U.S. Report on 30,000-Member Iranian “Terror Force” Called Into Question

Thursday, January 17, 2013
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi (photo: AP)


At least one media outlet as well as foreign policy analysts have questioned the recent news of Iran’s intelligence ministry having a 30,000-strong force committed to terrorism and assassinations.


CNN and other media sources reported earlier this month that the Iranian intelligence ministry controlled “a terror and assassination force 30,000 strong.” The figure seemed surprisingly large, prompting ProPublica to investigate its validity.


The investigative website found that the media had relied on a report from the Federal Research Division, which is part of the Library of Congress, for the 30,000 number.


But it turned out researchers at the Library of Congress had gotten their information from “an obscure, anonymous website that was simply citing another source,” ProPublica reported.


The buck finally stopped with Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish terrorism researcher quoted in a 2008 Christian Science Monitor article. But even Ranstorp said he wasn’t sure where the number came from.


“I think obviously that it would be an inflated number” of formal employees, he told ProPublica.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

How a Government Report Spread a Questionable Claim about Iran (by Justin Elliott, ProPublica)

Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security: A Profile (Federal Research Division, Library of Congress) (pdf)

WikiLeaks Revelation: Does Iran Really Have Missiles that Threaten Europe? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Iran Government Arresting Journalists (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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