Marcy Wheeler asks important questions about the alleged “Iranian Plot”

On Monday Marcy Wheeler exposed important holes in the U.S. legal case against Manssor Arbabsiar in The Atlantic. For example, why did the Drug Enforcement Agency informant tape neither the initial meeting with Arbabsiar or a later series of meetings in June and July?

This means, among other things, that the tapes do not include an account of how the plot was first initiated and how it evolved from the kidnapping plot, which Arbabsiar said in his confession that he was he first instructed to set up, to an assassination. Who first raised the idea of using explosives in the assassination? Arbabsiar is charged with intent to use weapons of mass destruction — in this case, the bombing. But with these key conversations never recorded, it’s difficult or impossible to prove who first suggested the most damning details that legally turned a kidnapping plot into a terrorism plot.

Wheeler also wonders why Arbabsiar cooperated so quickly and willingly with the authorities. The evidence might be in the original complaint in the case, writes Wheeler, but it remains sealed.

But we don’t yet understand why a man arrested — purportedly for an assassination attempt — waived his right to a lawyer and within hours started to give the government all the evidence it needed to fill in any gaps in their case. His cooperation is all the more curious given that four of the five charges against him (the fifth is using interstate commerce to arrange a murder for hire) are conspiracy charges that probably couldn’t have been charged before Arbabsiar implicated Shakuri. The government surely could have charged him with other things, such as wire fraud, without the conspiracy charges. So why would Arbabsiar provide the evidence for four new charges against him that could put himself in prison for life?

One document that might explain Arbabsiar’s motives for cooperating is the original complaint in this case. The document that’s been publicly released is actually an amended complaint written 12 days after his arrest, presumably written to incorporate Shakuri in the charges based on Arbabsiar’s cooperation. But in a rather unusual move, the first complaint against Arbabsiar remains sealed — meaning we don’t know when the government first charged him or for what — with the approval of the Chief Judge in Manhattan, possibly in an entirely different docket (the amended complaint is entry number 1 in this docket). Thus, it is possible that Arbabsiar was originally charged for a completely unrelated crime — perhaps the opium deal. And it is possible Arbabsiar was charged much earlier than his arrest on September 29. As a result, we don’t know what kind of incentives the government might have offered Arbabsiar for his testimony.

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.