Officials: CIA paid Iranian defector $5 million
WASHINGTON — The Iranian nuclear scientist who claimed to have been abducted by the CIA before departing for his homeland Wednesday was paid more than $5 million by the agency to provide intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said.
Shahram Amiri isn’t obligated to return the money but might be unable to access it after breaking off what U.S. officials described as significant cooperation with the CIA and abruptly returning to Iran. Officials said he probably left out of concern that the Tehran government would harm his family.
“Anything he got is now beyond his reach, thanks to the financial sanctions on Iran,” a U.S. official said. “He’s gone, but his money’s not. We have his information, and the Iranians have him.”
Amiri went to the Iranian diplomatic mission in Washington this week and asked to be sent home. U.S. officials, who said Amiri had been working with the CIA for more than a year, were stunned by his decision.
Whether the agency received an adequate return on its investment in Amiri is difficult to assess. The U.S. official said the payments reflected the value of the information gleaned. “You don’t give something for nothing,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Amiri arrived in Tehran early today to a hero’s welcome. Speaking to Iranian journalists as his young son sat on his lap, Amiri repeated claims that he was abducted last year while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and carried off to America.
On Wednesday, Iranian television presenters had no trouble claiming the episode as a victory.
“America has lost,” they said repeatedly. “Iran is the winner of this intelligence war.”
Iranian TV shows Shahram Amiri, 32, claiming that he was abducted and taken against his will to America. U.S. officials say he was a defector who was paid well for offering intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.