Friday, August 20, 2010

CIA forms new center to combat nukes, WMDs

WASHINGTON (AP) - The CIA is opening a counterproliferation center to combat the spread of dangerous weapons and technology, a move that comes as Iran is on the verge of fueling up a new nuclear power plant.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said Wednesday that the new unit would place CIA operators side by side with the agency's analysts to brainstorm plans to "confront the threat of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological."

The center would formalize the collaboration between the agency's analysts and operators, a close working relationship that CIA spokesman George Little said already has yielded intelligence successes.

Little cited their work in last year's revelation of the "discovery of the Syrian covert nuclear reactor and Iran's undeclared uranium enrichment facility near Qom." That Iranian city is the ideological center of Iran's Shiite rulers.

Paul Brannan, a senior analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security, said another CIA success was the slowing down of Iran's nuclear centrifuge operations at Natanz. The agency, he said, sneaked "faulty parts into Iran's nuclear supply chain."

That operation, Brannan said, "is an example of where you'd need both analysts to tell you what type of parts would Iran need that you could inject, and the operations side to work with trading companies to try to get the parts in there."