Iran Could Portray 3 American Hikers as Spies

Two hikers are writers, another an environmentalist from Midwest and West Coast.

ByABC News
August 2, 2009, 6:20 PM

Aug. 2, 2009— -- The three Americans arrested after stray into Iranian territory could be portrayed as spies and used as bargaining chips in Tehran's tense relations with the United States, national security experts say.

But the picture emerging of the two men and woman indicates that they were anything but that.

ABC News has learned that the detainees are two writers and an environmental worker with ties to the Midwest and West Coast.

Shane Bauer is a freelance journalist based in the Middle East and originally from Minnesota; Sarah Shourd is also based in the Middle East as a writer and teacher and is from California; and Joshua Fattal is an environmental worker from Oregon.

According to his Web site,, Bauer is a fluent Arabic speaker and is a correspondent for New America Media. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor and The Nation. His site says he graduated with honors from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies

A profile on says that Shourd is a teacher-activist-writer who "loves fresh broccoli, Zapatistas and anyone who can change her mind."

On Saturday, Iran state TV confirmed that it had detained the three Americans who crossed the border from northern Iraq, saying that they ignored warnings from Iranian guards.

"The Iranians said they have arrested them because they entered their land without legal permission," said Qubad Talabani, the Kurdish regional government's envoy to Washington.

And national security experts say Iran will not make it easy for the three to secure their freedom.

"I think there's a decent chance that Iran will portray these three as spies. And leave it up to the United States or to these three individuals to prove they are innocent," said Michael O'Hanlan, a national security expert with the Brookings Institution. "And given what we know about the CIA's interest in this part of the world, some people will believe Iran."