In Response to Gareth Porter’s Ridiculous Attack

by David Albright

June 9, 2014

As posted in the comments section of Truth Out and sent to the editor.

I regret to provide additional attention to Gareth Porter’s work but feel I must respond to his imaginary narrative about me and in general to his journalistic malfeasance and incompetence, two traits that are abundant in his whole body of work on Iran. But I must say as I have watched his writings on Iran, I am not surprised by his recent performance. After all, in the 1970s he was a notorious, vocal, denier of the Khmer Rouge’s genocide of the Cambodian people and he has a long history of launching personal attacks (see ( and his exchange in New York Review of Books in 1978), particularly as his positions receive the scant attention they deserve. He has not learned from his mistakes and brings the same poor analytical abilities to the debate over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons work. In the case of Cambodia, his legitimate views on Vietnam blinded him with respect to the Khmer Rouge, where he later said that since U.S. government officials were lying about the Vietnam War, he assumed he would be right about Cambodia. That statement in itself shows what shallow analysis Porter brought to the table. Now, he has substituted Iraq for Vietnam and assumed that the Iranian regime’s narrative is correct.

I first met Porter years ago when he asked me to review one of his analyses about the lap top documents in the possession of the IAEA. He notes I was sympathetic to criticisms of these documents, which I was initially also articulating (later, confirmatory evidence from multiple countries, including evidence that the lap top documents were not forged, led me to view the allegations as credible). Despite sympathy for his point of view, I was surprised by the deep flaws in the article he had sent me, both in fact and logic. I explained my criticisms to him. His reaction showed me that that he had no desire or ability to accept criticism or incorporate it into his work. That is what led me to stop talking to him. It was clear that he was a propagandist with a great deal of disregard for the truth. Later, when he published his story, he cherry picked a quote from me about Israel that suited his agenda and ignored the rest of what I had said. He writes here that he cannot understand why I stopped talking to him; he should know since I told him why in that very phone call he mentions. I am not the only one; others have complained of his interviewing methods. People should realize that if they grant him an interview he may very well distort their comments if he does not obtain the type of line he seeks.

I could mention many mistakes in his recent attack on me but I will discuss only a few. He has a flight of fantasy in his statement that Bolton’s office leaked me information. But again he needs this mistruth to carry forward his fictitious narrative. I never received a leak from Bolton’s office. I reviewed information obtained by ABC News at its request about a nuclear weapon-related test purported to be slated to happen soon at the Parchin site but I concluded that it was not very credible and certainly should not be aired. ABC News, unable to confirm the information, did not air it. However, I recommended that the site itself deserved more scrutiny. ISIS obtained commercial satellite imagery that showed that the site could be used for high explosive testing related to nuclear weapons and warranted a look by the IAEA. In parallel, and initially unknown to me, Robert Kelley, then at the IAEA, had reached the same conclusion as we had at ISIS. The investigation into Parchin continues to this day, and Porter routinely spreads misinformation about that issue as well. One example involves a former Soviet nuclear weapons expert who the IAEA alleges helped Iran design a high explosive test facility at Parchin and may have provided nuclear weapon design assistance to Iran. Porter has claimed that the expert was not a nuclear weapons expert but merely an expert in making nanodiamonds, claiming in essence no relation between the two subjects. If he had read the expert’s own writings, he would have seen that this expert wrote that he developed the methods to make nanodiamonds using his knowledge gained in the Soviet nuclear weapons program on compression with high explosives. Over and over again, Porter makes spurious claims that the simplest research rebuts.

He also makes up that I asked Jeffrey Lewis to remove my interchange with the New York Times from his web site. In fact, as Lewis writes on Twitter, the post was moved due to a website update. Why would I want this interchange removed in any case? I still believe the New York Times was too far leaning at the time based on the available evidence. On the comparisons to Likud and my supposed opposition to the Obama administration, he is merely espousing rhetoric. He is certainly not sympathetic to the Obama administration, which has told Iran in the negotiations that it must address the IAEA’s concerns about past and possibly on-going nuclear weapons work, if it wants substantial sanctions relief.

These examples are part of a long list of mistakes and malfeasances in his article. The examples I listed give a flavor for his irresponsible and inaccurate reporting. In Porter’s distorted view of the world, almost everyone lies about Iran but him–me, most Iran experts, the IAEA, the U.S., French, German, British, Israeli, and other governments, to name a few. But what is clear is that it is Porter who has a history of willful distortions. And Truth Out? First they publish a sex criminal libeling me; now they print a former Pol Pot sympathizer doing the same. Maybe next time, they will find someone who purports to be an alien who says I am one too, controlling the minds of the media and government officials worldwide. Truth Out should disavow Porter’s work and print an apology. For the interested reader, I would refer you to the ISIS web site for our long body of non-partisan, respected work on nonproliferation.

email us twitter share on facebook