Googling Laptops of Death

Remember that story the other day, about some State Department analyst googling Iranians so John Bolton and Robert “16 Words” Joseph would have someone to sanction? Well, I just saw atArms Control Wonk that the program they want to sanction relates to the “laptop of death.”

The laptop of death, you say? Well, that’s the laptop some MEK member one handed over which had plans for a new missile design on it … which the warmongers promptly claimed was proof of Iran’s intention to bomb the Jesus out of Israel. I covered the laptop of death in this post, where I highlighted reporting that,

According to one official with access to the material, a “walk-in” source approached U.S intelligence earlier this month with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents,

The same article went on to explain that this walk-in “was not previously known to U.S. intelligence” and the laptop of death he turned over “does not mention uranium or any other area of Iran’s known nuclear program.”

Then I looked at more reporting on the laptop of death which said,

U.S. intelligence estimates acknowledge that other possibilities are plausible, though unverified.

The problem, acknowledged one U.S. official, is that the evidence is not definitive. Briefers “say you can’t draw any other conclusion, and of course you can draw other conclusions,” said the official, who would discuss the closed-door sessions only on condition of anonymity

And in this post, I looked at renewed reporting on the laptop of death, only to discover the unknown, unreliable people who turned it over had a new, more elaborate story about how they got it:

allegedly stolen from an Iranian whom German intelligence tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit as an informant. It was whisked out of the country by another Iranian who offered it up to foreign intelligence officials in Turkey as evidence of a nuclear weapons program.

I guess you kind of get my point, huh? This thing looks like nothing so much as the “Ahmad Chalabi goes to Persia” show.

So that’s the backstory to this googly sanctions thing–a laptop with dodgy provenance that the Administration likes to roll out every time the UN or IAEA challenges US assertions that Iran has a real nuclear program.

Are you beginning to wonder the real reason why the CIA didn’t want to turn over their intelligence on this? At worst, it’s all a bunch of BS. At best, it’s all from the MEK, which strongly suggests it’s a bunch of BS (and as soon as the UNSC learned it was from the MEK, they would laugh us out of the room).

And here’s one really interesting point. As I pointed out in my last post on this, the googled list doesn’t have anyone the CIA claims is really involved with the laptop of death.

None of the 12 Iranians that the State Department eventually singled out for potential bans on international travel and business dealings is believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran’s most suspicious nuclear activities.

Well, that’s funny, because one of the past articles on the laptop of death explained that one of the things that (purportedly) gave it credibility is that it named someone purported to be involved in the laptop of death.

Fueling suspicion, however, is the fact that the offices mentioned on the laptop documents are connected to an Iranian military officer, Mohsen Fakrizadeh.

Fakrizadeh is believed by U.S. intelligence to be the director of Project 111, a nuclear research effort that includes work on missile development. For years, U.S. intelligence knew of an Iranian endeavor that the Iranians code-named Project 110, believed to be the military arm of the country’s nuclear program. U.S. officials believe its sequential successor may be the link between the country’s nuclear energy program and its military, but they cannot be certain without more information from Fakrizadeh. “We want him produced for U.N. inspectors,” said one U.S. source.

In other words–a public document (the Linzer article) named the guy that (purportedly) was at the center of the laptop of death project. Or to put it differently, if I were a State Department analyst using public sources to come up with a name to be sanctioned in conjunction with the laptop of death, I would probably come across precisely this article, which names the person the CIA purports to be at the center of the project. Based on this article, I would put Mohsen Fakrizadeh at the top of the sanction list. But, according to the CIA, none of the people on the sanctions list “is believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran’s most suspicious nuclear activities.”

Either the State Department analyst doesn’t understand how the Tubes work. Or he’s just really stupid. Or, Mohsen Fakrizadeh, whose name apparently appears all over the laptop of death, is not “directly connected to Iran’s most suspicious nuclear activities.” They guy they used, early in the year, to validate the laptop of death, no longer validates it.

No wonder the CIA doesn’t want to share its list of laptop death mongers.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Doesn’t it also remind one of the way the Niger yellowcake allegations got into the consciousness of the so-called intelligence community?

  2. Anonymous says:


    It does, but it’s actually much worse. The Niger allegation was not made publicly until December 19, 2002. This was first made on November 2004. So by the time they get around to using it to support their case for an Iranian attack, it will have seeped in over 3 years time, and no one will remember these details that were exposed the first time the claim was made.

    This is more akin to the aluminum tubes (I’ve even said that nose cones are the new aluminum tube)–a physical piece of evidence, about which the IC seems to be prematurely concluding indicates nukes, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Laptop of Death – this is such an interesting story. You rightly talk about the stupidity of those involved. Information security isn’t just about taking care of devices like laptops – in a more general sense its about people being sensible and discreet. Who is listening? Shall I shred this document? Is my phone secure? What do I say in a social/casual situation? Right now is an exciting time for technology, particularly mobile technology covering laptops, mobile phones and PDAs. Also the web and they way they all work with the web. There are lessons for all of us in this article.