CIA Agents in Iran and Lebanon Captured and Feared Dead
Tue, November 22, 2011
More than a dozen spies working for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught and the U.S. government fears they will be or have been executed, according to four current and former U.S. officials with connections to the intelligence community.
The spies were paid informants recruited by the CIA for two specific espionage rings targeting Iran and the Beirut-based Hezbollah terror organization.
Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer who worked against Hezbollah while stationed in Beirut in the 1980's, said Hezbollah typically executes individuals suspected of or caught spying.
"If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don't think we'll ever see them again," he said. "These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving."
The exposure of the two spy networks was first announced in widely ignored televised statements by Iranian and Hezbollah leaders. U.S. officials told ABC News that much of what was broadcast was, in fact, true.
Hezbollah's leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, announced in June of this year that two high-ranking members of Hezbollah had been exposed as CIA spies, leading U.S. officials to conclude that the entire network inside Hezbollah had been compromised.
In Iran, intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi announced in May that more than 30 U.S. and Israeli spies had been discovered and an Iranian television program, which acts as a front for Iran's government, showed images of internet sites used by the U.S. for secret communication with the spies. U.S. officials said the Iranian television program showed pictures of people who were not U.S. assets, but the program's video of the websites used by the CIA was accurate.
"Hezbollah is an extremely complicated enemy," said a U.S. official. "It's a determined terrorist group, a powerful political player, a mighty military and an accomplished intelligence operation, formidable and ruthless. No one underestimates its capabilities."
"If you lose an asset, one source, that's normally a setback in espionage," said Robert Baer, who was considered an expert on Hezbollah.
"But when you lose your entire station, either in Tehran or Beirut, that's a catastrophe, that just shouldn't be. And the only way that ever happens is when you're mishandling sources."