Michael Totten

Hezbollah, Infiltrated

Lee Smith, in a somewhat counterintuitive piece in Tablet, argues that Hezbollah, and not the United States, comes out the bigger loser now that it is claiming it found many CIA spies in its ranks.

Hezbollah’s entire prestige is built on the idea that it is a highly disciplined organization that is nearly impossible to infiltrate. Indeed, Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah’s June speech announcing that Hezbollah had rolled up CIA assets was the party’s first public admission that it’d been compromised by hostile services. Hezbollah, said Nasrallah, had the “courage to confront the truth.”

The truth is that no matter how many American spies Hezbollah ultimately captured, being infiltrated by a hostile clandestine service is evidence of weakness. Moreover, as the Cold War showed, uncovering moles may result in tighter security measures, but the fact that they went unnoticed in the first place almost invariably demoralizes any organization built on loyalty and secrecy. In the 1960s and ’70s, paranoia crippled the CIA’s head of counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton, after he became convinced that the agency had been penetrated by Soviet agents. In Hezbollah’s case, the damage will likely be worse, because this incident exposes the utter falsehood of the party of God’s divinely fashioned self-mythology.

He does have a point. If the story were reversed and the CIA claimed it found a dozen Hezbollah agents on its payroll, Hezbollah would suddenly look much more powerful, and the CIA weaker, than it did the day before.