The Library of Congress has pulled a report on Iran’s intelligence activities from circulation after an American journalism watchdog showed that the widely cited text was playing fast and loose with the facts.
American and international media outlets had jumped in the report’s claim that Iranian intelligence was employing 30,000 people, a figure called "ill-supported" by ProPublica, a New York-based non-profit reporting on public interest matters.
The report had been produced by a Pentagon office and posted to a US government intranet site before leaking to the public in early January.
And a massive Iranian intel staff wasn’t the only dubious claim brought to light by ProPobulica: the report also alleged, without much evidence, that Vienna was the European hub for the Iranian foreign spy network and that Tehran was gathering information by way of "signals intelligence stations" throughout the Middle East, with many of them in Syria.
"The report was pulled for revisions after the Division staff identified a passage that should have been caveated but was missed in the initial reviews," Federal Research Division chief David Osborne told ProPublica in an email.
Though the document was taken offline "for revisions," it has not gone back up in a modified form.
It was also the source of public humiliation in the UK after claiming explicitly that Briton Anne Khodabandeh (nee Singleton) and her Iranian-born husband Massoud were Iranian foreign intelligence operatives, even showing their pictures. Khodabandeh, a former member of the MEK, the exiled group fighting the Iranian government, has in recent years become a critic of the group, which was recently taken off the US government’s list of terrorist organizations.
To back up its claim that Khodabandeh was spying for Tehran, the report cited a 2007 essay written by Rabbi Daniel Zucker, who chairs a group called Americans for Democracy in the Middle East and is known to write often in support of the MEK. The website where his essay was published is no longer operational, but had linked to the also now-defunct iranterror.com as its source.
After seeing the report, even the MEK claimed that the Pentagon’s report showed that "Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh are agents of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security."
"Everything they’ve said is just made up," Anne Khodabandeh told ProPublica.
Despite such sketchy sources, the report was for all intents and purposes the official word of the United States government.
The Khodabandehs are refraining from legal action due to the costs of such a lawsuit and the fact that report does not credit an author.