Tonight, I’m writing a blog post that no blogger wants to write. And almost none do, even ones who should. I recently reported an AP story that reputed to offer a leaked Iranian nuclear explosion simulation prepared by its thee most senior nuclear scientists.
In my story, I noted my grave skepticism that the document was what it claimed to be. But I did, at the time, accept that it was at least Iranian in origin, since my own Israeli source told me the graph had been stolen from an Iranian computer via Israeli malware that hacked into it.
After hearing the scientific judgments of Prof. Muhammad Sahimi, two specialists at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and the reporting of Glenn Greenwald, it’s likely my source was wrong and that the diagram probably isn’t Iranian in origin. Since the source of the leak was the Mossad, it appears it is a forgery created by the Mossad (or possibly its Iranian proxies, the MEK) with the help of Israeli technical experts and Israeli Farsi-speakers.
There is one way in which the story I was told might still be correct. If Iran left the document in some location that was easily viewed or hacked, deliberately wishing the Israelis to find and publicize it, so that they could further discredit the spy agency–then the version I offered might still be correct. Don’t scoff at the plausibility of this theory, because that’s precisely what Hamas did to the Mossad when they betrayed Dirar Abusisi. They leaked word he was its supposed rocket mastermind and that he also knew the hiding place of Gilad Shalit. Israeli intelligence took the bait and kidnapped Abusisi, only to find that they’d been “had” and the Gaza civil engineer knew nothing.
But I admit this version of events is a long shot. What’s more likely is that Mossad wanted to divert world attention from the Gaza assault and recriminations against Israel for its massacre of civilians; plus Israel anticipated today’s UN vote recognizing Palestine as a state. What better way to focus the world on the Israeli agenda than by passing off a doctored Iranian scientific graph as the real thing, hoping to get a few days worth of news cycle that painted Iran as the villain. As Sahimi wrote in Antiwar.com:
This is the type of “evidence” that Jahn and AP provide. But here is the crucial point: the goal is not to prove anything. This sort of campaign requires no real evidence, but merely the constant reiteration of accusations, so that a layman or casual observer is ultimately led to believe that there must be something to them…
As as far as what my role in all this was, presuming the information my source passed to me came from similar Israeli intelligence circles, they might’ve been hoping to buttress the claim that the documents were authentic by spreading word that they secured them through cyber-theft. What they may not have bargained for, was the speedy identification of the diagram as a fake and the fact that I might retract the story offered to me by my source.
In this business, and given the levels of opacity regarding Israeli military and intelligence matters, you have to trust your sources. But you also have to recognize that they have personal or political agendas, as do the IDF or Mossad sources who convey information to them. Frankly, I’d rather have the source and take the chance that once in a while he’s either going to get it wrong or be sold a bill of goods by his own source. It’s the chance you take.
The only thing you know for sure is your own motives and integrity, which is why I’m saying here now that I probably got part of that post wrong. You almost never find bloggers or journalists saying they got a story wrong (or partially wrong in my case). It reminds me of Walter Mondale’s memorable debate line against Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did
Returning to the Mossad, all this makes you wonder whether anything Mossad does is real. Far too much of their activity is based on smoke and mirrors. Though that’s always been the case with spy craft, other spy agencies have acted with far more finesse than Mossad. You get the impression that these people are spooks of very little brain, who prefer muscle or brute force to subtlety or nuance.