Friday, April 12, 2013

DIA "leak" on North Korean missiles highlights uncertainty of our intelligence

The “leak” of an accidentally declassified section of a Defense Intelligence Agency report, maintaining that North Korea probably can put a nuclear warhead on ballistic missiles of some range, undermines the uncertainty regarding just what North Korea is actually capable of doing.
The Daily Beast has a typical story of the leak. It had been read by Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in a House Armed Services Committee Meeting.

Oh, yes, the “reliability” is low and the confidence that North Korea can attempt it is moderate.
You don’t hear as much about the DIA as the CIA; by definition, it’s closer to the Pentagon.  I’ve known personally only one analyst there.

One obvious problem is that North Korea obviously can reach the South, and Japan.  The very longest range missile could reach Canada and northwestern US.  One cannot say that it is impossible for North Korea to launch or lob a nuclear weapon that far, just that it seems highly unlikely right now.

We seem to be back more into a Cold War mentality – during  most of the 1990s, there was more concern of a widespread war with North Korea than there was over Al Qaeda.  To this concern one can add asymmetry – the idea that a madman ruler could try a dirty or EMP devcice somewhere, certainly over South Korea.  A long range missile could detonate  at high altitude hundreds of miles from the US West Coast and still do enormous EMP damage.  No one has discussed the specific technology involved with high altitude detonations. 

I do recall talk from my own days in the Army (1969) that it was possible for "Communism" to reach domestic shores with unusual weapons intended to lasso civilian populations in specific areas (as in the "Red Dawn" movies).  That sort of thinking -- that civilians are as morally guilty of "exploitation" as are governments -- has become more visible with Al Qaeda since 9/11.  

Later Friday, some analysts opined that North Korea is making bellicose threats not out of ideology, but merely as a form of extortion. "Give us (protection) money and we won't attack you."

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