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TOPIC: Iran Nuclear Mythbusters - starting a Forum to actively take specific claims and ask - is this true?

Re: Iran Nuclear Mythbusters - starting a Forum to actively take specific claims and ask - is this true? 01 Dec 2012 14:19 #679


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Let's look at that latest from George Jahn in a bit more detail. One of the big problems in his reporting from Vienna is his use of unnamed sources, possibly misleadingly identified as "diplomats."

The people from whom Jahn is getting his information are likely associated in some way with the various country missions to the IAEA. Or perhaps not. I'll just consider the first possibility. Most of us consider "diplomats" to be people who work in the interests of their home country with people from other countries, having been officially designated in that capacity. Most of us would think that "diplomats" are employed by the State Department, probably not other parts of the government or private companies. But others associated with the missions to the IAEA include intelligence personnel, frequently masked as the type of diplomats I just described and technical personnel from the national laboratories or universities. There are others, like office staff, who might or might not be considered diplomats. Any of these people might be Jahn's source, now sources.

The practice of using anonymous sources has been highly criticized. I won't repeat much of that criticism, except to say that in this case, it makes it particularly difficult to evaluate what Jahn is presenting. If his material is from Mossad sources, there are many reasons to doubt it. If it is from an IAEA whistleblower, we need to know more, and the process of opening things up might be facilitated by a more thorough description of the source. Of course, the reason for anonymity is to protect people. But the reporter has a responsibility to present an accurate story that does not mislead, along with the responsibility to protect his sources. If the two cannot be combined, then perhaps the reporter needs to rethink whether the story should be written.

All this is complicated by many reporters' ignorance of technical matters. To some of us it is obvious that the two curves in Jahn's recent article are power and its integral, energy. Evidently that was not clear to Jahn or some of the subsequent commenters on that article. This also makes it hard for reporters to find appropriate experts to comment on technical issues.

So Jahn has come back with more anonymous sources. Or one more, I think. Emphasis in the following quotes is mine.
A leaked diagram suggesting that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon is scientifically flawed, diplomats working with the U.N. nuclear agency conceded Friday. However they insisted that it still supports suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a bomb, especially when combined with other documents that remain secret.
"diplomats." More than one.
the document leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program
Jahn refers in this way to the now-controversial graph, and the source is now "officials" rather than "diplomats". Many countries are critical of Iran's atomic program, but of course Israel is the prime suspect here. He then goes on in a rather confused way, not understanding the math, to characterize the article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that I linked upthread.
But a senior diplomat familiar with the probe of Iran by the IAEA told the AP on Friday that the agency suspects that Iranian scientists calculating a nuclear yield intentionally simplified the diagram to make it comprehensible to Iranian government officials to whom they were presenting it. He said that when the right data are plugged in, the yield is indeed 50 kilotons. The diplomat, who is considered neutral on Iran's nuclear program, spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge intelligence.
This appears to be a new "diplomat", "who is considered neutral on Iran's nuclear program." Hard to tell what country this might be, or if it is someone from the IAEA. The formulation suggests the IAEA, although if this is the case, this person should not be leaking, and if he is, we need to know his motivations. The explanation of the discrepancy in the graph's numbers for the two curves doesn't make sense; I disagree with David Albright's quote toward the end of the article. Simplification is not the same as introducing mathematical errors. Then a quote from Albright to explain that the left-hand legend is right if the units are joules per 10 nanoseconds. A strange unit for calculation when you are representing your numbers in exponentials anyway. But there may have been more to Jahn's discussion with Albright than shows up in this article.

When told of Albright's calculations, the senior diplomat confirmed that the agency thought they were correct. He also said the agency had a spreadsheet thought to have been drawn up by Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that contained the data needed to produce a nuclear yield of 50 kilotons. He said Shahriari is also believed to have produced - and then altered - the diagram, which he said was one of several held by the IAEA showing such yield calculations.
This is presumably the second anonymous diplomat. What are his motivations for leaking this kind of information?
The senior diplomat said agency investigators realized the diagram was flawed shortly after they received it last year but believe it remains important as a clue to Iranian intentions.

He and a second diplomat said other classified material held by the IAEA supports concerns that the graph may be part of a past Iranian effort at developing nuclear weapons. The second diplomat comes from a country suspicious of Iran's nuclear intentions but not from the nation that shared the diagram with the AP. He too spoke only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to disclose secret information.
So we continue with the same leaker and add another that may be from any number of countries.
The diagram was disclosed to AP in an attempt to bolster arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon. The officials who leaked it provided what they described as a computer model of blast calculations only on condition that they and their country not be named.
Some indication of motivation, finally! Were the officials describing the graph as a computer model? Does Jahn know the difference? Does he know the great variation in sophistication of many things that might be described as computer models?

More math that Jahn doesn't seem to understand.
Reached by telephone Friday, one of the two officials who give the diagram to the AP acknowledged that the data on the left-hand vertical side were manipulated but said that was the work of the Iranian scientist who created it. He asserted that did not change the thrust of his country's claim - and the IAEA's fear - that Iranian scientists were working on bomb yield calculations.
Two officials, not diplomats, gave [copyedit] the diagram to Jahn. That's new, I think, although it's hard to keep count of all these anonymous folks. Note that this anonymous official refers to "the IAEA's fear." This is his claim, not the same as fact.
The U.N. agency reported on Nov. 8, 2011, that it had obtained diagrams it suspects shows Iran doing studies in nuclear yields, adding: "The application of such studies to anything other than a nuclear explosive is unclear to the agency." And the senior diplomat on Tuesday confirmed that the graph seen by the AP was indeed one of those cited by the IAEA.
Presumably Jahn is referring to the November 8, 2011, IAEA report on Iran. The section on Modeling and Calculations is C.8, paragraphs 52-54, on pages 20 and 21. What is described there is a great deal more than "diagrams."
The first diplomat agreed with critics who said similar graphs can be found in textbooks, the internet and other public sources. But he said the agency found that irrelevant because of the totality of its information about Iran's alleged interest in plotting the force of a nuclear explosion, which included the drawing seen by the AP. In that context, the drawing and other similar to it heightened agency concerns, he said.
This is actually fair enough. The November 2011 IAEA report describes much more than this single graph.

I think that Glenn Greenwald makes some important points about Jahn's use of anonymous sources, but unfortunately they are buried under an attempted takedown of the graph itself. His discussion of the graph and its curves is second-hand at best and not very careful. The power curve is not a gaussian, as is the example Greenwald has pulled from the Web (see Mark Gubrud's comment on this post.) Greenwald is one of the ones who clearly does not understand the integral-differential relationship of the two curves. So his very insistent declaration of the graph as a "hoax" is perhaps premature, although what the first "diplomat"/"official"/leaker intended may well qualify as that.
Last Edit: 01 Dec 2012 14:21 by Cheryl. Reason: copyedit
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Re: Iran Nuclear Mythbusters - starting a Forum to actively take specific claims and ask - is this true? 01 Dec 2012 21:45 #680


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Small observation: the ten nanosecond unit that I said upthread wasn't anything that someone would use to calculate with is known as a "shake" by bomb designers. So it is a real unit that someone might use.
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Re: Iran Nuclear Mythbusters - starting a Forum to actively take specific claims and ask - is this true? 06 Dec 2012 00:05 #682


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Hmmmmm....

Shorter version: We can't believe Jahn's source because the graph is flawed. But we can believe Jahn's source that the graph is a significant part of the IAEA's evidence against Iran.

Seems to me that an unreliable source shouldn't be believed on any count.
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