June 03, 2004

Spy Games

Not much to say about Chalabi's intelligence leak to the Iranians, except to rag on this Michael Ledeen column. According to Ledeen's spy-friend J.J. Angleton, Chalabi couldn't have possibly told the Iranians that we had broken their communication codes:

Impossible! If the Iranians knew that we were reading their mail, they would never let us know that they knew. They would continue to use the codes, but instead of sending accurate messages they would use those channels for disinformation against us.
How clever! The only problem: Disinformation campaigns of this sort are difficult to pull off and hence, extremely rare. Two Cold War examples come to mind. After the Russians discovered our infamous spy tunnel in Berlin, they continued to carry on normal communications for several months. Likewise, when the US discovered that the Moscow Embassy had been bugged in the 1980s, Secretary of State George Shultz decided simply to conduct business as usual rather than carry out a disinformation campaign.

So, maybe Angleton knows what sort of sneaky tricks he would have pulled; but it seems perfectly reasonable and precedented for the Iranians simply to call game over and switch codes.

(Of course, The New York Times makes this all a moot point: Chalabi did indeed pass along intelligence to the Iranians. Our hero!)
-- Brad Plumer 8:35 PM || ||