North Korea difficult intel target
North Korea President Kim Jung Un with military officers
April 4th, 2013
05:17 PM ET

North Korea difficult intel target

From Pam Benson

A former senior US official, who recently retired, says North Korea is a difficult target for the intelligence community but "the coverage is very extensive using national technical means: imagery, intercepts and other means."  The official said, "It's hard to get in there, but we do have external capabilities. Looking, listening and watching are all in play."

Moving a missile to the east coast is "very discernible", the official said, even on mobile launchers. The mobile launchers are more difficult–one or two might get through, the official said, but North Korea has limited routes to take whether by rail or road. "It's not a large country with an intricate transportation system."

What is difficult to ascertain is its uranium enrichment program. It could be buried in underground facilities where there are no air samples, nothing to collect.

There are other shortfalls for gathering intelligence on North Korea, in particular a lack of human intelligence, the official said. "We don't have physical access, minimal, if at all," the official said.

What's missing from US knowledge is what are the plans and intentions of the Kim Jung Un regime. "They're not going to attack us or anybody else with nuclear weapons because they know the consequences. They're not suicidal."  But there are a lot of unanswered questions, the official said, "Where are they going with their nuclear program?  Who is whispering in Kim Jung Un's ear?  What's the bottom line?"

The official says the physical aspects are very important, but "we don't necessarily know where all facilities are, the amount of fissile material it has, how many actual weapons they have produced."

"We look from afar, but we're not in the eye of the storm," the official said.

If the regime decides to launch a missile it would undoubtedly be a test, not a strike, the former official said.  "They know enough to know not to take the country down." But the former official warned that "it doesn't mean we can't stumble into something that escalates and spins out of control."

The former official does agree with the moves the US has taken in response to North Korea's continued provocations.  "Kim Jung Un and the hardliners need to know we are very serious, we have capabilities that are extensive, which extend to our allies in Japan and South Korea and that we are prepared to use them if North Korea does anything of a kinetic nature."

The official doesn't think there is a risk Kim Jung Un and the hardliners could feel they are backed into a corner and be forced to act.  "They respect you when you are straight, honest, show what you have and don't threaten them."  But when asked if the show of force by the US–the B2 flights, the additional ships–could be considered a threat by North Korea, the official responded, "They put the ball in play with threats of strikes against the U.S."

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Lauretta Elion

    I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. "The basis of optimism is sheer terror." by Oscar Wilde.

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    January 11, 2021 at 1:16 am | Reply
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    August 27, 2013 at 5:16 am | Reply
  6. Maxwell

    Let see what US will do if North K fire the first shot of Nuclear Weapon

    April 7, 2013 at 6:32 am | Reply
  7. some guy

    Rome taught us that even the greatest civilization on earth (at the time) with the greatest legions (Roman Army) met its demise when it got into the wrong fight (Germanic tribes). So US must be careful, having a better army does not guarantee success. In fact it can lead to irreparable loss. .

    April 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • Dustin

      if you think america would lose a war to N.K. your nuts,i dont think that analogy applies here at all wars are fought by technology these days not swords and spears. also china would be considered today's roman empire if judging by size of army. i think im wasting my time here

      April 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Reply
      • StanCalif

        Name one single "war" we have won with technology! ZERO.
        Our only single "win" in recent times was driving Iraq out of Kuwait, with brute conventional forces.
        No superior technology or intellegence worked in Viet Nam, not in Iraq, not in Afghanitan. Sure, we have many new toys to play with today but no victories can be claimed. Iraq was a big loss (we just fought this nation so they could make friends with Iran and China, Saddam was no friend with Iran). Afghanistan will be a bigger failure. Nothing accomplished.
        Take on NK with fancy toys? It simply will not work! Only brute force wins wars. GWB had his "win" with Shock and Awe in Iraq. Yes, he won. But was too stupid to understand just what he had won. Technology would not have saved his Shock and Awe victory. After a brute force win, the people you conquer have to be delt with. GWB had no plan.

        April 6, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  8. Ken Knerr

    You simply can't threaten a country with nuclear war, aim missiles at them and then say "Hey, we're going to test fire a missile now". You're very likely to have your a$$ handed to you.

    April 5, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
  9. Tutuvabene

    Are the gents in the black uniforms members of NK's version of the SS?

