Chalabi Reportedly Told Iran That U.S. Had Code
Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi leader and former ally of the Bush administration, disclosed to an Iranian official that the United States had broken the secret communications code of Iran’s intelligence service, betraying one of Washington’s most valuable sources of information about Iran, according to United States intelligence officials.
The F.B.I. has opened an espionage investigation seeking to determine exactly what information Mr. Chalabi turned over to the Iranians as well as who told Mr. Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken, government officials said. The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.
Obviously, a serious charge on a whole host of levels.
The obvious question is why would anyone divulge such an amazingly close secret on to someone outside the inner circle, let alone one without a clearance, let alone a man with Chalabi’s dubious provenance. Matt Yglesias, while joking, is probably close to right: “Chalabi was treated and portrayed as a man whose interests were all-but-identical to those of the United States and, under those circumstances, why wouldn’t you share sensitive intelligence with the future leader of the New Middle East?” Josh Marshall has asimilar reaction. Certainly, it’s plausible. Depending on who the classifiying authority was on this, it was almost certainly criminal for anyone to have shared this with someone without a Top Secret clearance who had not read into the compartmented program. Unfortunately, political appointees often don’t take the clearance process particularly seriously.
Kevin Drum is confident that we’ll find the answer to this one: “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.” Not to mention that the incentive is reversed here: it’s clearly in the Administration’s interest to find the leaker.
Rick Lowry notes, “there is one strong reason to disbelieve the allegations–the CIA has been wrong about pretty much everything having to do with Iraq up to this point.” There is that.
Glenn Reynolds observes, “[T]he one thing I’m sure of is that we’re not getting the whole story here, for good or for ill.” Almost certainly, although it’s hard to see what the good might be.