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CIA Made AWOL Iranian Scientist a YouTube Star: Report

• Spencer Ackerman via WIRED

Shahram Amiri, the long-missing Iranian nuclear scientist who may or may not have defected to the U.S., is headed back to Tehran. But, as a State Department spokesman once joked, he’ll forever live on YouTube. And apparently the CIA helped make sure of it.

Recall that people claiming to be Amiri have uploaded at least two videos to YouTube giving alleged first-person accounts of his ordeal. (Amiri has yet to make a public appearance, though he’s expected to once he arrives in Tehran, perhaps as soon as Thursday.) On one of them, a grainy number broadcast on Iranian state TV, “Amiri” describes being kidnapped by the CIA and the Saudi intelligence service during a spring 2009 trip to Mecca, subjected to mental torture, and taken to Tucson. In the other, higher-quality video, “Amiri” wears a tweed-looking jacket and recounts how he’s now an exchange student in the U.S., not a traitor to Iran — and, implicitly, not a torture victim.

Why the discrepancy in quality between the two videos? According to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference in the Washington Post’s tick-tock of the Amiri denoument, anonymous U.S. officials said the “more polished video” was “crafted with help from the CIA.”

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