Some key Iranian officials have defected due to a secret defector program launched by the CIA, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.
The CIA launched the program in 2005 in a bid to degrade Iran's nuclear weapons program by persuading key officials to defect, the paper said.
This effort has prompted a "handful" of significant departures, current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation were quoted as saying.
The previously undisclosed program, which CIA officials dubbed "the Brain Drain," is part of a major intelligence push against Iran ordered by the White House two years ago, according to the paper.
The White House ordered the stepped-up effort in hopes of gathering stronger evidence that Tehran was making progress toward building a nuclear bomb, said the paper.
Intelligence gathered as part of that campaign provided much of the basis for a U.S. report released last week that concluded the Islamic Republic had halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003, said the paper.
Officials declined to say how much of that intelligence could be attributed to the CIA program to recruit defectors.
The paper said that although the CIA effort on defections has been aimed in part at gaining information about Tehran's nuclear capabilities, its goal has been to undermine Iran's emerging capabilities by plucking key scientists, military officers and other personnel from its nuclear roster.
But the program has had limited success. Fewer than six well-placed Iranians have defected, and none has been in a position to provide comprehensive information on Tehran's nuclear program, according to the paper.
(Xinhua News Agency December 10, 2007)