    April 5, 2013 at 7:59 am | Reply
    • Ken Knerr

      No, that's NK Navy. Look at the stripes on the lower arms.

      April 5, 2013 at 11:21 am | Reply
  10. Threats aren't funny

    North Korean Main threats:

    The initial threat to US interests and allies from the DPRK primarily comes from their Special Forces groups. Numbering at around 120,000-160,000, their SFs are extremely capable of first-strike capabilities.
    Assuming that such a specialized troop buildup is used offensively (which is typical of asymmetrical warfare,) an opening stratagem may look as such:
    1.) Attachment to submarine or covert civilian ship
    2.) Infiltration of enemy lines
    3.) Reconnaissance of key targets such as (not listed in order of interest)
    a. SIGINT facilities
    b. Airfields (military and civilian,)
    c. Banks
    d. Key areas of offensive resistance (natural/manmade)
    e. Key areas of defensive importance (natural/manmade)
    f. Weapons caches
    g. Power plants
    h. Sewage processing facilities
    i. Water facilities/reserves
    j. Bridges/high traffic chokepoints
    k. Hospitals
    l. Schools
    m. Etc.
    In short, targets which cause a maximum of disruption and psychological impact. (to be continued)

    April 5, 2013 at 5:15 am | Reply
    • Threats aren't funny

      4.) Monitoring the populace
      Overt hostile actions would occur after a considerable time of monitoring, processing, and dissemination of intelligence. Hostile actions may begin as follows:
      1.) Use of explosives to destroy key targets
      2.) Use of chemical weapons to deny key resources/areas
      3.) Use of atypical nuclear weapons
      4.) Kidnapping of key targets
      5.) Other psychological activity

      April 5, 2013 at 5:16 am | Reply
    • Threats aren't funny

      Assuming North Korea actually begins hostilities; one cannot ignore the importance of allied air and sea forces technological dominance. It must then be considered that North Korea will implement EMPs to even the playing field somewhat.

      April 5, 2013 at 5:36 am | Reply
  11. Bhuwan Adhikari Nepal

    Attack on any country can not be justified. If north korea is attacked South Korea will suffer the most. In this scenario it is south korea to prevent the attacks from either side. Dear South Korean can you be safe and happy by quarreling with your neighbour with the support from US

    April 5, 2013 at 4:16 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      No one will attack North Korea. If the US and its allies will use force against North Korea it will be in response to North Korean attack.

      April 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply
    • 1371usmc

      So if NK does push the button and launch a missile what do you think we should do? Say stop or we will be forced to say stop again!!!!!

      April 6, 2013 at 1:42 am | Reply
  12. edd

    @Ali Garrison. You're so ignorant man you don't even know who attacked twin towers lol you idiot why did US INVADED AFGHANISTAN? It was in regards to twin tower attack not because of some crush on a mountain in Afghanistan damn you idiot Iraq was being attacked for possessing so called weapon of mass destruction which by the way us never ever ever found not even a single one of them lol so much for the cause when are you numbskull morons gonna accept that united states of bully america is a war mongrer even worse than Stalin and Hitler at least they didn't go on invading all the countries around globe by plotting hedious and evil tactics at least they didn't deploy dictators like USA did all over the middle east damn seriously you guys are so full of pfttt

    April 5, 2013 at 4:11 am | Reply
  13. AUNTY NO.1

    Finally a nation that is staring the US down! go ahead, try and attack them!! Americans are basically racist suppressants and think they are the only smart people who are alive. the big brother act of america has gone too far and its time somebody showed them their place – back home in the own country on their own land and not interfering with others businesses or security.. what aamerica has done is basically arm the whole world in one way or another.. such a shameful disgraceful nation. this is where real ethics and common sense and intelligence comes into the picture, which they can very easily learn from the spiritual masters of the east.

    April 5, 2013 at 3:45 am | Reply
    • 2Bob

      "spiritual masters of the east". What are you, some sort of third rate comedian!

      April 5, 2013 at 4:07 am | Reply
      • lhc

        We better solve this problem now than when they have 100 N-bombs and delivery systems. A country with boys as president should not be trusted with security of the region and the world-

        Resolving this menace would truly free America and concentrate on protecting commerce in the Asia Pacific without the need for protection against rogue states like North Korea. This will also take away Iran's last friend and isolate it more. They need to work for their people not the other way round.

