As fears grow over Iran secretly developing nuclear weapons, U.S.
counterintelligence officials are keeping a close eye on scientists from Iran and other Muslim nations working at the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories, WND has learned.
The Energy Department recently revoked the security clearance of an Egyptian-born nuclear physicist because he was suspected of “conflicting allegiances.”
Last year, DOE and FBI agents began questioning Moniem El-Ganayni, who worked on the side as a Muslim prison chaplain.
Prison authorities in Pennsylvania alleged he advocated suicide bombing of Americans and jihad against the U.S. while ministering to inmates, charges El-Ganayni denies.
Even so, SCI-Forest prison in Marienville, Pa., terminated his contract. DOE contractor Bettis Laboratory also fired him.
Until May, El-Ganayni had access to classified nuclear secrets.
Last year, federal authorities accused a Muslim engineer at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station of illegally smuggling software codes into Iran and downloading details of control rooms, reactors and designs of the nation’s largest nuclear plant. Arizona Public Service Co. operates Palo Verde.
Mohammed Alavi, 49, was arrested as he stepped off a plane in Los Angeles and later jailed. He was released, however, after Iran’s foreign minister sent a letter to U.S. officials demanding his immediate release.
Los Alamos National Laboratories
Under the Clinton administration, the Energy Department welcomed scientists and students from sensitive Muslim nations, including Iran, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and other nuclear weapons research labs as part of its “open-door policy.”
No Iranian nationals were employed at Los Alamos when Clinton took office in 1993, according to an internal lab report. By 1997, three Iranians were employed there.
Iranians were assigned to other labs as well. Although the labs have cut back on the number of visitors from sensitive countries since 9/11, many of the foreign workers are still assigned there.
And U.S. officials say concerns have been raised specifically about the high number of Iranian students assigned to the labs.
“They let a lot of Iranians in on post-doctoral fellowships,” an Energy official said. Such assignments typically last up to a year, but can extend much longer.
Another official who works in security at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California says a number of warnings have been issued regarding possible Iranian espionage at the labs.
“There is a great deal of concern about Iranians throughout the national lab complex,” he said. “A lot of directives have been issued concerning this issue.”
A former senior Energy intelligence official says that in terms of developing deployable nuclear weapons, “the Iranians are years ahead of where the Iraqis ever were.”
He says Los Alamos, which has been the target of an alarming number of security breaches over the past several years, is particularly vulnerable to penetration by Iranian spies.
“The opportunities they have to collect intelligence from the lab is pretty damn frightening given how leaky that place is,” the former official said.
“They can do a lot of harm.”
In December, Tehran sent a formal protest note to Washington for “spying” on Iran’s nuclear activities. Iranian officials accused the U.S. of carrying out espionage activities.
Tehran last year stopped UN inspectors from visiting an underground bunker where it is building an industrial-scale plant to make enriched uranium.
Iran insists its nuclear program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.