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Iran: C.I.A. methods - plus ca change.

The Central Intelligence Agency claims that one of the reasons it opposes the Freedom of Information Act is that declassfified documents may reveal C.I.A. sources and methods, although the agecny makes liberal use of its statutory prerogative to "sanitize" documents by deleting such information. But hos different are current methods from those used ten or even twenty years ago?

C.I.A. documents seized by the Iranians who occupied the U.S. Embassy in 1979 suggest that the agency's methods haven't changed all that much since it was founded, after World War II. Volume 38 of the documents reprints a State Department cable reporting on the activities of a U.S. informant with the code name SDJanus/38. On September 12, 1979, SDJanus/38 reported that he had just returned from Turkey, to which he had helped the director general of SAVAK for Teheran, Gen. Ghasem Parvianfar, escape. SDJanus/38 said there were a few SAVAK officers still in hiding in Teheran, but the Kurdish "rat line" was working well.

The term "rat line" has been part of U.S. intelligence lexicon since the late 1940s, when U.S. intelligence services arranged for suspected Nazi war criminals to escape from Europe along a route operated by Catholic priests. Klaus (Butcher of Lyon) Barbie fled Germany via rat line, according to a Justic Department report published in 1983.

One might argue that General Parvianfar is a small-timer compared with Barbie, but another cable reprinted in Volume 38 suggests the two had much in common. Parvianfar was "assigned to SAVAK in 1968 as a colonel. . . . [According to a reliable source] he was an active, accurate and hard-working employee, but at the same time he was an ailing man, hot-tempered, nervous, had old-fashioned ideas and views and had limited and superficial knowledge." In April 1975, as chief of Teheran's SAVAK office, the general was "deeply involved in anti-terrorist activities"--a polite way of saying he had participated in the torture of the Shah's political opponents.

Despite all the sinister talk of rat lines and torture, the cables are not without banalities. The same cable that describes the general's narrow escape from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's execution squads to sanctuary in Turkey contains the following request: "Could [the U.S. Embassy in] Teheran obtain name of MAAG [U.S. mililtary] administrative officer responsible for [paying SDJanus/38] so that SDJanus/38 can advise his mother-in-law who to contact.

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Title Annotation:C.I.A. classified documents concerning Iran
Author:Bird, Kai; Holland, Max
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 2, 1985
Words:405
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