Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reasonable paranoia

Yesterday Kevin Drum pointed to an article that reported the Swiss do not believe that the near perfect $100 counterfeit bills that have been circulating around the globe are actually being made by North Korea. The US government has accused North Korea of significant counterfeiting operations in the past and it has been a hurdle to negotiations. There is an odd paragraph that describes the sophistication of the operation involved in producing the bills:

For years, analysts have wondered why the supernotes — which are detectable only with sophisticated, expensive technology — appear to have been produced in quantities less than it would cost to acquire the sophisticated machinery needed to make them....."What defies logic is the limited, or even controlled, amount of 'exclusive' fakes that have appeared over the years. The organization could easily circulate tenfold that amount without raising suspicions,"....

Moreover, it noted that the manufacturer of the supernotes had issued 19 different versions, an "enormous effort" that only a criminal organization or state could undertake

Cactus as Angry Bear
is a good analyst and he makes a point I would have easily jumped to only a couple of years ago --- when the data makes no sense, reexamine the data and the assumptions for usually there is a dumb mistake somewhere in the data processing:

I don't know. I play with a lot of a data. Its been my experience that if the results are just flat crazy, and don't fit any reasonable scenario, when you go back and check the data its wrong. My guess... there are a heck of a lot of fake dollars out there, somewhere. They're either not in use right now, or they are in use, and not being detected. Which makes them equivalent to the real thing.

This is a very reasonable line of reasoning; either a massive data processing error or more likely the known universe of high quality fakes is massively smaller than the actual universe of high quality fakes circulating. However there is a third option that is hinted at in the article.

This is an option that I would have rejected out of hand five years ago but there is excellent evidence available to suggest that the United States government, or individuals associated with the United States government had no problem arranging for the forging of critical 'evidence' of Iraqi attempts to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Is there any chance that the counterfeit bills are being produced by an agency, contractor or associate of the United States government as a false flag operation to lay some more blame at North Korea and preclude attempts at talks and normalization of relationships?

This is a paranoid option, but unfortunately given the recent history of this country it is not a fantastic option it may have been ten years ago....

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