Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Graphoganda!, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love George Jahn's Embarrassing Nonsense

This week in shameful Iran nuclear scare crapoganda:

The Associated Press' favorite conduit for pathetic Israeli garbage, George Jahn, came out with another doozy on Tuesday.  Under a banner touting a "Big Story," Jahn published an article headlined, "AP Exclusive: Graph suggests Iran working on bomb," which purported to show proof that "Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima."  Really.

So what evidence does Jahn provide to back up this oh-so-shocking claim?  Why, a "diagram" that was "leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program," of course!  And why was it leaked directly to AP, you ask?  In order to, as Jahn puts it, "bolster their arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon."  But don't worry anonymous critical officials, your secret is safe with nobody.  "The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named," Jahn reveals.  Whew.  What a relief it is to see a professional journalist appeal to the Voldemort rule of anonymity.

Gee, where on Earth might they be from?  Probably Palau.  No, no, wait.  Suriname?  Maybe it's Denmark.  Or Nepal.  Or Togo in collaboration with the covert, graphing wizards of Luxembourg.  Nope, I've got it.

Seriously, though, Israel, we get it, it's you.  And it's embarrassing.  Cool it.

By the way, here's the graph.  And yes, to reiterate, this was actually published by a respected, mainstream news wire service.

Power!  Energy!  Kilotons!  Microseconds!  Time!  (5)!  Oh the horror!

Apparently, AP stands for Absurd Propaganda.

The graph is not only weirdly crude, but also undated, unsourced, and unexplained.  The Persian text at the bottom, as translated by AP, mentions nothing about nuclear weapons or an atomic payload for a bomb.  It just reads, "Changes in output and in energy released as a function of time through power pulse."  To call this graph "dubious" would be generous; to tout it as "proof" of anything is simply embarrassing.  It literally means nothing, except perhaps that math exists.  The graph shows nothing more than a probability density function, that is, an abstract visual aid depicting the theoretical behavior of a random variable to take on any given value.

Beyond that, theoretical physics professor Dr. M. Hossein Partovi, who teaches courses in thermodynamics and quantum mechanics at Sacramento State, noting that the graph is plotted in microseconds, explains that "the graph depicted in the report is a nonspecific power/energy plot that is primarily evidence of the incompetence of those who forged it: a quick look at the energy graph shows that the total energy is more than four orders of magnitude (ten thousand times) smaller than the total integrated power it must equal!"  Partovi added that the actual discrepancy is closer to 40,000 times smaller.

It is no more proof of Iranian nuclear weapons work than a crumpled up piece of notebook paper with a game of hangman on it demonstrates evidence that someone in your European history seminar is actively constructing a Tyburn gallows for the express purpose of lynching all first graders.

Apparently, someone back at Mossad headquarters was leafing through an arcane nuclear physics textbook from the mid-1970s and thought this particular graph looked especially ominous and decided to make a carbon copy or two - one for the IAEA and one to pass along to sycophantic ventriloquist George Jahn, who clearly has no problem publishing such silliness.  Hey, he's done it before.

Remember this?

Yup, that was Jahn.  And who leaked that one?  Oh right, officials from a country that is "severely critical of Iran's assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms."  Must be Estonia.  No, wait, Cape Verde?

By now, one thing is clear.  The Israeli Government PropaGraphics Squad is truly awful.  I mean, c'mon:

In order to corroborate the scariness of Israel's bogus graph in his latest scooperino, Jahn, who has long been a go-to source for pathetic fearmongering about Iran, turned to - who else? - perennial nuclear alarmist David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security and former IAEA inspector/consummate hysteric Olli Heinonen, both of whom have extensive histories of freaking out about nothing at all. 

But Jahn's buddies don't even really come through for him.  Albright "said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more 'to understand the process' than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making."  After Jahn stretches credulity by describing alleged "live tests of conventional explosives that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon at Parchin" that yielded "data" which then "fed the model plotted in the diagram," Heinonen chimed in by saying that the results of such tests could "make sense as part of the design and testing of a (computer) model."

So, to sum up: nuclear "experts" have determined that an Israeli diagram of a bell curve with spooky squiggly writing is "genuine" (insofar as it exists) and that its contents could "make sense" as something super vague and devoid of context or relevance if all this other stuff that Israel has made up, but there's no actual proof of, also happens to be true.

Got that?

No wonder Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called Israeli attempts to rattle sabres over Iran "childish."

