Photo: retrieved

This story in The New York Times today is significant, if overhyped. It shows that U.S. officials met at least three times with Venezuelan military men, who were trying to plot a coup last year. The plot died with the Armed Forces purge, and dozens of officers involved (or believed to be involved) languish in military prisons, very likely tortured to cough up more names.

A few details stand out to me, but none more than the incredibly silly petition the unnamed “former military commander” reportedly asked of the gringos. What he wanted most was… encrypted radios.

This is revealing on a number of levels. First, it shows how effective Cuban-backed military intelligence cover has become. Venezuelan officers have no means of communicating with one another safely: electronic eavesdropping is pervasive in their lives. Their biggest problem is securing communications—DGCIM cover is pervasive, and what DGCIM doesn’t pick up, SEBIN does. It’s no fun plotting in those circumstances.

But this specific request—military radios—is so unworkable, it reads like a joke. If you can’t communicate safely with your co-conspirators, how the hell are you supposed to coordinate the distribution of these encrypted radios? And how incriminating is it going to be for your co-conspirators when DGCIM finds your super-sketchy, gringo-made encrypted radio in your gym bag? Isn’t this plan just very, very obviously certain to fail?

Hey, brainiacs: everybody in the plot already has an encrypted communications device in their hands.

Hey, brainiacs: everybody in the plot already has an encrypted communications device in their hands, one that calls no attention to itself, one they already know how to use. Hint: it’s the one you use to download porn.

There’s a ton and a half of software you can put into a burner phone to turn it into an untraceable encrypted communications platform that nobody will ask any questions about. Instead, these guys went around asking for 1950s technology nearly guaranteed to give them away.

It’s just another reminder that the guys atop the military—our putative saviors—are not only very, very criminal: they’re also painfully stupid. A plot that relies on people operating on this level of sophistication will only fail. Which, obviously, the Americans saw right away: they listened to this dumb talk and refused to support the plan, understandably worried that they were being set up as part of a SEBIN propaganda hit. Which makes sense, considering the scene’s absurdity.

Read the piece yourself, and get ready for the massive eyerolls your body will do.

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