Codevilla runs down the curiouser-and-curiouser case of fake-bomb fallguy Cesar Sayoc.
During my years with the Senate Intelligence Committee, as I worked to repair this country’s counterintelligence operations, I sometimes lectured our intelligence community’s leaders on the principles of counterintelligence analysis. Prominent among these is that close attention to an event’s anomalies—to things that don’t seem to quite fit—can reveal more about the event than everything else about it. In other words, if in fact the event contains a lie, it may lead you to understand the deepest truths about that event.
The obvious account of the bomb drama is that devices were mailed or delivered to prominent critics of the Trump Administration to hurt them or to frighten them into silence.
Not originally knowing anything about who mailed those devices, or why, and assuming that the alleged perpetrator was a competent person who would have covered his personal tracks well—the way that the Soviets had deceived U.S intelligence analysts for a decade about their nuclear command post—noticing anomalies, in this case the ways in which these devices and their deliveries don’t quite fit the obvious story, was the best way of grasping the truth of the matter.
Although it is usually prudent to assume the opponent’s intelligence and rationality, the analyst had to keep in mind that an assumption is only just that.
The devices could not have caused harm, and were unlikely to have caused fear first, because they were unlikely to reach their supposed victims. They were sent through the U.S. Postal Service, which advertises that it checks all packages for explosives, or were delivered to places protected by the Secret Service or known to have other, serious security measures. A rational perpetrator would know that. By the same token he had to know that the undelivered packages were sure to draw the media’s attention.
Nothing about the devices themselves fit the main story of harm and fear. First, they were made of PVC pipe—grossly insufficient for containing an explosion to lethal force. Second, whereas package-bombs are set to go off when the package is opened, these contained outside timers, apparently unconnected to what may or may not be detonators.
But though incapable of hurting the recipients, were they meant to frighten them into silence? Believing that things so obviously harmless could frighten persons protected by world-class security beggars belief. In short, these devices’ anomalies lead the analyst to conclude that they were meant to look like bombs, aimed at a credulous press, just as the Sharopova wind tunnel was aimed at credulous intelligence analysts.
Hence, counterintelligence analysis’ first hard conclusion: Whoever the perpetrator was, he acted to harm some and help others politically, by leveraging the media. But if the devices were meant to ignite a media frenzy, who were the intended victims and who the beneficiaries?
Read it all; he doesn’t take his analysis quite where one might initially assume, and I think he makes an error in his central premise which you guys will probably be able to identify easily enough yourselves. His conclusion, though, I am in complete agreement with. Seeing as how said conclusion—that the effect achieved was the exact opposite of the intended one—is so, we can expect this fiasco of a fuckup to disappear from the national radar pretty quickly now.