Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Officials: Error tipped Iran to CIA agents

Several U.S. agents in Iran were rounded up after the CIA mistakenly revealed clues to their identities to a covert source who turned out to be a double agent, according to a book that hit shelves Tuesday.

In "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," author James Risen of The New York Times called the mistake an "espionage disaster."

But while confirming the mistake, knowledgeable current and former officials told CNN that the allegations that agents were lost as a result are not true. READ MORE

Former intelligence officials told CNN that a thorough "scrub" -- a damage assessment done in late summer 2005 -- found "no evidence" that any U.S. spies in Iran had been taken in as a result of the mistake, and knowledgeable sources said that remains true today.

The message to the double agent in Iran was sent in a high-speed encrypted transmission from the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, former officials said. It did not include names or identities of the other agents, but it did contain information that could help Iranian counterintelligence agents identify them.

CIA Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Millerwise Dyke issued this statement Tuesday about Risen's book:

"Readers deserve to know that every chapter of 'State of War' contains serious inaccuracies. The author's reliance on anonymous sources begs the reader to trust that these are knowledgeable people. As this book demonstrates, anonymous sources are often unreliable.

"It is most alarming that the author discloses information that he believes to be ongoing intelligence operations, including actions as critical as stopping dangerous nations from acquiring nuclear weapons. Setting aside whether what he wrote is accurate or inaccurate, it demonstrates an unfathomable and sad disregard for U.S. national security and those who take life-threatening risks to ensure it."

National security correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.