Meet Parviz Sabeti, aka Peter Sabeti, a one-time director of Department III of the feared pre-Revolution Iranian secret service, known as the Sazeman-e Attela’at Va Amniat-e Keshvar (Organization for information and protection of the country) or simply, SAVAK. Acting as the Shah of Iran’s eyes and ears in Iran, SAVAK agents received training from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), British MI-6, and Israel’s Mossad in all forms of intelligence tradecraft, including electronic snooping, counter-intelligence, and – Sabeti’s chief specialty – torture.
As can be seen from his last name, Sabeti is an Iranian “Jew” (“Sabeti” is derived from the Sabbatean crypto Jews of the Ottoman Empire who are also known by the Turkish name “Dönmeh”) who not only served as the chief interrogator for the Shah in Tehran’s infamous circular Ebrat prison, built by Germany’s Nazi government in 1937, but was also on the payroll of the Mossad and CIA.
After a career of arresting and torturing loyalists to former Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was ousted in the CIA’s 1953 Operation Ajax coup, in 1978, Sabeti turned his attention to a restive group of Shi’a Muslim clerics who were rising in opposition to the Shah’s increasingly dictatorial regime. The Shah ordered Sabeti to arrest and bring into its prison for “questioning” several hundred followers of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, himself exiled in Paris. Among them was Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, now the Leader of the Islamic Revolution. Many detainees were beaten on their feet, faces, and torsos, subjected to pins being forced into the quick of their fingernails and having their nails pulled out, repeatedly dunked into the prison’s central water fountain, hanged upside down and beaten, forced into often heart attack-inducing stress positions, subjected to cigarette and lighter burns, and subjected to electric shocks to their fingers, toes, nipples, and testicles. The machine used for the electric shocks was the “Apollo,” a black metal chair with a black metal hood used for head shocks that was manufactured in and exported to Iran by Israel. …
A former Iran analyst for the central intelligence agency said yesterday that his reports characterizing Shah Pahlevi as thirsty for power and a megalomaniac were repeatedly rejected by the agency as being contrary to official US policy.
Jesse Leaf said in an interview that for five years had had been the chief CIA analyst on Iran before resigning from the agency in 1973…. A spokesman for the CIA confirmed that Mr. Leaf had been an employee there but said, “We will not discuss former employees.”
Mr. Leaf also said in the interview that he and his colleagues knew of the torture of Iranian dissenters by Savak, the Iranian secret police set up during the late 1950’s by the Shah with help from the CIA. Furthermore, Mr. Leaf said, a senior CIA official was involved in instructing officials in the Savak on torture techniques, although Mr. Leaf said that to his knowledge no americans did any of the torturing. The CIA’s torture seminars, Mr. Leaf said, “were based on German torture techniques from World War II.”
The Shah himself was “one of our sources” of information, Mr. Leaf said. “He was a regular contact for a case officer.”
Mr. Leaf said that because of the CIA’s complacency about the Shah, no one considered protesting about the Savak’s use of torture. “Why should we protest? We were on their side, remember?”
Although the Iranian use of torture was widely known inside the agency, Mr. Leaf said, he knew of no Americans who admitted that they witnessed such treatment. “I do remember seeing and being told of people who were there seeing the rooms and being told of torture. And I know that the torture rooms were toured and it was all paid for by the USA.”
Mr. Leaf said he decided to resign from the CIA after receiving an adverse fitness report in 1973. His basic complaint, he said, was that “policy pretty much determines reporting rather than the other way around.”
— Seymour Hersh, New York Times, 1/7/79
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