Project Elbow Rub remained highly classified throughout the 1990s. The exact nature of the capability developed during 1980 remained on the cutting edge of military technology. John Arnold continued to be associated with Special Operations and became known for his intellect and keen ability to grasp difficult concepts and then apply them to unique military requirements.
The Counterproliferation Division within the CIA's Directorate of Operations, the agency's clandestine espionage arm, came up with creative -- if unorthodox -- clandestine operations to try to penetrate Tehran's nuclear development program. In some cases, the CIA has worked jointly with Israeli intelligence on such operations, according to people familiar with the covert program. None are known to have worked.
One bizarre plan called for the sabotage of Iran's electrical grid in areas of the country near its secret nuclear installations. The CIA conducted tests of the electrical sabotage equipment at the U.S. government's Nevada nuclear test range. The plan called for an electromagnetic pulse device that could be smuggled into Iran and then hidden next to large power transmission lines carrying electricity into the country's nuclear facilities. The CIA would later remotely detonate the device, which would send a massive electrical pulse down the power lines, shorting out the computer systems inside the Iranian nuclear complex.
The CIA worked with Mossad, Israel's spy service, on the plan, and Mossad agents volunteered to smuggle the devices into Iran. The Israelis told the CIA that they had Iranian agents who would carry out the plan on their behalf.
But there were major technical problems that made the plan unworkable. The electromagnetic devices were so large that they had to be carried in a large truck, and then parked next to the power lines; the CIA realized that was impossible.
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