This article in The Washington Post really has to be read to be believed. Two days after Glenn Greenwald mercilessly skewered the insidiousness of “Officials say” journalism — in a piece titled, oddly enough, “Officials say” journalism — we are treated to this headline:
U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say
What follows is a comic accounting of exciting statements from completely anonymous “officials,” “former intelligence officials” and “experts” detailing U.S.-Israeli complicity in creating a computer virus, one designed to spy on and ultimately sabotage the Iranian government and its industries. When I say “comic,” I mean it in the sense that the narrative that emerges sounds like the pitch session for a movie about comic book Superheros and Supervillians in an epic cyber-war thriller. Picture the United States playing the part of Batman, Israel in the role of Robin, and Iran as the Joker:
The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected critical intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage attacks aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.
The massive piece of malware was designed to secretly map Iran’s computer networks and monitor the computers of Iranian officials, sending back a steady stream of intelligence used to enable an ongoing cyberwarfare campaign, according to the officials.
The effort, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, has included the use of destructive software such as the so-called Stuxnet virus to cause malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment.
The emerging details about Flame provide new clues about what is believed to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States.
“This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action,” said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today. “Cyber collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.”
The virus is among the most sophisticated and subversive pieces of malware exposed to date. [IT IS SUPER AWESOME! UNLIKE ANYTHING EVER SEEN! EVER! -Ed.] Experts said the program was designed to replicate across even highly secure networks, then control everyday computer functions to send a flow of secrets back to its creators. The code could activate computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take computer screen shots, extract geolocation data from images and send and receive commands and data through Bluetooth wireless technology.
Flame was designed to do all this while masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update, evading detection for several years by using a sophisticated program to crack an encryption algorithm.
OOOOOOOH! OMFG! I cannot wait to see this movie!
Of course we are provided no alternative views or analysis, much less even the slightest whiff of speculation as to why these mysterious and anonymous officials are leaking this information, apparently in concert, at this particular time. Because who cares, amirite? Government officials say it, WaPo prints it, that settles it.
On another note, does anyone seriously believe the the U.S. government would not deploy the Flame virus on U.S. networks — without warrants?