The Money Pit: Korean "Curveballs" Behind Bush Charges

Well, here's a surprise: it turns out that the allegation by Bush (and the ever-eager corporate media) that North Korea was flooding the world with counterfeit $100 bills was based on (brace yourself) bogus evidence provided by greedy charlatans! Can you imagine such a thing in this day and age?

Actually, in a week when we have seen doctored videotapes and hyper-inflated accusations used to pump up flagging war fever against Iran, along with fresh confirmation of the falsified intelligence that was employed to launch full-blown war in Vietnam – not to mention the upsurge of death and hell in the lie-launched war of aggression in Iraq – there's nothing shocking about the Korean caper; it's just par for the course. What is shocking is the fact that the reeking falsehood of the Bush charges was uncovered by something almost unheard of in the Homeland States of America these days: journalism.

McClatchy Newspapers (Knight-Ridder, as was) had the temerity to re-examine a key text behind the hyping of the Korean counterfeiting story: one of those great googily-moogily New York Times Magazine reports that stun readers into submission with interminable plummelings of turgid prose. For example, McClatchy found that "one major source for several stories, a self-described chemist named Kim Dong-shik, has gone into hiding, and a former roommate, Moon Kook-han, said Kim is a liar out for cash who knew so little about American currency that he didn't know whose image is printed on the $100 bill."

Following standard practice in such cases, the media and government worked closely together, with the Bush Administration citing the NYT and others who jumped on the fabricators' claims – and the press then dutifully reporting the Adminstration's ever-expanding charges, based in part on the press reports, and in part on the usual never-produced "secret intelligence." The latter was cited at a big international conference that the Bushists convened to deal with the Korean "threat":

The conference in Lyon, France, followed Interpol's issuance in March 2005 of an orange alert — at America's request — calling on member nations to prohibit the sale of banknote equipment, paper or ink to North Korea. But after calling together more than 60 experts, the Secret Service — the lead U.S. agency in combating counterfeiting — never provided any details of the evidence it said it had, instead citing "intelligence" and asking those assembled to accept the administration's claims on faith alone.

"I can't remember if I was laughing or asleep," said one person who was in the room and discussed the meeting with McClatchy on the condition of anonymity because of active contact with the Secret Service.

The Bushists have since quietly dropped the claim – without ever admitting they were wrong, of course – but the production of "supernotes" still goes on. Experts note that their quality is far beyond the capabilities of North Korea, whose own currency has the consistency of used toilet paper. In fact, the false notes are so sophisticated, and require such expensive technology and insider knowledge to produce, that they can scarcely be regarded as normal counterfeiting – i.e., a scheme to rake in criminal profits. As McClatchy notes:

Klaus Bender, the author of a book on the subject, "Moneymakers: The Secret World of Banknote Printing," said that the phony $100 bill is "not a fake anymore. It's an illegal parallel print of a genuine note."

"It goes way beyond what normal counterfeiters are able to do," said Bender, whose book first spotlighted the improbability of North Korean supernotes. "And it is so elaborate (and expensive) it doesn't pay for the counterfeiting anymore."

Bender claims that the supernotes are of such high quality and are updated so frequently that they could be produced only by a U.S. government agency such as the CIA.

And here we find ourselves back in the shadowlands, where angels fear to tread – but devilish mischief is always clovenly afoot.