US Spy Chief ‘Pretty Confident’ He’ll Know If Iran Cheats on Nuclear Deal

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in New York.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

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James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in New York.

The intelligence community has created tools especially to keep tabs on Tehran, DNI Clapper says.

America’s top spy says he’s “pretty confident” that the U.S. will be able tell whether Iran is cheating on the proposed nuclear deal, thanks in part to special new tools the intelligence community has developed to buttress inspections and international monitoring efforts.

As opponents of the deal rallied a mile south on the National Mall, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper framed the choice in stark terms: either take the deal — and trust in the intelligence community’s ability to monitor Iran’s behavior — or see Tehran obtain nuclear arms.

“If you ask me, given a choice between a state sponsor of terror with a nuclear capability and one without it, I would probably pick the latter,” he told the crowd at the Intelligence in National Security Alliance summit at the Washington, D.C., convention center.

In what could be a preview of his testimony on Capitol Hill tomorrow, Clapper said that he’s already told lawmakers about the intelligence community’s ability to supervise Iran’s adherence to the deal.

“We were were required, within five days after the deal was struck, to submit to the Congress a very detailed assessment of our capabilities, what we could do, and where we had lesser capabilities to monitor the agreement,” Clapper said. “I come away pretty confident—I won’t say 100 percent, but pretty confident—that we can, in fact, verify, through our own sources what the International Community will be able to … observe and monitor.”

Clapper’s assurances apparently convinced some lawmakers, at least. On Aug. 13, ten former and current Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee published a letter urging their skeptical colleagues to check out the IC’s findings.

“We are confident that this monitoring and the highly intrusive inspections provided for in the agreement — along with our own intelligence capabilities — make it nearly impossible for Iran to develop a covert enrichment effort without detection. You need not take our word for it; please arrange a time to visit the Office of House Security in HVC 301 where you can read the assessment of our intelligence agencies for yourself,” the letter said.

Still, some lawmakers either did not avail themselves of the opportunity or didn’t like what they read. Yesterday, Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz, speaking in Houston, likened the deal to trusting a drug kingpin. “Have any of y’all seen the movie ‘Scarface?’… This is the equivalent of law enforcement picking up the phone and calling Tony Montana and saying, ‘Hey Tony, you got any drugs?’ ‘I don’t got no drugs.’ ‘Thank you, Tony.’ That is essentially the Iranian nuclear inspection regime,” Cruz said.

Clapper said the policing and enforcement measurements go a bit beyond a telephone call.

“We are fielding some independent capabilities that I can’t go into—despite my protestations about transparency—that will enable us, I think, to have some good insight into the nuclear-industrial enterprise of Iran, if I can call it that,” he said.

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