It took a country-wide power outage in Venezuela, whispers of a cyberattack, and smug tweets from US officials to make me suddenly recall the cloak-and-dagger story of a close Iranian-American friend nine years ago.
My friend, an engineer — who I will not name for obvious reasons and who I will call ‘Kourosh’ for the purpose of this article — revealed to me in 2010 that he was approached by two “State Department employees” who offered him $250,000 to “do something very simple” during his upcoming trip to Tehran.
Kourosh was freaking out because he didn’t know how these guys knew he was going to Iran in the first place, and how they knew he was “cash-strapped,” in the second.
He wasn’t a particularly political person, though he had participated in some DC protests in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2009 presidential elections. He was just one of thousands of Iranian-American engineers in the Washington-Maryland-Virginia technology belt looking to make a decent living.
Kourosh told the US officials that he was not interested, that if Iran needed to make changes, Iranians inside the country were the only ones who should do it.
I begged him to let me write this story, but he was very nervous and declined. Over the next year or two, I pushed some more and he gave me further information, but wouldn’t budge on its publication.
Here’s what he revealed: The State Department guys had since approached him a second time. They offered him further details about the job. They wanted him to disable Tehran’s power grid in exchange for the $250k. They needed someone with technical skills, but said the job was a simple one. He would have to go to a specific location in the Tehran area with a laptop or similar communication device and punch in a code.
Kourosh even told me the code. Said he had memorized it and could recite it in his sleep. Here it is: 32-B6-B10–40-E (symbol for epsilon).
Okay, that’s not the actual code, but it looks exactly like that — same format,