Security expert Bruce Schneier has some really interesting analysis of the story about how our boy Ahmed Chalabi was caught telling the Iranians we had broken their intelligence code–because the Iranians used the compromised code to communicate the fact that he’d done so: Breaking Iranian codes.
There’s a giddy Pynchon-esque recursiveness to the story, and to the whole notion of compromising the other side’s secrets, but then pretending that you haven’t in order to keep the other side from knowing that you’ve done so. An excerpt:
If the Iranians knew that the U.S. knew, why didn’t they pretend not to know and feed the U.S. false information? Or maybe they’ve been doing that for years, and the U.S. finally figured out that the Iranians knew. Maybe the U.S. knew that the Iranians knew, and are using the fact to discredit Chalabi.
The really weird twist to this story is that the U.S. has already been accused of doing that to Iran. In 1992, Iran arrested Hans Buehler, a Crypto AG employee, on suspicion that Crypto AG had installed back doors in the encryption machines it sold to Iran — at the request of the NSA. He proclaimed his innocence through repeated interrogations, and was finally released nine months later in 1993 when Crypto AG paid a million dollars for his freedom — then promptly fired him and billed him for the release money. At this point Buehler started asking inconvenient questions about the relationship between Crypto AG and the NSA.
So maybe Chalabi’s information is from 1992, and the Iranians changed their encryption machines a decade ago.
Or maybe the NSA never broke the Iranian intelligence code, and this is all one huge bluff.
In this shadowy world of cat-and-mouse, it’s hard to be sure of anything.