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At Least 12 C.I.A. Spies Caught in Iran & Lebanon; U.S. Officials Fear Executions

In a calamitous failure for the U.S. intelligence community, at least a dozen C.I.A. spies have been caught in Iran and Lebanon, leading U.S. officials to fear they have been or will be executed.

Espionage: a very risky business.

According to ABC News, the spies belonged to two separate espionage rings, one targeting Iran and the other focusing on the Iranian-backed Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which operates out of Lebanon. The U.S. considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, but to many Lebanese and Palestinians it is a resistance group that has fought Israeli invasion and occupation.

The capture of so many valuable U.S. assets is a major blow to American intelligence gathering in the region, especially  efforts to collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, and many U.S. officials fear the spies will be executed. Former senior C.I.A. officer Robert Baer told ABC News that Hezbollah typically executes spies.

“If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don’t think we’ll ever see them again,” he said. “These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving.”

A U.S. official who spoke to ABC News under the condition of anonymity confirmed the loss of “an unspecified number of spies” in the last six months.

Some are blaming sloppy spy work for the debacle. ABC News reports that the C.I.A. used the codeword “PIZZA” when discussing where agents would meet the spies; Hezbollah monitoring of the Beirut Pizza Hut led to the identification of at least a dozen informants as well as numerous C.I.A. officers.

Iranian agents were also able to discover secret internet communications of C.I.A.-paid assets inside Iran.

Iran and Hezbollah have been claiming to have identified and captured American spies for months; those claims have been mostly ignored. It now turns out they were mostly true.

“If you lose an asset, one source, that’s normally a setback in espionage,” Robert Baer, the former C.I.A. officer, told ABC News. “But when you lose your entire station, either in Tehran or Beirut, that’s a catastrophe, that just shouldn’t be. And the only way that ever happens is when you’re mishandling sources.”

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