A couple of months ago I suggested that "rather than continue to give [Chalabi] taxpayer dollars, perhaps we might better spend our time considering how to take him into custody while we're still the sovereign authority in Iraq and have it within our power."
I wasn't kidding then. So how about it? If Chalabi is really responsible for espionage against the United States shouldn't we be thinking about getting a hold of him while we still can?
This new article in the Times suggests that the current investigation may later turn to Chalabi himself but that the "decision on that could be left to the new Iraqi government."
This is all rather hypothetical, I grant you. But why not act while we're still the sovereign authority in the country?
In any case, off to other things. The Times article is mainly about polygraph testing now being done on civilian employees at the Pentagon to see who spilled the beans to Chalabi.
A few points stand out to me about the piece.
First, we have Chalabi's lawyers sending a letter to DOJ protesting his innocence and demanding investigations into whomever is leaking these accusations against him. We also have more of his grandstanding claims that he "is very happy to come to the United States to appear before Congress or be interviewed by legitimate investigative agents in this matter." The idea here must be that Chalabi is like MacArthur being recalled from the field or something or that he gets to choose which branches of American law enforcement or the intelligence community are 'legitimate'. But to the best of my knowledge that's not a privilege we generally extend to foreign crooks or spies.
Let's also note in passing that one of the two attorneys who wrote the letter on Chalabi's behalf is Collette C. Goodman, an attorney at Shea & Gardner, Jim Woolsey's old firm which has been a registered foreign lobbyist/agent for the INC for years. It's a relationship that might bear some renewed scrutiny.
Finally, there's this passage in the Times article ...
The F.B.I. is looking at officials who both knew of the code-breaking operation and had dealings with Mr. Chalabi, either in Washington or Baghdad, the government officials said. Information about code-breaking work is considered among the most confidential material in the government and is handled under tight security and with very limited access.
But a wider circle of officials could have inferred from intelligence reports about Iran that the United States had access to the internal communications of Iran's spy service, intelligence officials said. That may make it difficult to identify the source of any leak.
This is something I've been giving a lot of thought to. But let me add another possible wrinkle to the story.
It says here that this could have been inferred from "intelligence reports". And that's probably right. But what we know about the shop Doug Feith et al. set up at the Pentagon is that they wanted to be sure they weren't relying on the CIA's or anyone else's analyses and reports. They wanted to look at the raw material itself. Now, there's raw and there's raw. And presumably such highly sensitive sources and methods info like this code stuff still wouldn't have been promiscuously discussed. But one can imagine that that raw intel might have included lots of highly valuable decoded communications from Iranian intelligence. And any of those folks, even if they weren't told directly, could have easily ascertained that we had broken the Iranians' code.
Finally, this article
in the Post
-- and some other news sources
-- raises a new line of defense for Chalabi: namely, that Chalabi may be the victim of an Iranian disinformation campaign.
As one administration official told the Post
: "As a secular Shia and a democrat, he's a threat to Iran, which wants to see an Islamic government in Iraq. Maybe these two Iranians were trying to set Chalabi up, knowing that the Americans would react viscerally if they suspected he had compromised codes."
This new line of reasoning is either disingenuous or truly sad, and perhaps both.
I'm not at all convinced that Chalabi was a spy per se
. From all we know about the guy I think it far more likely that he was just playing both sides and only truly working for himself. As our star waned in Iraq and Iran's waxed, he probably did more and more to curry their favor. And that may have led to sharing some of our prized information with them. I also don't completely discount the possibility that much of Chalabi's current problems are the result of a bureaucratic war being fought against his supporters in the administration. People can, after all, be both framed and guilty. Finally, perhaps the Iranians sent this some disinformation back to us simply to sow confusion in our ranks, notwithstanding who it might hurt in Iraq.
But the idea that they see Chalabi as a threat because he's likely to light the region afire with democracy is a sad misreading of which way the wind has been blowing of late. Set aside whether Chalabi compromised this piece of highly classified information. He has quite openly been courting Islamist groups in the country, setting up his Sharia caucus, hobnobbing with Iraqi Hezbollah, strengthening his ties to the Iranians and pro-Iranianian groups. (Of course, time has to be set aside for kidnapping and extortion and stealing SUVs. But, you know, I'm talking about the political front here.) And I don't know much of anyone who now doubts that Chalabi's intelligence chief was actually an Iranian agent.
So the idea that the Iranians see Chalabi as a threat that needs to be neutralized doesn't seem that likely -- though it does match up with a fantasy some folks seem to have a very hard time shaking.