Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 1, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

CHALABI UPDATE....So what did Ahmed Chalabi do that finally convinced his hawkish friends in the Pentagon to wash their hands of him? The Bush administration, which had asked news organizations not to publish the details of Chalabi's betrayal, withdrew its request today and the New York Times has the full story:

American officials said that about six weeks ago, Mr. Chalabi told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security that the United States was reading the communications traffic of the Iranian spy service, one of the most sophisticated in the Middle East.

According to American officials, the Iranian official in Baghdad, possibly not believing Mr. Chalabi's account, sent a cable to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, using the broken code. That encrypted cable, intercepted and read by the United States, tipped off American officials to the fact that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the code-breaking operation, the American officials said.

American officials reported that in the cable to Tehran, the Iranian official recounted how Mr. Chalabi had said that one of "them" a reference to an American had revealed the code-breaking operation, the officials said. The Iranian reported that Mr. Chalabi said the American had been drunk.

....It could not be learned exactly how the United States broke the code. But intelligence sources said that in the past, the United States has broken into the embassies of foreign governments, including those of Iran, to steal information, including codes.

So apparently Michael Ledeen had the story right the Iranian intelligence guy really did stupidly inform Tehran of the broken code using the broken code itself and the explanation apparently is that the Iranian thought Chalabi was a blowhard and didn't believe what he said. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty credible story.

The FBI investigation of this ought to be interesting. Unlike, say, Valerie Plame, the number of people who knew about the Iranian code and had contact with Chalabi has to be fairly small. There's a real chance they could catch someone.

Kevin Drum 11:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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