Roger L. Simon

Flaming the Flame: The Case of the Mysterious Cyberleaks

Those perspicacious bloodhounds at the Washington Post reported today that U.S. and Israeli agents were the “clever boots” collaborating on the recently revealed “Flame” virus that has been infecting (mostly) Iranian computers of late. They published this “astonishing” news the very day Iran nuclear talks with the so-called 5+1 broke down for what feels like the five thousandth time.


I think not. It’s not even particularly surprising news, even though it did generate a Drudge link (no siren, however).

What’s interesting is the timing of the leak and its purpose. After all, it had long been reported, surmised earlier, that the same two countries had combined forces on “Stuxnet” and, as our ever-collegial Russian friends informed us, “Flame” was a veritable “Son of Stuxnet.” Like love and marriage, you couldn’t have one without the other.

So what’s the game? Why now and how did it happen?

As most of us in the news biz know, true investigative reporting is an extreme rarity, basically non-existent. To get a scoop that way, you would have to do some real work. That’s for college kids — or used to be. Most scoops arrive in much simpler fashion — by phone. Someone has something to leak. In this case that someone is an intelligence official with an axe to grind — exactly the kind of person you don’t want in your foxhole.

But never mind, why’d they do it? The superficial logic is to hype Barack Obama’s national security bona fides. Our president and his “great friend” Benjamin Netanyahu are working together to defend us against the Mad Mullahs. Vote Barack. Save Israel. Or something like that.

Well, maybe. But not bloody likely. Beyond the obvious that Obama has already made his disdain for Netanyahu painfully obvious, the WaPo report contains the following giveaway paragraph:

Flame was developed at least five years ago as part of a classified effort code-named Olympic Games, according to officials familiar with U.S. cyber-operations and experts who have scrutinized its code. The U.S.-Israeli collaboration was intended to slow Iran’s nuclear program, reduce the pressure for a conventional military attack and extend the timetable for diplomacy and sanctions.

Hold on – “at least five years ago”? That’s puts Flame’s instigation well back into the Bush administration. In fact, if Stuxnet predates Flame at all, as it sounds like it did, we could be considerably further back than that, in the early days of Bush.

So Obama had nothing to do with establishing this program, though I imagine he could have deep-sixed it. But that might well have been leaked on its own accord, creating a huge embarrassment for the new president and damaging him with Jewish voters, among others. Best to leave alone.

No, something else is going on here. And it is yet more nefarious, perhaps as nefarious as the execrable leakers themselves. It comes at a moment when it seems the talks with Iranians have finally imploded. In a sense they were always a charade, but now even the pretense that something could be worked out with the Islamic regime is disappearing. Yet more meetings in other venues have been reduced to farce. No one is even paying lip service to them. Soon, even the New York Times will be too ashamed to recommend more negotiation.

What is left but the use of force?

Well, nothing, assuming you don’t want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons. But that’s the problem. The liberal-left in our culture abhors the use of force. There must be an alternative and that is…

Cyberwar. It’s successful and it’s ongoing – at least according to the leakers and those in whose behalf they are leaking. They want us to believe that these high tech maneuvers are succeeding and will continue to succeed in keeping nukes out of the hands of the mullahs. They want us to rely on these means and not resort to violence.

Of course, this depends on the mullahs being nitwits. While that’s a tempting thought, I’m not so sure. I think even the average seventh grader would have battened down the cyber hatches by now, making the likelihood of someone slipping a loaded thumb drive in some Iranian scientist’s computer far less likely than it was.

But that doesn’t stop the leakers. Nothing does, apparently.

They have their reasons. What do you think they are?

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