No wonder Bush "doesn't know him"...
Reports: Chalabi tipped Iran about breaking of code
Wednesday, June 2, 2004 Posted: 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile who recently lost his standing as a special friend of the Bush administration, told Iran that the United States had broken the code of its intelligence service, according to broadcast and published reports.
CBS News initially reported Tuesday that Chalabi had told an Iranian intelligence official that the United States had cracked its codes, allowing U.S. agents to read Iran's secret communications.
Revealing such information would expose one of the United States' most important sources of information about Iran.
Following the broadcast report, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post followed with similar stories, all quoting anonymous U.S. intelligence officials.
The New York and Los Angeles papers said they had learned some details of widely reported U.S. assertions last month that Chalabi had given classified material to Iran, but had agreed not to publish those details at the request of U.S. officials who said to do so would endanger an ongoing investigation.
The two papers said those requests to withhold the information they had gathered were withdrawn Tuesday when other news accounts began appearing.
A CIA official declined to comment on the reports Tuesday night.
American officials quoted in the news reports said Chalabi told the Baghdad chief of the Iranian spy service that the United States was reading its communications and that the Iranian spy described the conversation in a message to Tehran, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
The New York Times account said Iranians in Tehran then sent a bogus message to Baghdad purportedly disclosing the location of an important weapons site, in an apparent attempt to test whether what they were hearing from Chalabi was true.
The idea was that if the United States was able to intercept such transmissions, Americans would react by going to the weapons site. They intercepted the message, according to the Times, but did not take the bait by going to the weapons site.
Chalabi reportedly told the Iranian he had gotten the information from an American who had been drunk.
FBI agents were reported to be questioning Defense Department officials in an effort to find out who gave such information to Chalabi.
Chalabi, a member of the Shiite Islamic sect to which the majority of Iranians and Iraqis belong, once was a favorite of Pentagon officials.
He had provided intelligence to the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction, which was used to justify the U.S. war against Iraq, but his information came under major criticism after no weapons were found.
The CIA has long been suspicious of Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, but he had maintained strong supporters in other government agencies.
Until last month, his organization was on the U.S. government payroll, receiving roughly $340,000 a month from the Defense Department for intelligence under a specific authorization from Congress.