With this in mind, I'm sure we can all look forward to Israel's next foray into the graphic arts, dutifully transmitted via George Jahn's servile stenography.  Personally, I'm hoping it will take Lite-Brite form next time.



November 28, 2012 - Richard Silverstein over at Tikun Olam has a far less snarky post than mine about  this graph story.  Of particular relevance is this section in which Silverstein quotes the eminent Muhammad Sahimi:
First, the passage above claims it is the research output of Iranian scientists.  While this may be so, the story doesn't identify who created the diagram nor explain anything about its provenance.  As Prof. Muhammad Sahimi, a professor of chemical engineering at USC and expert in Iran's nuclear program pointed out to me, any decent undergraduate physics student could produce the same drawing:
Too many graphs like this can be generated by a competent undergraduate student. The graph itself looks low quality, as if it has been drawn by hand. I have asked my students to compute the dashed curve, given the continuous curve…to see whether the guy who drew it even knew that much! In addition, it only shows energy and power versus time, without saying what the source of energy was!
Let's return to an important observation Sahimi makes above.  Reviewing the actual graph, it looks like it was indeed drawn by hand.  What nuclear physicist that you know prepares a hand-written graph as he's about to produce a nuclear explosion?  Does this mean that Iran's nuclear program is so primitive that its scientists don't have computer programs that enable them to prepare such a graph more professionally?  And can we believe that a country that prepares such hand-written graphs has the technical and engineering know-how to explode a nuclear bomb, solely based on this evidence?


November 28, 2012 - A number of truly excellent articles on the ridiculous Evil Graph of Doomhave appeared today, notably Glenn Greenwald's take at The Guardian, John Glaser's at Antiwar and, perhaps the best one of all, an incredible debunking by nuclear physicists Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Greenwald reminds us that "[t]he case for the attack on Iraq was driven, of course, by a mountain of fabricated documents and deliberately manipulated intelligence which western media outlets uncritically amplified. Yet again, any doubts that they are willing and eager to do exactly the same with regard to the equally fictitious Iranian Threat should be forever dispelled by behavior like this."

Butt and Dalnoki-Veress, however, not only challenge, but utterly destroy the entire provenance, relevance and authenticity of the graph itself, and they do it with aplomb.

They point out that "the diagram features a nearly million-fold error," one that nuclear scientists working at the highest level of government research would never make.  Quite simply, as Dr. Partovi told me earlier today (see original post above), the math doesn't work. As a result, the experts easily conclude, "This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax."

Beyond that, they continue, "the level of scientific sophistication needed to produce such a graph corresponds to that typically found in graduate- or advanced undergraduate-level nuclear physics courses."  It is, they writes, "just straightforward nuclear physics" and could result from a theoretical simulation that "a student could present in a nuclear-science course."  This kind of graph is commonly found online and in textbooks.

"It is neither a secret, nor indicative of a nuclear weapons program," they explain, despite what George Jahn and his uneducated Mossad handlers want you to believe.



November 28, 2012 - BIG STORY EXCLUSIVE! Another harrowing chart has been leaked to the press that further demonstrates nefarious Iranian machinations towards atomic hegemony and world domination:

Courtesy of @RepStones, who blogs at Guerrilla Thoughts.



November 29, 2012 - A comment (by "Peter in SF," whose blog can be read here) over at Mondoweiss makes some additional observations that seem to have eluded many of those writing on Jahn's AP article.  It notes that, as the graph appears to chart "energy equal to power integrated over time," it is therefore "not a probability density function as stated above," but rather "is most likely showing energy and power of a microsecond laser pulse. See, for example, this page from a course on laser physics."

Peter adds: "The most hilarious thing, which I haven't seen mentioned yet, is that 'kT' most definitely does not stand for kilotons; it stands for Boltzmann's constant multiplied by temperature, which has the units of energy and comes up often in physics," while the units of kilotons would be accurately abbreviated by the symbol kt.

Despite these observations, none of the nuclear experts who have chimed in on this has noted or corroborated any of these points, so either Peter is mistaken or Mossad's silly graph is even more amateurish than everyone already knows.



November 29, 2012 - Unsurprisingly, Glenn Greenwald has an excellent follow-up post at The Guardian on the Evil Iran Math Threat posed by Mossad's AP-laundered graph.  Greenwald was also kind enough to note my own reporting on this story.

