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Monday, November 14, 2005 

Stolen Laptop is Smoking Gun Against Iran, But Nobody Believes Us?

(New York Times) In mid-July, senior American intelligence officials called the leaders of the international atomic inspection agency to the top of a skyscraper overlooking the Danube in Vienna and unveiled the contents of what they said was a stolen Iranian laptop computer.

The Americans flashed on a screen and spread over a conference table selections from more than a thousand pages of Iranian computer simulations and accounts of experiments, saying they showed a long effort to design a nuclear warhead, according to a half-dozen European and American participants in the meeting.

The documents, the Americans acknowledged from the start, do not prove that Iran has an atomic bomb. They presented them as the strongest evidence yet that, despite Iran's insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful, the country is trying to develop a compact warhead to fit atop its Shahab missile, which can reach Israel and other countries in the Middle East.

The computer contained studies for crucial features of a nuclear warhead, said European and American officials who had examined the material, including a telltale sphere of detonators to trigger an atomic explosion. The documents specified a blast roughly 2,000 feet above a target - considered a prime altitude for a nuclear detonation.

Nonetheless, doubts about the intelligence persist among some foreign analysts. In part, that is because American officials, citing the need to protect their source, have largely refused to provide details of the origins of the laptop computer

"I can fabricate that data," a senior European diplomat said of the documents. "It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt."

After the entire debacle with Joe Wilson’s report (fabricated or not), and the UN presentation by Colin Powell, can we really blame anyone for being a bit “cautious” with intelligence proving someone else has WMD ambitions?

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