Iran and Hezbollah Caught All the CIA Spies at Pizza Hut

The CIA has basically lost its network of spies in Lebanon and suffered a major setback in its efforts to infiltrate Iran, all because it screwed up basic tradecraft—including communicating with spies on trackable cell phones and using the indecipherable code word "PIZZA" to denote planned meetings at a Beirut Pizza Hut.

Both ABC News and the AP are out with very similar "exclusives" on the CIA's Lebanese debacle. In short, Hezbollah's counterintelligence force caught the CIA acting like amateurs. From the AP:

Using the latest commercial software, [Hezbollah's] spy-hunters unit began methodically searching for spies in Hezbollah's midst. To find them, U.S. officials said, Hezbollah examined cellphone data looking for anomalies. The analysis identified cellphones that, for instance, were used rarely or always from specific locations and only for a short period of time. Then it came down to old-fashioned, shoe-leather detective work: Who in that area had information that might be worth selling to the enemy?

Another weak spot was choice of code words. When the agency decided to cryptically refer to its secret meet-up spot as "PIZZA," that helped two Hezbollah double-agents infer that the location may have been a pizza restaurant. And it was! So Hezbollah kept an eye on a Beirut Pizza Hut, a tactic that ABC News says allowed "Hezbollah's internal security arm [to identify] at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers."

Meanwhile, over in Iran, that nation's counterintelligence agents were able to discover a "secret internet communication method used by CIA-paid assets in Iran" that helped them out as many as dozens of CIA spies.

It's unclear what has become of the outed spies, or how many have been compromised, but American officials are telling the AP that the entire Lebanon network has basically been rooted out. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah trumpeted the operation in June, announcing on television that two high-ranking members of his organization had been caught spying for the CIA. Iran likewise touted its discovery of the U.S.'s super-secret spying web portal in May, saying it had wrapped up 30 Israeli and U.S. agents.

[Image via Getty]