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TEHRAN, May 24 (UPI) -- Three U.S. hikers who crossed into Iran from Iraq were involved in a spy operation, Iranian intelligence officials said.
Joshua Felix Fattal, 27, Shane Michael Bauer, 27, and Sarah Emily Shourd, 31, have been held in an Iranian prison since their arrest July 31 in the western Iranian district of Marivan.
They were charged with espionage, Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said.
"It is clear that the three Americans are spies," Moslehi told reporters Sunday adding there have been no talks of a prisoner swap, as of yet.
As a humanitarian gesture, I
Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare
The New York Times reported on one major operational plan, which authorizes intelligence gathering and reconnaissance activities in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. A Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, was signed on September 30, 2009, by CENTCOM commander in chief David Petraeus. It was marked "LIMDIS" -- as in "limited distribution," and hard copies were delivered to about 30 people. The Times did not report its original classified codename, "Avocado." The name has since been changed.
It is unusual for a combatant commander to be given the ability to ask civilians to collect intelligence in countries like Iran. It is not clear under what legal authority he can do so. The CIA's National Resources Division regularly keeps touch with academics and business people who travel to hostile countries, and occasionally requests from them specific tasks. The Department of Defense, at Petreaus's request, set up a parallel organization called the Civillian Expeditionary Workforce that hires non-soldiers and non-contractors for temporary military-type tasks using detainee interrogations. White House and Pentagon spokespeople declined to comment.
It's really hard to know