A Scoop by Tehran Times, Disclosing Details of the Robert Malley Affair, Has Washington Abuzz as Congress Is Kept in the Dark

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee demands to know what other classified information might the regime in Iran have.

AP/Florian Schroetter, file
Robert Malley on June 20, 2021, at Vienna. AP/Florian Schroetter, file

A mouthpiece of the Iranian regime, the Tehran Times, scored what could be a significant scoop by managing to snag a document related to the mystery surrounding the suspension of President Biden’s Iran point man, Robert Malley. Congress, meanwhile, has been kept in the dark on what happened. 

The Tehran Times, which has on several recent occasions published exclusive details on the Malley affair, posted on Monday what it claims is  an authentic Department of State document. The April 21 memo, yet to be officially authenticated, fleshes out some of the reasons the envoy was suspended and stripped of his security clearance.

Tehran Times’ document suggests that the suspension had had to do with “personal conduct” and “mishandling” of secrets. Until now the Department of  State has kept even those reasons secret from Congress and the press, and Washington is abuzz at how a Tehran-based newspaper is publishing details that the administration is so carefully keeping hidden from interested Americans.

Has the state department’s communication team been hacked? Is someone at Foggy Bottom — Mr. Malley himself, say, or any of his allies — leaking details to Tehran? The state department’s inspector general “must probe whether any State Dept officials have violated any laws or regulations in what appears to be an unauthorized disclosure of this sensitive communication related to Malley & national security,” Senator Hagerty of Tennessee writes on X.

“This is not the first time the Iranian regime’s mouthpiece has appeared to have sensitive U.S. government information recently while Congress is kept in the dark,” the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, writes in a statement, adding, “This latest chapter raises serious questions about how the regime obtained this potentially authentic document and what other sensitive or classified information they may have.”

On July 28, a state department official briefed members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for the first time since Mr. Malley’s April 21 suspension. Yet, emerging from the classified hearing, Mr. McCaul told a reporter that the committee learned nothing new, as the briefer declined to answer any question related to an “ongoing investigation.”

Similarly, reporters are rebuffed during the state department’s daily briefing when asking about Mr. Malley’s suspension. “State Dept tells me it will not discuss authenticity of internal document claiming Malley’s security clearance was pulled for conduct that ‘raises serious security concerns,’ saying only, ‘Rob Malley remains on leave,’” a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, Adam Kredo, wrote on X Monday. 

As members of Congress are being stonewalled and as the Washington press is begging for leaks at America’s leakiest city, the Tehran Times somehow got its hands exclusively on a “sensitive but unclassified” Department of State document. “This isn’t just about Western media being scooped. If the memo is authentic, this is a larger story about information security and potential leaking or hacking,” an Iran watcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Behnam Ben Taleblu, tells the Sun.

Last month the New York Times reported that hackers affiliated with the Communist Chinese regime’s military or spy services managed to hack email accounts belonging to the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, as well as commerce department and state department officials. The cyber espionage attack occurred as Secretary Blinken was preparing to travel to Beijing in June.

Like China, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is conducting extensive hacking and other cyber-related spy operations around the world. It could well be that either in cooperation with Beijing’s intelligence efforts or on its own, the Iranians managed to penetrate state department security, and then strategically released tidbits from its findings to Tehran Times. 

According to the April 21 memorandum from the department’s security office to Mr. Malley, as published by the Tehran Times, concerns have arisen over possible violations that can be “disqualifying” under national security guidelines. Those include, according to the document, “personal conduct,” the “handling of protected information,” and “use of information technology.”

Mr. Malley declined to comment to reporters asking about the Tehran Times document. The suspended envoy’s personal X account has been dormant since April 20. Two weeks ago, Mr. Malley broke his silence, using his account once to praise the State Department’s pending $6 billion deal to release five Americans held hostage in Iran. 

The Senate has not held an open hearing on Iran since 2020, and the House’s most recent public hearing was more than a year ago, even as the Biden administration is conducting secret negotiations with emissaries of Tehran in a possible violation of the Iran Policy Oversight Act

The New York Sun

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