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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Catching a Code

Michelle shudders to realize that she agrees with the Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle, on this one point:
Richard Perle, a former Pentagon adviser now with the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, said he finds it inconceivable that Iran's top intelligence official in Baghdad would have used a compromised channel to tell Tehran that the United States was reading its communications, as has been reported. U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted that message, which indicated Chalabi had provided the information.

"The idea that the Iranians, having been informed that their codes were broken, would then use their broken codes back to Iran is absurd," Perle said.
Now, Michelle is usually right on everything, and Perle is usually wrong, so I'm going to have to make a judgment call on this one. My guess is that Perle and Michelle are both wrong on this one (well, Michelle is mistaken while Perle is lying). Here is Michelle's explanation:
CBS seems to have the same story, doesn't quite fit, does it? I mean, if Chalabi told the Iranians that the U.S. had broken their code, why would they be sending information through that same compromised channel, knowing it could be decoded? Perhaps the messages were simply, hey this is no longer a secure line. But wouldn't it have made more sense to pretend they didn't know the code had been broken and just start sending disinformation across that line while creating a new code for the real information? I mean, that would seem like a great opportunity.
And here are several reasons why I think Michelle and the P of D are wrong:
  • Assuming that the Iranians were using the code for important messages, not all of them relating to screwing with the coalition in Iraq, using it for disinformation would mess up their own people more than it would ours (especially since ours seem to be already pretty messed up).
  • Our spooks would probably have realized that the Iranians knew we had their code when they changed it anyway
  • Chalabi supposedly got the info from a drunk administration official; who's to say he didn't give it to a drunk Iranian official? (My understanding is that liquor is a lot easier to get in Iraq than in Iran)
  • Iran is run by a bunch of religious zealots who seem to want to make nuclear weapons. In other words, pretty much like the US. Why should we expect their zealots to be smarter than ours? If you were an Iranian spy in Baghdad with cars blowing up all over and stuff, and somebody tells you that the Americans have broken your code, what's the first thing you do? You send the message back to Tehran.
So I'd suggest that letting us know that they knew that we knew wasn't exactly a major disaster for Iran. They may even have seen some value in embarrassing the US and/or Chalabi by letting us find out that they knew. I could buy the story that Scooter Libby, after telling Robert Novak about Valerie Plame, hung up, took another drink, and called Chalabi to tell him about the codes.