Did the US Authorize Albright and Sanger to Publish the IAEA Iran Report?

Partial screengrab from ISIS website showing link for IAEA Iran report.

Major media organizations around the world are reacting to the IAEA’s report on Iran’s nuclear technology.

Okay, anyone who reads my posts knows that the sentence above should include a link to the IAEA’s website and its posting of the original report. But I can’t include that link, because the IAEA hasn’t posted the report yet.  The report is posted (pdf) at the website for David Albright’s Institute for Science and International Security, where it showed up early yesterday afternoon, and at the New York Times (pdf), in association with a story by David Sanger and William Broad.  I believe that the Times copy was posted several hours after the ISIS copy.

The IAEA’s website has this information about the report, on a page with the heading “Report On Iran Nuclear Safeguards Sent to IAEA Board”:

An IAEA report on nuclear verification in Iran was circulated on 8 November 2011 to the Agency’s Board of Governors and the UN Security Council.

The Agency’s 35-member Board of Governors will consider the report at its next meeting in Vienna from 17 November 2011. The document’s circulation is currently restricted to IAEA Member States and unless the IAEA Board decides otherwise the Agency cannot authorize its release to the public.

The report, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, was issued by the IAEA Director General. It covers developments since the last report on 2 September 2011, as well as issues of longer standing.

Note that David Albright figured prominently in many media stories leading up to the appearance of the report.  He clearly had already read the report and was busy spreading his take on what the report means.

Given that Albright’s interpretation of the report fits so well with the Obama administration’s take, a question that comes to mind is whether the US authorized Albright to post the report. The IAEA information quoted above states that the IAEA is not authorized to release the report but that it was sent yesterday to the IAEA’s Board of Governors and to the UN Security Council.  The information also states that current circulation is “restricted to IAEA Member States”.  The US is a Member State of the IAEA.

Did the US authorize Albright’s release of the report?  The operating statute for the IAEA is here.  If I am reading the statute correctly, it is the agency’s Board of Governors, to whom the report was sent yesterday, that has the authority to issue reports.  Since it is the Board that officially releases reports, it seems likely that the Board also has the right to accept a report as submitted or send it back for revision prior to release.  Now that the report has been publicly released prior to any Board action, that process has been disrupted.

Note also the image above (clicking on it will give a clearer and slightly larger image).  It is a partial screengrab from the ISIS website showing their link for the IAEA report.  The smaller text there reads “The IAEA has released its highly anticipated safeguards report on Iran’s nuclear program and allegations of weaponization efforts.”  Hmm, that’s pretty inaccurate information from ISIS.  The IAEA clearly states that it is not authorized to release the report to the public.  Instead, it states the report was “circulated” to the appropriate recipients. Perhaps ISIS could provide us with more information on their decision to publish the report before the IAEA Board of Governors has had the chance to take action on it.  The Sanger and Broad New York Times article also states the report was “released by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday”.  What is their basis for making that statement?

This image is from the cover of the report, where it clearly states “Restricted Distribution” (again, click on the image for a larger and clearer version).

As for the media responses to the report, it is noteworthy that “nanodiamonds” do not appear in any of the reports from Reuters, BBC (where you will find a lovely graphic on an implosion trigger), the Washington Post or the New York Times.  Interestingly, the Times article contains a quote from “a senior Obama administration” official that points to the steel container explosives work and claims it is strong evidence of weapons work:

A senior Obama administration official briefing reporters on Tuesday pointed to the I.A.E.A.’s evidence of work on detonation systems, including a special type of spherical initiation system that implodes a nuclear core with tremendous precision. “It’s a very telltale sign of nuclear weapons work,” he said.

It’s also a telltale sign of the creation of nanodiamonds, but I guess we won’t hear that from the US.

Update: In an email response to me, David Sanger of the New York Times provides this description of how IAEA reports are widely leaked:

 The IAEA reports are distributed to all member countries of the agency (I’ve lost count, but there are more than 150, I believe — the signatories of the NPT.) So they leak immediately, as you would expect. Eventually — after the board meetings that take place 10 days or so after the reports — they are usually posted on the IAEA site. You’ll see that all major news organizations obtained the report, nearly instantly after it was distributed to the member states.


Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
12 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    Wag the dog in my view. Someone wants a war with Iran really really badly. My personal opinion is that Bibi needs a bogeyman, and since Israel has a wide selection to choose from [granted that some are very real, biding their time], Iran is the one to go. The Saudis for their part are happy to help, but neither country wants to expend their own capital or children, let’s get the USA to do it for us.

    It worked with Saddam.

  2. MadDog says:

    Good catch Jim!

    The availability of the report via the NYT one could put down to typical journalistic sleuthing, but via Albright and the ISIS smacks of deliberate collusion to put a fingerprint-less thumb on the scale.

    Coupled with the recent MSM reports that the US government was going to take a back seat in castigating Iranian nuclear activity and allowing the report to “speak for itself”, it surely sounds like deliberate proxy work done by the ISIS and the NYT at the behest of the US government.

    About as subtle as a 4 year old with chocolate on his/her face claiming ignorance as to who might have eaten the cookies.

  3. rugger9 says:

    The other thing about this is that we lose the trust of the UN on things like reports and such. Not only did we tilt the scales for the foregone conclusion, but we leak the report with ready-packaged analysis that just happens to match the predetermined outcome. No nanodiamonds for you.

    Remember the resistance on the banking data vacuum from the EU? We’ll get more of that, and Murphy’s Law being what it is, we’ll get the stonewall when we need transparency. One cannot diss allies cavalierly and not expect payback.

  4. Jim White says:

    Here’s an email response I just got from David Sanger of the New York Times regarding widespread leaking of IAEA reports:

    The IAEA reports are distributed to all member countries of the agency (I’ve lost count, but there are more than 150, I believe — the signatories of the NPT.) So they leak immediately, as you would expect. Eventually — after the board meetings that take place 10 days or so after the reports — they are usually posted on the IAEA site. You’ll see that all major news organizations obtained the report, nearly instantly after it was distributed to the member states.

  5. b says:

    Jim – that response from Sanger just shows that he doesn’t now shit, or doesn’t want to say the truth.

    There are 151 members of the IAEA. There are 189 NPT signatories. Some members of the IAEA are not NTP signatories (for example Israel). Many NPT signatories are not IAEA members. Wikipedia has the according lists.

    He totally mixes up the very different legal structures of the NPT and the IAEA. In fact the IAEA has no power for any legal call on the NTP. It is a technical agency related, but not authoritative, to/on the NPT.

    Sanger does that of course on purpose but he is nonetheless wrong.

  6. MadDog says:

    The Christian Science Monitor has a piece on this topic that is a worthwhile read:

    Iran nuclear report: Why it may not be a game-changer after all

    “…It’s very thin, I thought there would be a lot more there,” says Robert Kelley, an American nuclear engineer and former IAEA inspector who was among the first to review the original data in 2005. “It’s certainly old news; it’s really quite stunning how little new information is in there…”

  7. Jim White says:

    @MadDog: Pretty amazing that if the “expert” interviewed for an article isn’t David Albright, the odds of the report being “nothing to see here” go up considerably.

    Gareth Porter cites and provides follow-up to b’s work at Moon of Alabama, filling in more details on Danilenko’s career, coming to the conclusion that he never worked in nuclear technology.

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