Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

• January 27, 2015 1:20 pm


My must read of the day, "Argentinian government moves to dissolve domestic intelligence agency," in the Guardian:

Argentina’s president announced a major shakeup of her country’s intelligence network on Monday in her most combative step yet to address the fallout from the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

In her first televised address since the prosecutor’s body was found at his apartment on 18 January, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said she would support a bill to dissolve the existing structure—which employs more than 2,000 people—and replace it with a new federal intelligence agency.

Alberto Nisman had a 289-page report that he said showed the Iranian and Argentine government colluded in covering up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos, Aires, that left 85 people dead.

Nisman says he had this evidence, and less than a week later he’s killed hours before he was scheduled to present the report to the Argentine Congress.

First, investigators said the death was likely suicide and a third party wasn’t involved. They said the door to his apartment was locked from the inside and a single bullet, fired from a gun that was to lent to him by a friend, killed Nisman.

But then, there were questions as to whether or not the door was locked, and it turned out there were multiple ways a person could gain access to the apartment. Test for gunpowder on Nisman’s hand, which would presumably suggest he pulled the trigger, came back negative—but the investigator says that could be because the bullet was a low caliber.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner first agreed that it was a suicide, but then changed her opinion and said it was likely foul play. However, she thinks it’s a set up and someone in the intelligence agency carried it out in an effort to frame her.

Kirchner is now dismantling the intelligence agency, and the journalist who first reported Nisman’s death has fled the country.

It all sounds like a scene from The Untouchables, and it surprisingly has remained a back-page item.

This story is sensational, seemingly made for cable and primetime news, yet for the past week each time I turn my television on this is not the story I see.

It should be everywhere, because this is newsworthy. This is not just a crazy story out of Argentina that only matters to Argentinians and the community impacted by the 1994 attack—it matters for U.S. policy.

There are nineteen senators on the Foreign Relations Committee and, as of this morning, Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) are the only ones who even cared to release a statement about Nisman’s death.

The U.S. government is trying to negotiate a deal over Iran’s nuclear program; Congress is debating whether to pass legislation that would increase sanctions if those talks fail—but only a few people think it’s worthwhile to discuss the suspicious death of a prosecutor who was planning to present potentially damaging evidence of the Iranian governments involvement in Argentina’s biggest terrorist attack?

It is absurd, almost farcical, behavior.

It would be irresponsible to accuse Iran, or anyone—an individual or a government—of murder without concrete evidence. No one should do that, but that doesn’t mean the issue should be ignored. This warrants a lot of questions, and it’s problematic that both the media and the U.S. government are largely acting as if it doesn’t.

The Iranian government has a history of carrying out sophisticated assassinations.

In 1991, Shapour Bakhtiar, a former Iranian Prime Minister and advocate for democracy, was strangled and stabbed in his Paris home. French investigators tied the plot to "government ministries in Tehran."

Ultimately, Bakhtiar’s murder was one of many tied to the Iranian government. Most of them occurred over 20 years ago, but the Ayatollah—the man who actually controls the country—is the same guy from back then. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been Iran’s Supreme Leader since 1989.

There are two logical questions to ask immediately after a possible homicide, especially one that appears to be calculated:

1. Who would have a motive to do it?

2. Who would have the means to carry it out?

In the case of Nisman’s suspicious death, Iran is a potential answer for both.

We don’t know what happened to Nisman, but U.S. officials should have been the first to press Argentina and Iran about it. They are failing to do that, and the media is failing to adequately call them on it.

The disregard of Nisman’s death is negligent, in general, because we know the Iranian government’s past. It’s especially negligent to ignore when there are currently ongoing negotiations between the U.S. government and Tehran—and that should be an incredibly obvious statement.