Iran writes to IAEA, voices concerns on confidentiality of information

February 15, 2021 - 18:54

TEHRAN – Iran has sent a lengthy letter to Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to inform him of Iran’s concerns about the leakage of the information that Iran has provided to the UN nuclear watchdog.

The letter was sent by Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna. The IAEA announced on Tuesday last week that it has received the letter.

“Upon instructions received from my Government, I am writing to you regarding the urgent need for addressing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s concerns and observations on the protection of confidential information,” Garibabadi wrote to Grossi.
The Iranian ambassador highlighted the harmful consequences of leaking confidential information for Iran’s national security, urging the IAEA to take measures to protect classified information.

“Protection of national security, involving persons, property, society and the environment, from harmful consequences of sharing and releasing classified nuclear information is the overall objective of a Member State especially when cooperates with the Agency or any other States. Indeed, such information should be classified, protected and secured with appropriate measures by the IAEA,” Gharibabadi stated.

He added, “Protecting the confidential information, which is made available to the Agency by means of verification activities, is crucial to ensuring, inter-alia, the security of sensitive information. Therefore, public release of and-or access to classified safeguards information, especially regarding nuclear materials, activities and facilities of a Member State, is a very highly sensitive matter precisely related to the rights and interests of that State including on the subject of its national security.”

Gharibabadi noted that Iran considers protecting the confidentiality of information as a fundamental issue.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran acknowledges the fact that protection of confidential information has long been a fundamental issue in the deliberations about the Agency’s internal regulations. However, despite existing normative regulations, the leak of or unauthorized access to confidential information of the Agency in the last two decades, has been a critical challenge on the way of cooperation between the Agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Gharibabadi stated, noting, “During the past two decades, despite all progress in this field, Iran’s concerns about the lack of proper implementation of the confidentiality obligations by the Agency have been frequently notified, which are yet to be properly addressed.”

According to Gharibabadi, the responsibility for protecting confidential information lies with the IAEA.

“Undoubtedly, the Agency is responsible for the preservation and protection of the confidential information and Iran has the right to request the Agency for placing any supportive policies, plans and procedures or revising the existing ones in this regard. In fact, the credibility of the verification regime and the future prospect of cooperation between Member States and the Agency absolutely relies on the policy and ability of the Agency in protecting the confidentiality of safeguards information,” he continued.

Gharibabadi expressed concern about the leakage of the information that Iran provided to international inspectors in good-will.

“Disclosure of confidential information, especially regarding Iran’s nuclear activities and facilities, which has been provided to the Agency’s inspectors in good-will and as a transparency and confidence-building measure, is of serious concern,” the Iranian ambassador said.

He added that “a State may request the classification of a particular document as safeguards confidential, and that in no event would such a document be declassified without that State's consent. Through these documents, the Board also endorsed that the Agency Statute and the Staff Regulations and Rules impose on Agency current and former staff members an obligation not to disclose any confidential information known to them due to their official position. The Agency itself, as an international person with juridical personality, has international duties, the breach or non-observance of which may engage Agency responsibility.”

The Iranian ambassador underlined, “Providing the Agency with necessary information and monitoring and verification tools should not be done at the cost of compromising the rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran and obligations of the Agency for preservation and protection of sensitive and confidential information.”

Garibabadi added, “The boundaries between the principles of confidentiality and transparency have been blurred, thus misunderstood. Transparency requires States to provide the Agency with required information and cooperation regarding their nuclear activities. Nevertheless, relying on this principle, the Agency cannot and should not shoulder off its responsibility regarding the protection of the confidentiality principle, because transparency does not mean divulging confidential information. Else, it would lead to damages on the concerned State Party, either commercial or security, which may invoke the Agency's legal responsibility.”

The Iranian ambassador warned that disclosing information pertaining to Iran’s nuclear activities will inflict damage on the country.

“There is no need to emphasize that due to wide-range of the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear activities in various fields and the broad inspection activities by the Agency in Iran, as well as various detailed reports prepared by the Agency on the results of verification activities, disclosure of such safeguards-related confidential information inflicts commercial, technological and industrial damages and brings security threats to the country,” Gharibabadi asserted.

The recent letter by Gharibabadi was not the first time that Iran is criticizing the IAEA for not protecting Iran-related information.

In early December, Gharibabadi criticized the leaking of a report on Iran’s nuclear development by the IAEA, saying the IAEA shall ensure confidentiality of safeguards information.

“@iaeaorg confidential report, based on Iran's confidential letter, appeared in Media immediately even before the BoG Members could track it down. Agency is not merely responsible to update the development, but shall ensure confidentiality of safeguards information,” Gharibabadi said in a tweet at the time.

“If neither the Agency nor its Member States are to be blamed for this crack in confidentiality, @iaeaorg should revise its confidentiality mechanisms including regarding using GovAtom as the safe and confidential means for communications,” he added.

The response by Ambassador Gharibabadi came after Reuters reported that Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant at Natanz.

Citing a confidential IAEA report, Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz.

Gharibabadi had also said that Iran would legally pursue the leakage of the IAEA report.

“Iran’s objections and legal proceedings against the Agency in the field of protecting confidential information have a history of more than two decades,” Kazem Gharibabadi said in an interview with IRINN.

“At various times, based on our country’s commitments and the mission given to the Agency by the Board of Governors, the Agency has prepared reports on the verification of the implementation of the obligations and submitted them to the Board of Governors,” Gharibabadi stated.

He further explained that for a long time “the Agency’s safeguard reports, which were also very detailed, were prepared and distributed among the members, and in the last five years, the reports on the JCPOA (nuclear deal) have been replaced.”

He added that there are two problems along the way, namely the extent of details of safeguards activities that should be reflected in these reports, and the flawed mechanism for informing the members of the Agency.

“These reports are leaked to the media before they are declassified,” Gharibabadi lamented.

The Iranian ambassador emphasized that all safeguards and nuclear deal reports, as well as Iran’s correspondence with the IAEA and vice versa, are confidential.

He reiterated that the primary responsibility for protecting confidential information lies with the United Nations nuclear watchdog.