The spy was minutes from leaving Iran when he was nabbed.
Gholamreza Hosseini was at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran in late 2010, preparing for a flight to Bangkok. There, the Iranian industrial engineer would meet his Central Intelligence Agency handlers. But before he could pay his exit tax to leave the country, the airport ATM machine rejected his card as invalid. Moments later, a security officer asked to see Hosseini’s passport before escorting him away.
Hosseini said he was brought to an empty VIP lounge and told to sit on a couch that had been turned to face a wall. Left alone for a dizzying few moments and not seeing any security cameras, Hosseini thrust his hand into his trouser pocket, fishing out a memory card full of state secrets that could now get him hanged. He shoved the card into his mouth, chewed it to pieces and swallowed.
Not long after, Ministry of Intelligence agents entered the room and the interrogation began, punctuated by beatings, Hosseini recounted. His denials and the destruction of the data were worthless; they seemed to know everything already. But how?
“These are things I never told anyone in the world,” Hosseini told Reuters. As his mind raced, Hosseini even wondered whether the CIA itself had sold him out.
Rather than betrayal, Hosseini was the victim of CIA negligence, a year-long Reuters investigation into the agency’s handling of its informants found. A faulty CIA covert communications system made it easy for Iranian intelligence to identify and capture him. Jailed for nearly a decade and speaking out for the first time, Hosseini said he never heard from the agency again, even after he was released in 2019. [Continue reading…]