Marc Burleigh – AFP December 18, 2011
An alleged CIA agent being held in Tehran is a US citizen of Iranian origin, state television said Sunday in a report showing the young man confessing to his “mission” to infiltrate the intelligence ministry.
The channel named him as Amir Mirzai Hekmati and said he was an American of Iranian descent, born in the US state of Arizona.
It said he joined the US Army in 2001 and had a decade of intelligence training.
The report said Hekmati was sent to the US-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and given access to classified US intelligence before flying to Tehran to try to entice the Iranians with it and establish his value to them.
“It was their plan to first burn some useful information, give it to them (the Iranians) and let the intelligence ministry think that this is good material and contact me afterwards,” the clean-shaven man in his 20s said.
In the broadcast he spoke fluent Farsi and English with a slight American accent. He delivered his statements in a normal tone with little emotion and did not appear to be reading from a script.
The channel said that “Iranian networks monitoring activities in the Bagram base” discovered Hekmati’s presence and blew the operation.
It also showed an identity card declaring Hekmati to be an “Army Contractor” with access to the shops and leisure facilities at the Bagram base.
Several photos of him were also shown, some with him in a military uniform, others with him in traditional Arab garb.
The report said he was fluent in both Farsi and Arabic.
“I joined the army in 2001 after finishing high school and was trained in various military and intelligence fields,” the man said.
“After they found out I knew a bit of Persian (Farsi) and Arabic, they said ‘we would like you to go to a certain school and learn Arabic’,” he said.
For the mission, he was told “to become a source for the (Iranian) intelligence ministry you go there (Tehran) for three weeks and feed them this information, get some money for it and come back,” he said.
“I was working at a espionage centre in Bagram and made several flights; one of them was from Bagram to Dubai. I stayed in Dubai for two days and then bought a ticket and came to Tehran,” he said.
The Iranian intelligence ministry announced on Saturday it had arrested “the Iranian-origin CIA agent” before he could infiltrate the ministry to “feed it deceptive information on a large scale and spy on it.”
Sunday’s television report said Hekmati had worked for the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) between 2005 and 2007.
It said he then moved to a computer games company called Kuma Games specialising in shoot-’em-up entertainment that it alleged was really funded by the CIA to develop games aimed at swaying public opinion.
Hekmati then reportedly was sent to another company, Cubic, said to carry out intelligence work, and then to Britain’s defence group BAE Systems.
Iran frequently accuses the United States of seeking to undermine its regime through covert operations.
Evidence of part of the US spying programme towards Iran came to light this month when Tehran displayed a CIA reconnaissance drone it said it had captured.