Well-handled, tricky research regarding the highly secretive work of Pentagon agents to keep American-made weapons out of Iranian and Chinese hands.
Reuters investigative reporter Shiffman (co-author, with Robert K. Wittman: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, 2010) ably conveys the complexity and suspense around the CIA’s Operation Shakespeare, one of a dozen overseas counterproliferation stings aimed at the black-market arms networks that have developed since 9/11. The author delves into stories behind the figures buying highly sensitive American technology and munitions and using it against American soldiers abroad—e.g., an IED in Iraq with a remote control trigger that can be traced back to a manufacturer in California. In 2003, under the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, the agencies of U.S. Customs merged with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to become Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and grew much more aggressive in targeting shadow networks in Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China, many of which purchase arms from U.S. defense contractors and high-tech manufacturers—despite rigorous export security laws and regular visits to these businesses by Homeland Security agents. Operation Shakespeare involved the opening of a storefront as a lure to foreigner customers, where agent Patrick J. Lechleitner began sniffing out the bad guys. One example was Cross International, “worldwide procurer of military and defense-related items and technology” in Yardley, Pennsylvania. In 2004, a certain “Alex Dave,” purportedly based in Dubai, began requesting jet parts and radioisotopes; Dave was actually Amir Ardebili, an Iranian broker working for the Iranian navy and other outfits who eagerly ordered parts from Cross, wiring payment through Swiss banks and arranging convoluted transports via Dubai. Shiffman dutifully follows agents to Dubai, Frankfurt, Wilmington, and Tbilisi, Georgia, among other places, as the operation took on increasing complexity until Ardebili was finally nabbed in 2007.
A well-organized, troubling exposé of the pervasiveness of this shadowy “technology transfer.”