        April 5, 2013 at 5:22 am |
    • Threats aren't funny

      Hey, I'm American, and I'm not like that. Granted,I can't speak for the others. Anyone who wants another war is an idiot.

      April 5, 2013 at 5:13 am | Reply
    • Reader

      So says the gutless, anonymous "spiritual master," who doesn't say where he's posting.

      April 5, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply
  14. dr.correct

    USA has shot a missile on NK latest news.

    April 5, 2013 at 3:43 am | Reply
  15. kurdt

    he is a korean version of MINI ME....

    April 5, 2013 at 2:15 am | Reply
  16. Kelso

    Funny! The picture shows the baby Kim, who has never been in uniform, pretends to know something about military, being surrounded by soldiers. Ridiculous!

    April 5, 2013 at 1:46 am | Reply
    • A P

      Gangman Style! I bet his penis is really small.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:50 am | Reply
      • raju

        what is the use of long penis? to eject missiles and kill all North Korean army?

        April 5, 2013 at 3:53 am |
  17. Rustan Lagrimas

    shot down rather that was in the 80s

    April 5, 2013 at 1:19 am | Reply
  18. Alexander

    I have a guinea pig that is so alike Kim Jung Un.

    April 4, 2013 at 11:41 pm | Reply
    • A P


      April 5, 2013 at 1:51 am | Reply
  19. Rocco


    April 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  20. kelvin

    sad part of it , u.s.a police system has been a mess. intimidating and molesting their people including the black people. I live and work with my family in Russian and a black man, the country is really good and 100% better than this stupid country called america. shame on you stupid foolish and crazy country, democracy my ass.

    April 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Reply
    • Elvis

      Do you prefere the US to allow a mad leader like Kim to terrorise other countries? Your comments are just nonsense. Please try to think before writing. You can support Kim today but mind you may be the victim someday of Kim's madness.

      April 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Reply
      • dr.correct

        After undergoing USA madness he thinks kims would be better.

        April 5, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  21. mangojay

    Love the photo of Kim explaining breast fondling to his generals. They are obviously impressed with his experience.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Reply
    • Trecolareco

      No, he is explaining them the tactics he is using while playing (with a keyboard) Call Of Duty

      April 5, 2013 at 9:09 am | Reply
  22. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Reply
    • Momo

      True that!! Americans think like they own this world

      April 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        We own it more than your pitiful country

        April 4, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Ali Garrison

      You're an idiot obviously. Iraq attacked the US and killed thousands of innocent people in the twin towers and on the planes that hit them as well as the other planes that hit elsewhere. If you really think that the US should have ignored it, that you're dillusional. You can put statistics up about any country, All that you have named in your comment as "victims" have killed tons of innocent people themselves. The Iraqis mistreat their women and kill their own people all of the time. You can't point a finger at someone, when you are guilty as well, sorry. You mess with America, and they're going to mess with you. The only reason we are in South Korea is to prevent North Korea from blowing them up and killing millions. In all honesty I wish the US would walk away just so all of those that are complaining about them could see what would really happen. Also, America isn't a state it's a country and we are doing great, debt and all. Many countries rely on us anyways, so if we fall..they fall too. In other words, we aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Not to menton China's economy rides mostly on our purchases of all the junk they make. Real original name by the way..ha

      April 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Reply
      • Rocco

        Ali don't be such an ignorant, you guys have done something, i don't really know or care what the US did, but if those guys bombed the twin towers, I'm not saying it was good, it was terrible, but I'm sure it was a consequence of some of your deadly government.

        April 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
      • Trecolareco

        It is known for a fact that Iraq didn't had anything to do with the attack to the twin towers. America attacked Iraq on the false pretext of that there was an eminent threat of Iraq using WMDs on America and its allies. The real reason for the war was oil, as we later came to know that there were already invasion plans being drafted BEFORE 911.

        April 5, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • nybadboy

      My grandfather fought in the korean war and he lost a lot of friends and brothers im in the military as well so shut your mouth and man up if your going to call the the country that I defend a terrorist.

      April 4, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Reply
    • Rustan Lagrimas

      Hello mate, how about the South Korean airline that was blown up by Russian? google it mate!

      April 5, 2013 at 1:18 am | Reply

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