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In Amiri case, echoes from Soviet era

He was seen as a coup for U.S. intelligence, a prized defector who could provide critical intelligence on one of the nation's main adversaries. But then he had a change of heart and decided to return home, claiming that he had been kidnapped and drugged by the CIA.

The case of Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri is an unusual one, but not entirely unfamiliar.

Twenty-five years ago, a Soviet KGB officer named Vitaly Yurchenko followed a seemingly similar path into and out of the CIA's clutches. After providing valuable secrets to the CIA, including the identity of a U.S. mole, Yurchenko was given $1 million and a house in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. But then he walked away, seeking refuge at the Soviet embassy, much as Amiri made his way to Iran's consular office on Wisconsin avenue this week.

When defectors return to their home countries, it can be because they are homesick or fear for their families. But it doesn't happen often, because the dangers are such a disincentive.

In the mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law escaped to Jordan and began sharing secrets about Baghdad's banned weapons programs. He returned to Iraq after being promised that all would be forgiven. Within days, he was dead.

Yurchenko's case had a happier outcome, for him at least. The Soviets opted to take advantage of the propaganda value of the return of their prodigal KGB son rather than make an example of his alleged betrayal.

One of the questions surrounding Amiri's apparently imminent departure is how he will be greeted when he is back in Tehran, regardless of what he has been saying from Washington.

By Greg Miller  | July 13, 2010; 2:48 PM ET
 
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Comments

Betcha a nickel he's tortured to death... Any takers?

Posted by: steveinva | July 14, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

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