Weekly Intelligence Notes #02-03
WIN #02-03 dtd 14 January 2003
Weekly Intelligence Notes (WINs) are produced and edited by Roy Jonkers for non-profit educational uses by AFIO members and WIN subscribers. RADM (ret) Don Harvey contributes articles to selected WINs.
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CONTENTS of this WIN
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NORTH KOREA INTELLIGENCE - The Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, the centerpiece of North Korea's decades-long quest to become a nuclear power, is nestled deep in the mountains, about 55 miles north of Pyongyang. The complex sprawls over 2,224 acres and contains about 390 buildings. It was built with Soviet assistance in the 1980's, at an estimated cost of $500 Million. In its heyday, Yongbyon was home to about 50,000 people, was seen as of utmost national importance and national pride, and an instrument of Korean unification. But after the communist regime agreed in 1994 to freeze its nuclear development the complex fell into decline and the population dropped to 10,000. Today, with North Korea's decision to restart its nuclear program, Yongbyon is enjoying a small resurgence.
From its inception, Yongbyon appeared to be designed for weapons production rather than nuclear power. Its obsolete 5-megawatt reactor, built in the early 1980s, is too small to produce meaningful quantities of electricity and is not even connected to a power grid. What the reactor could produce, however, is plutonium-239, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs. The reactor uses fuel rods of natural uranium, which the North has in abundant supply, to create a controlled nuclear reaction. The spent fuel rods later can be removed and plutonium extracted from them, and the North Koreans appear to have a reprocessing facility at Yongbyon designed for just such a purpose. It is an imposing oblong building, six stories high and the length of two football fields, which the North Koreans call a radiochemical laboratory.
Most of what is known about Yongbyon comes from a handful of North Korean defectors and from satellite photographs. Access to the sprawling compound by international inspectors has been severely limited, and with the expulsion late last month of the International Atomic Energy Agency's three most recent inspectors, the activities in Yongbyon have again lapsed into secrecy
As to nuclear weapons, North Korea reported in 1990 to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had produced about 3 ounces of plutonium on an experimental basis. The IAE agency was skeptical that the regime would have built such a huge laboratory merely to dabble in academic experiments. Satellite photographs suggest that the North Koreans closed down the reactor on at least three occasions, each time long enough to remove some fuel rods to extract plutonium. International inspectors concluded from studies of plutonium samples that the North produced as much as 30 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium. That is a quantity sufficient to build two nuclear bombs, each as large as the one that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945.
The inspectors' efforts in 1992 and '93 to investigate more closely set off a chain of events that very nearly prompted the Clinton administration to order preemptive strikes on Yongbyon in 1994. The crisis was settled by that year's agreement, under which the North promised to mothball its nuclear program. In exchange, the U.S. and its allies started shipping fuel oil and building light-water nuclear reactors -- a design that could not be used for weapons -- to ease North Korea's chronic energy shortages.
The deal virtually collapsed last October, when the United States confronted North Korea with evidence that the communist regime was cheating with a program to secretly enrich uranium. Since then, the situation has rapidly deteriorated. In recent weeks, the North has expelled the three international inspectors, taped over the lenses of their surveillance cameras and started to load fresh fuel rods into the Yongbyon reactor. But an even bigger fear is that the regime will start extracting plutonium from about 8,000 spent fuel rods that were removed from the reactor in 1994.Those rods are stored in canisters in what is essentially a large indoor swimming pool next to the reactor. If the North Koreans processed these spent fuel rods, they could get enough plutonium for five or six bombs, in addition to the one or two that North Korea might already have, in a matter of weeks.
In the intelligence and diplomatic communities there is some debate about North Korea's technical capabilities, given the overall state of decrepitude in which the impoverished country finds itself. A former Energy Department employee said Yongbyon was in terrible shape in 1998 when he last visited. "Everything was broken, everything was just disintegrating. The barbed wire was covered in rust and falling down in places. It was pathetic." He recalled that the North Koreans were unable to make simple infrastructure repairs because their cement was substandard. Even the pool for storing fuel rods was leaking.
But Yongbyon is not the only card in the North Korean deck. In recent years, suspicion has focused on underground activity at more remote sites. About 25 miles north of Yongbyon, a suspiciously large underground complex of tunnels and pipelines at Kumchangri was inspected in 1999 by U.S. officials, but they found nothing. Another facility, buried under Mt. Chonma near the Chinese border, is suspected of being used to enrich uranium.
