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Spy Agency Defends Intelligence On North Korea Nuclear Program

Democratic Senator Dianne said the lack of reliable intelligence was particularly acute with regard to the secretive North Korean regime. "I think the gathering of intelligence with respect to North Korea has been very difficult. And the drop in the level of confidence on the uranium-based development I think is an indication of that," she said. "We now do know that North Korea has nuclear devices. The question is, how many? The question is, where are they assembling these?" Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Mar 04, 2007
Washington's espionage establishment on Sunday defended US intelligence on North Korea, amid reports that the US administration had backpedaled on earlier assessments of Pyongyang's nuclear program. Joseph De Trani, North Korea mission manager for the Director of National Intelligence, complained in a written statement about "considerable misinterpretation of the intelligence community's view of North Korean efforts to pursue a uranium enrichment capability."

"We have continued to assess efforts by North Korea since 2002," De Trani said in the statement.

"All intelligence community agencies have at least moderate confidence that North Korea's past efforts to acquire a uranium enrichment capability continue today," he said.

US intelligence agencies came in for harsh criticism after the administration of President George W. Bush last week seemed to scale back the certainty it expressed in 2002 about North Korea's alleged secret uranium enrichment activity.

US claims about the program led to a political standoff between Washington and Pyongyang that have only recently begun to thaw.

Last week De Trani appeared to suggest that the government was now less sure about the program.

"We still have confidence that the program is in existence -- at the mid-confidence level," he told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

After his comment prompted criticism from members of Congress, De Trani clarified that US officials were not revising their 2002 "high confidence judgment" about the North Korean program, but were simply expressing lesser certainty that the program remains in place today.

His remarks were issued on eve of Monday's landmark US-North Korea negotiations on normalizing relations after a half-century of enmity.

Earlier Sunday Republican Representative Peter Hoekstra and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said they were disappointed by the quality of US intelligence.

"We still don't have the intelligence community overall to give us, as policymakers, the information that we need to make good decisions in North Korea, Iran and other places," Hoekstra told the Fox News Sunday program.

"You always make policy with imprecise information, but you know, there are some things that we've been disappointed with," he said.

"It's a concern about the leadership in the intelligence community, not the folks who are working this 24/7," Hoekstra added.

Feinstein said the lack of reliable intelligence was particularly acute with regard to the secretive North Korean regime.

"I think the gathering of intelligence with respect to North Korea has been very difficult. And the drop in the level of confidence on the uranium-based development I think is an indication of that," she said.

"We now do know that North Korea has nuclear devices. The question is, how many? The question is, where are they assembling these?"

She added: "Because of the underground nature of the facilities, it's very difficult. North Korea is a long way from us, and the intelligence infrastructure is not that good, to be very candid with you."

Democrats in Congress last week said the revelation harkens back to the administration's past problems with flawed intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

"It is troubling for us to find such uncertainty when it comes to intelligence matters of such gravity," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told AFP last week.

"To declare certain countries are part of an axis of evil, and then to find out that our intelligence on Iraq was fatally flawed -- and now our intelligence on another member of the axis may be flawed as well -- is not a confidence builder," said Durbin, the number two Democrat in the US Senate.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US To Build Nuclear Warhead Using New Design
Washington (AFP) March 02, 2007
The United States said Friday it had selected the design of next-generation nuclear warheads, a step toward the construction of new bombs for the sea-based nuclear arsenal to replace aging Cold War-era stock. The government chose a design by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California over a competing design by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for the project, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said in a statement.







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