He notes in perfect clarity:
It is, to put it as generously as possibly, completely reckless for AP to present this primitive, error-strewn, thoroughly common graph as secret, powerful evidence of Iran's work toward building a nuclear weapon. Yet from its inflammatory red headline ("AP EXCLUSIVE: GRAPH SUGGESTS IRAN WORKING ON BOMB") to the end of the article, this is exactly what AP did. And it did so by mindlessly repeating the script handed to it by a country which AP acknowledged is seeking to warn the world about the dangers of Iran. This is worse than stenography journalism. It is AP allowing itself, eagerly and gratefully, to be used to put its stamp of credibility on a ridiculous though destructive hoax.
In response to Greenwald's questioning the AP itself about the myriad objections raised regarding Jahn's silly report, the wire service provided this succinct statement...and nothing more:
"We continue to report this story."
Greenwald aptly concludes, "It's hard to decide which is worse: the original story or their 'response' to the very serious flaws in their reporting."



November 30, 2012 - With the Evil Nuclear Graph of Doom fiasco continuing to get sillier by the day, one thing has become clear: never underestimate the absurdity of George Jahn.

Today, with the publication of his latest article, the Associated Press' leading cipher for embarrassing Israeli propaganda about the Iranian nuclear program has truly outdone himself.  In the face of mounting criticism and insurmountable evidence questioning the authenticity of the graph and the purported goal of Iran to construct a massive nuclear bomb, Jahn appealed to his Israeli handlers for an explanation - and received justifications that are even more patently ridiculous than his original story initially appeared to be.

He begins:
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.
Conceding that the documentation he had presented was "widely inaccurate" and therefore it was "next to impossible that Iran was contemplating such a weapon," Jahn presses on, refusing to issue a true mea culpa and retraction. Instead, Jahn alleges that the hoax is irrelevant to his continued efforts to fear-monger about Iran.

Citing the explanation of an anonymous official, Jahn writes:
[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.
Jahn continues, "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."

Later in his piece, he adds that "one of the two officials who give [sic] 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."

These claims are bizarre indeed as they essentially debunk themselves.

Jahn isn't done promoting the nonsensical stammering of equivocation:
Shahriari — the scientist suspected by the IAEA to have made and modified the diagram and provided the spread-sheet with the right information — was assassinated two years ago. Iran said it believes Israeli agents were responsible for the killing. 
"Nobody would have understood the original, so he modified it into an artificial unit to make his case," the first diplomat said. 
[ISIS head David] Albright said Friday that the explanation "made sense."
Yeah, David, sure it does.  Taking a mathematically correct graph and manipulating it so that it becomes "scientifically flawed" and "widely inaccurate" is obviously the best way to make it more comprehensible.  Nice try, jackass.

Even Jahn himself admits the real reason Israel is trying so hard to push phony evidence of Iranian weapons work: "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."

Don't worry, Israel.  We won't tell.

As usual, investigative journalist Gareth Porter is on the case.  He notes,
The graph was obviously not done by a real Iranian scientist — much less someone working in a top secret nuclear weapons research program — but by an amateur trying to simulate a graph that would be viewed, at least by non-specialists, as something a scientist might have drawn.
He quotes former senior IAEA inspector Robert Kelley as saying, "It's clear the graph has nothing to do with a nuclear bomb."  By way of contextualizing Jahn's recent propaganda exercise, Porter explains,
Former IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei refers in his memoirs to documents provided by Israel in 2009 "purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007." ElBaradei adds that the Agency’s "technical experts" had "raised numerous questions about the documents' authenticity", and suggested that US intelligence "did not buy the 'evidence' put forward by Israel" in its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
Jahn's story indicates that this and similar graphs were the basis for the IAEA's publishing charges by two unnamed states that Iran had done computer modeling that the agency said could only have been about nuclear weapons.
He concludes,
In other words, the only evidence that the IAEA had actually seen was the graphs of the alleged computer modeling, of which the graph shown in the AP story is alleged to be an example. But the fact that data on that graph has been credibly shown to be off by four orders of magnitude suggests that the Israeli claim of Iranian computer modeling of "components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression" was completely fabricated.
Former IAEA Inspector Kelley also told Lobe Log that "We can only hope that the claim that the IAEA has relied on this crude hoax is false. Otherwise their credibility has been shattered."



