Andrea Mitchell   |  February 21, 2013

UN report: Iran installing high-tech nuclear centrifuges

According to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, Iran has started installing advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant. Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, discusses.

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>>> some disturbing news today coming from the u.n.'s nuclear watch dogs agency, the iaea which reports officially that iran has started installing advanced september finalings at its main uranium enrichment plant. michael leiter is a former director of the national anti-terrorism center and cyber security analyst. michael, first of all, we expected this from iran . they did warn the iaea that they were doing this, but this is just another step forward toward what could be an approaching showdown with israel and the united states ahead of talks that are to take place in kazakhstan next week.

>> it is, and it's an especially dynamic time , as you note. it's a week before the first meeting in almost a year, i believe, of the p- 6 nations to discuss the way forward on iran , potentially to offer some incentives to them to -- on the economic sanctions if they reduce some of the nuclear activity. this certainly does not contribute to a willingness, i would think, on the part of the p-6. also, it's just a few weeks before the elections in iran , and although the supreme leader has incredible sway there, there is a segment amount of disent within the country, and those electric elections in iran will help us understand whether there is any opportunity before the time expires either this summer or a little bit later from the perspective of israel for having a peaceful resolution to this.

>> in fact, we should just point out " morning joe " israel 's ambassador to the united states said that the red line for the closing of the window of opportunity or vulnerability is this summer. that israel -- that's their red line . they don't want to wait until iran even is potentially creating a bomb. they want to act before they no longer, you know, have the ability to see what iran is doing.

>> and i think there will now be a lot of analysis about how this announcement about the new centrifuges affects that red line . the fact that they're going to connect it doesn't actually mean that they're up and spinning, so you are actually enriching the uranium. it may take time to do that. it seems very unlikely this would push israel 's red line out farther into the future, and it would likely either keep it the same or move it back potentially.

>> and netanyahu has just now finally been able to create a new government, a new coalition government . he is weakened in that he had to create this government with the former foreign minister of the op sfwligs -- former opposition party , which then dissolved. but the point is he is going to be meeting with president obama in late march and this is a very critical time for both of our countries. let me ask you a related question. related in that iran 's progress towards a nuclear weapon or whatever it is that they are working on would certainly be slowed by a couple of years by whoever -- i'm not going to put ow the spot because you were in government at the time -- whoever messed with their computer systems , the computer virus . we know there were suspicions that it was the united states and israel . now the whole issue of cyber attacks from china . i have never seen so much public conversation about this. there's the new report that suggested for the first time that it was not just china generically, but china and this particular unit, an elite unit, of the military.

>> what we've seen over the past two weeks is really an explosion of press around the cyber security issue, and i frankly think that's a very good thing because what people on the inside and people in corporate america have seen over the past couple of years is an absolute explosion of theft the u.s. corporate secrets and intellectual property by the chinese made public, as you said, this week, at least some of that by the people's liberation army . what some in the u.s. intelligence community have termed the largest transfer of wealth many history as the chinese have taken the sensitive economic secrets from the u.s. and then put them to use for chinese economic purposes. that has -- those reports along with presidential activity and the issuing of the executive order to try to strengthen u.s. sovereign defenses, those are early steps, but i think we still have lots of time to see how this develops. we're going see legislation from the hill. the house intelligence committee is already offering some up. the senate in the past has had some. there are iffing to be fights over what that legislation says. how much privacy is included in it, how information is shared. we're also going to see how tough the administration really does get with china . ultimately we can defend a lot, but the question is can we deter the chinese and other nations from actually attacking us?

>> well, one big question now that the administration has to decide. does this define our relationship diplomatically? the president meets with the new chinese leader whom he met wh when the transition in china takes place and they have their first summit, is this the first thing that the president brings up? we cannot have a stable relationship with you and a trading partner relationship if you continue these attacks that you deny.

>> my inclination is honestly the interests between the u.s. and china are too broad for any one issue to really truly define and be dispositive about that relationship. we've just been talking about iran . we have in previous sessions talked about north korea . we've talked about action at the security council related to syria. these are all issues where the u.s. and china and russia for that matter have to find common ground and cooperate. now, cyber security absolutely now is in the president's top talking points , but whether or not he confronts them and says nothing else can work before we solve this cyber security problem, i don't actually think the administration is yet there.

>> and, in fact, may never be there. let's just look who is holding our debt. just another minor issue.

>> that's right.

>> michael, thanks very much sfwroosh my pleasure.

>> and coming up next, in the politico briefing, rick scott 's surprise reversal drawing fire in florida. [ male announcer ] marie callender 's finally found a way to get her oven baked taste straight from the