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Witness Statement: Ali Afshari

Iran’s Intelligence-Gathering System

9. Generally, all intelligence gathering activities by security agencies in Iran must be coordinated with the Ministry of Intelligence. The Ministry of Intelligence retains primacy in determining the proper course of action regarding all intelligence gathering operations, and other security organizations must coordinate their intelligence activities with this ministry. Intelligence organizations affiliated with legal agencies such as the Army, the Judiciary and the Law Enforcement Forces have limited authority and are only allowed to conduct investigations regarding that agency’s operations and the protection of confidential documents and information related to the agency’s work. For example, the Intelligence Protection Center of the Judiciary is solely responsible for investigating the conduct and performance of judges and employees of Iran’s justice system. Similarly, the Intelligence Protection Office of the Law Enforcements is responsible for investigating violations committed by NAJA personnel.

10. Despite the existence of a general division of labor among Iran’s various intelligence gathering agencies, the regime does not always see itself as bound to this formal structure. In fact, it is political circumstance [and expedience] that often determines the specific roles and responsibilities of Iran’s intelligence gathering agencies. Before Khatami’s time (during which the system generally worked in a unified manner), officials selected intelligence gathering operations based on the expertise and functions of a particular agency. During the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami, however, this practice changed and officials no longer selected agencies based on their area of expertise or legal mandate, but rather on their [political] connections [and capabilities]. The agency that was closest to the official in charge was the one that was selected [to do the job.]

11. This type of relationship between the Judiciary and law enforcement units became more commonplace during the time of Khatami’s presidency. Under Iranian law, several organizations such as the Ministry of Intelligence, judicial police and the Law Enforcement Forces are considered to be “agents of the Judiciary.” Although the Judiciary, which was under the control of conservative forces during the reform period, had several different options for arresting the accused at its disposal, it often relied on agencies that shared the political views of the commanding officer (such as the Law Enforcement Forces). Of course, the most important decisions were always made by the Office of the Supreme Leader. After events leading to the Chain Murders were exposed and changes occurred within the Ministry of Intelligence, the Supreme Leader was disappointed by the fact that this ministry was no longer under his control. He decided, therefore, to establish the parallel intelligence apparatus. Given that a good working relationship existed between the Office of the Supreme Leader and the Intelligence Protection Center of the Judiciary (and the judicial branch was responsible for investigating and prosecuting national security and political crimes), a new parallel intelligence structure was created under the guise of the Judiciary. This structure included the intelligence protection offices of the Revolutionary Guards, Law Enforcement Forces, Army and the Judiciary. This prevented the government of Khatami from criticizing the actions of the parallel intelligence apparatus on legal grounds, because these apparatus were essentially hiding behind the Judiciary and taking advantage of the legal channels at their disposal.

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