The President has publicly designated North Korea the third element of an "axis of evil." It apparently became evident to the North Koreans that each of these countries will be attacked in turn, and they seem to have advanced the clock to fit their own schedule and security concerns, thereby complicating the US schedule, now involved in the coming attack and occupation of Iraq. In terms of US strategy speculation, North Korea is not Iraq, and therefore less likely to be invaded. North Korea does not have oil, it is not a militarily weak Muslim state, it is not a second-rate former Western colonial possession, it is not a potential platform for other regional US geopolitical power objectives, and it is not a potential threat to Israel, a linchpin in US regional policymaking.
It is, however, again unlike Iraq, a possible threat to the US itself, however remotely, given the concern about potential leakage of Korean weapons-grade nuclear material to terrorists. It should therefore rate ahead of Iraq on the attack calendar. But a preemptive US strike at the weapons complexes at Yong-Yong and elsewhere might trigger an almost instantaneous massive North Korean assault on the south, with tens of thousands of US troops at risk, not to speak of the South Koreans. Diplomacy and a very high Intelligence priority seem preferable for this region at this time, in preference to unilateral macho-military posturing. The US appears to be adopting a multi-lateral approach to solving the problem. The US Intelligence Community, stressed by the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the war on Iraq (a different thing entirely), and now the North Korean nuclear proliferation threat, is again put to the test. Stand by for when Iran (the third "evil") realizes and decides that they will be next on the US list. Things might even become more complicated. (Jonkers) (LATimes 13 Jan 03 //B. Demick & A. Rubin) (latimes.com/archives).
ONE HUNDRED INTELLIGENCE SUCCESSES -- According to a declaration filed by Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Director DIA, more than 100 terrorist attacks planned against the United States and its allies have been thwarted since Sept. 11, 2001, in part based on information gained from the continuing interrogation of enemy combatants and other captives ensnared in the 'war' on terrorism. On Capitol Hill, officials with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday asked to be briefed in greater details on the 100 successful missions.
DIA's nine page affidavit was filed to appeal a ruling by a federal judge last month that Jose Padilla, a US citizen who has been imprisoned, held incommunicado, and interrogated by Federal authorities for the past eight months, should be permitted to see a lawyer. Padilla is the so-called "dirty bomber" who allegedly was scouting targets in this country. It is argued that a meeting with his lawyer would disrupt efforts to gain Padilla's 'cooperation.' Admiral Jacoby stated "I assess Padilla's potential intelligence value as very high. I also firmly believe that providing Padilla access to counsel risks loss of a critical intelligence resource, resulting in a grave and direct threat to national security."
To place this in context, more than 3,000 Al Qaeda operatives and associates have been detained in dozens of countries since 9/11. US embassies appear to have been a particular focus of terrorist targeting. The plots were in various stages of development when disrupted. Other threats have been aimed at airports and the aviation industry. Some attacks were reportedly deterred by newly installed protective measures. The most valuable information has come from senior Al Qaeda operatives in custody, particularly Abu Zubeida, a top Osama bin Laden lieutenant captured in Pakistan last year. "One Abu Zubeida is worth a ton of guys at Guantanamo," a U.S. intelligence official said, contrasting him with the 630 Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects detained at the US prison camp in Cuba. Reportedly it was Zubeida who alerted U.S. authorities to Padilla. The U.S. native was then arrested in May when he returned to Chicago from Pakistan, where he had allegedly conspired with Al Qaeda officials to detonate a dirty bomb (explosives plus radio-active or other widely available contaminants) in the U.S.
The Administration has come under sharp criticism for holding detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as in jails and military brigs in the United States, without first charging individuals with crimes. It has also been accused of using methods of extreme duress and torture to exact information. But the government's legal papers filed in the Padilla case stress that without continuous and unfettered interrogations of detainees, a terrorist attack could slip through. It is clear that protection against terrorism and the necessary hunt for terrorists place great strain on our constitutional and civilized values and legal system -- we must rely on conservative allegiance to the constitution and democracy to ensure that the exceptions necessary under duress, at the crest of war fever, do not become routine excesses, or worse, the permanent norm. However, the precedent of public and legal vigilance to the constitutional violations instituted in the contorted 'war' on drugs, and now enshrined as the legal norm, is not comforting in this regard. (Jonkers) (LATimes 11 Jan 2003 // R. Serrano and G. Miller)
HOMELAND SECURITY INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY -- Lt. General (ret) James Clapper, Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), is being mentioned as the prospective Director of the Homeland Security's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) division. He would be responsible not only for Information Technology (IT) security, but also for getting the often competitive intelligence agencies to pool their data, along with the even greater problems associated with classification and compartmentation. Joan Dempsey, currently chief of the Intelligence Community Staff under the DCI, has been mentioned as the prospective Information Analysis chief under Clapper. Commerce Department official John Tritak is mentioned to be the chief of the Infrastructure Protection division. None of these appointments have been officially announced or confirmed.
