think it stopped under Obama—when our boys, our Joint Special Operations Command guys, were directly inside Iran. We came in through Herat in Afghanistan. We also—that was one of—what we call a rat line. There are other rat lines through Balochistan in Pakistan, and etc. There are ways to get inside Iran clandestinely that we’ve been using for at least since, I’d say, late '04 until probably right before Obama got in. So we were there—look, it's been a huge, big internal game designed to destabilize.

And as somebody said to me in one of the pieces, one of the quotes in the pieces, "We’re not necessarily looking for Einsteins." That suggests to me that the scientists who are really the most deeply involved in the enrichment. And by the way, let me say again, there is no evidence that our intelligence community or even the Israeli intelligence community has—and I know that firsthand—suggesting that there’s an ongoing bomb program. So we are now—the United States is now in the position of increasing sanctions and pressuring all sorts of economic pressure on the Iranians to stop—the whole purpose of the economic sanctions is to stop the Iranians from making a bomb that we know they’re not making. Once again, I don’t know how we get into this convoluted position. And then, as readers of the major newspapers know, we are now also entering new talks with Iran with new preconditions, and basically telling them that they must stop doing enriching, what they are legally entitled to do as members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran may be secretly wanting a bomb, and they may have that passion, and they maybe, you know, dream about it at night, but we haven’t a shred of evidence that they’ve done anything, concretely, physically, to create a facility for making a weapon.

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