A self-styled Nevada codebreaker convinced the CIA he could decode secret terrorist targeting information sent through Al Jazeera broadcasts, prompting the Bush White House to raise the terror alert level to Orange (high) in December 2003, with Tom Ridge warning of “near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experience on September 11,” according to a new report. We all knew the DHS color-coded terror alerts were bogus and politically-motivated — Ridge himself recently admitted as much — but this? This is just … loony tunes.
According to TPM, “the man who prompted the December 2003 Orange alert was Dennis Montgomery, who has since been embroiled in various lawsuits, including one for allegedly bouncing $1 million in checks during a Caesars Palace spree. His former lawyer calls him a ‘habitual liar engaged in fraud.'”
He must have been a pretty good liar to have pulled this off (at least one would hope):
Working out of a Reno, Nevada, software firm called eTreppid Technologies, Montgomery took in officials in the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology and convinced them that technology he invented — but could not explain — was pulling terrorist-produced “bar codes” from Al Jazeera television broadcasts. Using his proprietary technology, those bar codes could be translated into longitudes and latitudes and flight numbers. Terrorist leaders were using that data to direct their compatriots about the next target.
The original article quotes a “former CIA official” who was incredulous when he discovered the arrangement between the agency and Montgomery:
The federal government was acting on the Al Jazeera claims without even understanding how Montgomery found his coordinates. “I said, ‘Give us the algorithms that allowed you to come up with this stuff.’ They wouldn’t even do that,” says the first officer. “And I was screaming, ‘You gave these people fucking money?'” …
In a detail that should really piss off right-wingers, credit for calling out this bullshit artist goes to … France.
A branch of the French intelligence services helped convince the Americans that the bar codes were fake. The CIA and the French commissioned a technology company to locate or re-create codes in the Al Jazeera transmission. They found definitively that what Montgomery claimed was there was not. Quietly, as far as the CIA was concerned, the case was closed. The agency turned the matter over to the counterintelligence side to see where it had gone wrong.
Incredibly, according to TPM, “Former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend defended the use of Montgomery’s ‘intelligence’ in an interview with Playboy, telling the magazine, ‘It didn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility.”