December 10, 2012 - Mark Hibbs, of the Arms Control Wonk blog and a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes in Foreign Policy today:
The true significance of this document is that it landed in our e-mailboxes in the midst of renewed internal debate about how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should determine whether member states are in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations. Beginning two decades ago, the IAEA started relying less on information it gathers during its own field inspections alone and more on information that others provide, most of which is open-source, but some of which is not. This third-party data has become central to the IAEA's work, and it is about to become even more so. The leak of the graph to the AP underscores that if this data isn't rigorously vetted and handled carefully, the IAEA's technical and political credibility will be seriously compromised.
In the background looms Iran, the most high-profile case where the IAEA is using lots of third-party information to develop a complete picture of a country's nuclear program.


December 13, 2012 - Evidence of fraud continues to pile up, demonstrating more than ever before how shamefully crude and tenuous the allegations against Iran have always been and how gullible and politicized the IAEA has become since U.S. quisling Yukiya Amano took the hell of the agency.

Now that the credibility of the Evil Nuclear Graph of Doom has been totally obliterated, nuclear expert Yousaf Butt explains in the Christian Science Monitor:
The real concern this raises is over the quality and authenticity of other secret evidence Iran is being asked to answer to: Is it just as hollow? Could it have been faked by the "country critical of Iran's atomic program?" Let's recall that much of the case for the Iraq war was also based on false documents and breathless alarmism over technical-sounding things – yellowcake, aluminum tubes, etc. – which much of the media uncritically repeated. 
Worryingly, the AP story said that this amateurish and technically incorrect graph even made it into official reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, specifically one from November 2011 citing indications that Iran was trying to calculate the explosive yield of potential nuclear weapons. This raises another interesting issue: What if Iran is right when it says that the IAEA is confronting it with fabrications? And if this graph is a hoax how exactly is Iran supposed to come clean?
Even if, in the most far-fetched reaches of hypothetical scenarios, the graph is not totally phony and actually is related to nuclear weapons research, Butt still points out that this type of information, which has been readily available since the 1950's, "is not a secret, nor indicative of a nuclear weapons program."  In fact, "Odd as it may sound, it is possible that the IAEA is confronting Iran with shoddy homework gleaned from some Iranian college."

Butt also deftly addresses the absurdity of alarmism over Iran:
The nation is not diverting any declared nuclear material to any weapons program. The IAEA has verified this every year since it began monitoring Iran’s program. Hounding Iran about possible activities it may or may not have done years or even decades ago – especially if some of the allegations are possible hoaxes – is not going to solve anything.
Furthermore, he graph pushed by Jahn and his Israeli puppet-masters has finally "raised questions about an investigation being carried out by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors after it emerged that it formed part of a file of intelligence on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work held by the agency," writes The Guardian's Julian Borger.

The source of the allegations is also no longer a badly-kept secret.  According to Borger, "Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of leaks implicating Iran in nuclear weapons experiments in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran and halt its programme.  Western diplomats believe the leaks may have backfired, compromising a UN-sanctioned investigation into Iran's past nuclear activities and current aspirations."

Yeah, well, lying can do that.

It should also be noted that the United States intelligence services don't trust Israel either.  In fact, it was reported in May 2012 that, "[d]espite inarguable ties between the U.S. and its closest ally in the Middle East and despite statements from U.S. politicians trumpeting the friendship, U.S. national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat."

That's putting it gently.  The report continues:
The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency's Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials. Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from spies. This means the CIA believes that U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.
What an unshakable, unbreakable, sacrosanct, steadfast ally.

There's more:
Israel is not America's closest ally, at least when it comes to whom Washington trusts with the most sensitive national security information. That distinction belongs to a group of nations known informally as the "Five Eyes." Under that umbrella, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand agree to share intelligence and not to spy on one another. Often, U.S. intelligence officers work directly alongside counterparts from these countries to handle highly classified information not shared with anyone else.
Israel is part of a second-tier relationship known by another informal name, "Friends on Friends." It comes from the phrase "Friends don't spy on friends," and the arrangement dates back decades. But Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, and its FBI equivalent, the Shin Bet, both considered among the best in the world, have been suspected of recruiting U.S. officials and trying to steal American secrets.
So, wait, who's the real threat?



LanceThruster said...

False flags gotta false flag, no?

Yastreblyansky said...

Nice to see you enjoying yourself for a change! I feel kind of sorry for Silverstein, trying to be serious about the possibility that the thing actually does come from Iran.