Now that terror attacks and man-in-the-middle hacks have taken center stage in the world’s security conversation, one aspect of that debate that gets largely lost is the increasingly complex world of making things appear a certain way.
Consider a recent New York Times story about John Mikaelas, a registered lobbyist. In 2013, an Egyptian government office asked Mikaelas, who had just graduated from Harvard Law School, to represent a client named Alf Monem al-Balawi. A former diplomat and Jordanian armed forces officer, al-Balawi was on a mission to kill President Hosni Mubarak.
This is not a typo. The Times reports that the client was “Hezbollah, the Lebanese group that has been accused of perpetrating attacks in the United States and Israel and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.”
While it sounds sensational, both Mikaelas and the Times say that “the . . . arrangement with al-Balawi was genuine, though the agents and their handlers did not fully understand how he was ‘pushing’ the information around and ‘stoking’ the information to identify targets.”
What they were doing, and why, is something a bit more shadowy but undeniably pervasive.
The story explains that many government officials have come to rely on fake passports to travel around the world—but they have not, as yet, told us.
The fact that the New York Times, with a straight face, could get away with this story should serve as a warning to all other would-be cons.