Iranian Defector: I've Escaped from CIA

Shahram Amiri

This story has been updated.

The Iranian nuclear scientist in the middle of the high stakes battle between Washington and Tehran has released two new videos, claiming to have "escaped" U.S. intelligence and says he's on his way back to Iran.

The scientist, Shahram Amiri, who, according to U.S. intelligence officials resettled in the U.S. last year after working for several years as a CIA spy, has claimed that he escaped "U.S. intelligence officers in Virginia." He says he is now in a "safe place" but that he is in "danger and could possibly be arrested again by U.S. intelligence officers at any moment."

"In case anything happens to me or if I do not make it back home safely, the responsibility will solely rest on the officials of the United States," Amiri says in a video posted to YouTube, which says was recorded June 14.

A U.S. official tried today to quickly rebuke Amiri's claims.

"The guy's ability to make and release messages is clear proof that he hasn't been held in the United States against his will, says that theory's absurd. That's not the way it works—we don't have to compel people to defect. Maybe he's just trying to build a story for the folks back home. The fact that he can say what he wants doesn't make his statements true. He's shown to the world that he has the power to make choices—even bad ones."

The latest video aired today on Iranian state television and continues the propaganda efforts of Tehran to show Amiri was kidnapped and brought to the U.S. against his will.

To view the two latest Amiri videos, click here and here.

In fact, U.S. officials say, Amiri was a key spy inside the Iranian nuclear program for several years before his defection.

Amiri's precise role in U.S. intelligence gathering remains unclear. Former and current intelligence officials told ABC News that Amiri confirmed the existence of a secret underground enrichment facility near Qom and also described him as a key source in the conclusions of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran had suspended its nuclear weaponization program. Initially, before Amiri defected back to Iran, the same officials told ABC News that Amiri's information had contradicted the 2007 NIE finding, but further reporting indicates that was an incorrect interpretation.

CIA director Leon Panetta acknowledged this week to ABC News that the CIA no longer believed the conclusions of the 2007 NIE, saying that Tehran continues "to work on designs" for a nuclear weapon.

"I think they continue to develop their know-how," Panetta said. "They continue to develop their nuclear capability."

Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Iran's nuclear ambitions have been the subject of international debate. The Obama administration recently called for increased U.N. sanctions. Amiri, once a star scientist for the Iranian nuclear program, according to U.S. officials, has become the center of efforts of both countries to characterize Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Tehran has said that its nuclear program is for energy purposes only and denies ambitions for a nuclear weapon.

Both the Iranian intelligence agency and the CIA have posted dueling videos of the scientist in past several weeks. In one video, Amiri claims the U.S. kidnapped, drugged and tortured him, in the other he says he is happy to be in the U.S.

Behind the scenes, the situation has become so grave that American officials fear Amiri could re-defect, according to the people briefed on the situation.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin works out at Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Aug. 30, 2015.
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
PHOTO: Director Wes Craven attends the screening of Life Itself at the ArcLight Cinemas, June 26, 2014, in Hollywood, Calif.
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images