One might observe that for anyone to give up a solid agency position for the prospective quagmire of the Homeland Defense operation requires exceptional patriotism, dedication and risk acceptance. AFIO member James Clapper is known for those qualities. General Clapper is known as an effective leader who can accomplish a great deal without letting his ego get in the way. He doesn't seem to be carrying any agenda other than to get the job done well. The task is a mighty one. One senior intelligence officer said Clapper faces a "monstrous" task. "Everything else looks easy in comparison," he said. "Either part of his bifurcated title is tough enough. Put them both together, and it's mission impossible ... If it's not mission impossible, it's mission in need of a miracle."
Richard Clarke, the White House's cybersecurity point man since 1998, reportedly will not join the department, but will remain chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. The board plans to release a national cybersecurity strategy later this month or in early February.
All of the undersecretary and assistant secretary nominees must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, though it remains unclear which committees will review them and when. The department is expected to be declared operational by Jan. 24, and already is scouting three possible locations in Fairfax County. (Jonkers) (WashPost 9 Jan 2003 //B. Krebs)
HOMELAND DEFENSE ADVANCED RESEARCH - The White House has not yet selected an Undersecretary of Science and Technology to supervise the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), a division of the department with a proposed $500 million budget. HSARPA (what an acronym!!!) will be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a Defense Department program that was instrumental in creating the framework of the Internet in the 1960s. (Jonkers) (WashPost 9 Jan 03 //B. Krebs)
RADIOACTIVE IN NEW YORK -- A New York man with Graves' disease, a thyroid disorder, set off radiation alarms in Manhattan subway stations after he was treated with radioactive iodine. The man was strip-searched by police who were on the alert for nuclear-armed terrorists. This patient's experience indicates that radiation detection devices are installed in public places in New York City and perhaps elsewhere. Patients who have been treated with radioactive iodine or other isotopes may be identified and interrogated by the police because of the radiation they emit. (Journal of the American Medical Association,4 Dec 02) http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/v288n21/ffull/jlt1204-3.html
ESPIONAGE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles in Western Languages, by R. M. Sheldon, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, N.C.,2003, glossary, index, ISBN 0-7864-1365-4 (www.mcfarlandpub.com). AFIO member Professor R. M. Sheldon (VMI), who has specialized on the topic for well over a decade, has produced a fascinating and comprehensive guide to the literature of ancient intelligence. The entries present books and periodical articles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish Polish and Dutch, as well as Latin and Greek with annotations in English. The bibliography includes sources covering medieval Europe, Russia, Africa, India and China. the volume is user-friendly for readers in any field. The detailed index will help readers find intelligence specialties, such as counterintelligence, codes and ciphers, (even the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics had encrypted texts), secret writing, dead drops etc. Readers will be surprised at how many modern-sounding intelligence techniques were used in ancient times. This work is more than a bibliography; it provides the most comprehensive documentation and commentary on the literature of intelligence in antiquity. It is an indispensable reference work -- and great for casual browsing as well. Highly recommended for those with a scholarly bent. (Jonkers) (Review by Dr Thomas-Durrell Young)
STILL THE TARGET: Coping With Terror and Crime, by Theodore Shackley (with Richard A. Finney), Noble House, Baltimore, Md., 2003, with bibliography and index, ISBN 1-56167-786-8. This book was the late Ted Shackley's last effort. In it he identifies the nature and scope of the threat of terror and crime to senior executives, and secondly, provides a frame of reference for evaluating an executive protection program. In Ted's view, the Very Important People of commerce and industry are Still the Target, and there is a need to understand the threat and what can be done about it. Ted's previous books were 'The Third Option', about the theory and practice of counterinsurgency and guerrilla operations, published in 1981, and 'You're the Target', published in 1989. Because the nature of terrorism has changed, he wrote a new book rather than updating his second one.
An excellent, readable primer for business executives, particularly those who must travel abroad. (Jonkers)
SPY MUSEUM SEEKS HELP -- A Spanish-speaking TV news magazine network would like to do a story on espionage with the Museum as a feature, but we need to find at least one or two Spanish-speaking former professionals to interview about the business of spying in general, otherwise they won’t be able to do the piece. Is anyone at AFIO fluent enough in Spanish to be interviewed about intelligence gathering – process, history, etc.? Please let us know soonest (call AFIO at 703 790 0320)
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