Fool Me Thrice?

Way back on 26 May 2003, more than a month before the Cheney Cabal outed Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative – running agents in Iran, Iraq and elsewhere, seeking information on weapons of mass destruction, under cover of Brewster-Jennings, a CIA-front “energy consulting” firm – the New York Times published an editorial, calling on the CIA, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and Congressional Intelligence Committees to investigate how, inter alia, the Bush-Cheney administration came to rely on forged documents to make the case that Iraq was trying to import uranium from Africa.

“The failure so far to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the prime justification for an immediate invasion, or definitive links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda has raised serious questions about the quality of American intelligence and even dark hints that the data may have been manipulated to support a pre-emptive war.”

Within days, Slate’s Jack Shafer called on the New York Times to investigate the quality of its own reporting, and more than suggested that its reporters may have been manipulated to support a war of aggression.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post had that same day revealed that an internal NYT e-mail sent by Judith Miller – then still “embedded” with the Iraq invasion force – to her NYT bureau chief acknowledged that her main source for her WMD articles over the years had been Ahmad Chalabi, a darling of the Cheney Cabal, but a persona non grata of the CIA.

By now, the NYT ought to – but apparently doesn’t – realize that much of its reporting on Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere has been – and still is being – manipulated by the Cheney Cabal.

In particular, David Sanger and William Broad have just “reported” that – surprise, surprise – the North Koreans may not have made as much progress with the parallel Uranium-235 nuke development program as they have been breathlessly reporting.

Recall that President Bush used “reports” of this alleged Uranium-235 nuke program – which the North Koreans have denied the existence of to this day – to justify his unilateral abrogation of the Agreed Framework in October, 2002.

Now, Pakistani General-President-Dictator Pervez Musharraf did acknowledge in his recently published autobiography that

“Dr. A.Q. Khan transferred nearly two dozen P-I and P-II centrifuges to North Korea. He also provided North Korea with a flow meter, some special oils for centrifuges and coaching on centrifuge technology, including visits to top-secret [Pakistani] centrifuge plants.” (p. 294).

However, neither the acceptance of Pakistani centrifuges in partial payment for North Korean assistance in development of Pakistani ballistic missiles, nor visits to Pakistani centrifuge plants by North Koreas were violations of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons nor of the Agreed Framework.

In fact, as of this writing, there is no evidence whatsoever that the North Koreans violated the Agreed Framework or the NPT, while signatories.

Of course, once Bush abrogated the Agreed Framework (which the Koreans had entered into – “freezing” all its nuclear programs – principally to secure assurances that the United States was not going to even threaten to nuke them in their jammies), North Korea withdrew from the NPT, restarted its “frozen” plutonium-producing (as a by-product) reactor, announced it was going to separate out the weapons-grade plutonium and use it to construct a “nuclear deterrent.”

Last October the North Koreans – according to the Bush Administration – conducted an at least partially successful test of a plutonium-based nuclear device.

So, how did Sanger et al. “report” this story?

“The intelligence agencies’ finding that the weapon was based on plutonium strongly suggested that the country’s second path to a nuclear bomb – one using uranium – was not yet ready. The uranium program is based on enrichment equipment and know-how purchased from Pakistan’s former nuclear chief.”

What it ought to have strongly suggested to Sanger was that the North Koreans had been telling the truth all along. They had never had a Uranium-235 bomb program.

In January, 2004, almost a year after North Korea withdrew from the NPT, Sig Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, as a member of an invited US delegation, visited the “nuclear complex” at Yongbyon and was shown what the Koreans have been referring to as their “nuclear deterrent.”

Now, if anyone knows a nuke when he sees one, it’s Sig. So, here are excerpts from Sig’s report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

“During follow-up discussions with Ambassador Li and Vice Minister Kim in Pyongyang, they stressed that the DPRK now has a ‘nuclear deterrent’ and that U.S. actions have caused them to strengthen their deterrent – both in quality and in quantity. Ambassador Li inquired if what I had seen at Yongbyon convinced me that they had this deterrent.

“I explained to both of them that there is nothing that we saw at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center that would allow me to assess whether or not the DPRK possessed a nuclear deterrent if that meant a nuclear device or nuclear weapon.

“I explained that I view a ‘deterrent’ to have at least three components: 1) the ability to make plutonium metal, 2) the ability to design and build a nuclear device, and 3) the ability to integrate the nuclear device into a delivery system.

“What we saw at Yongbyon was that they apparently have the capability to do the first. However, I saw nothing and talked to no one that allowed me to assess whether or not they have the ability to design a nuclear device.”

So much for the two or three nukes our intelligence community had “assessed” the North Koreans had “probably” already produced before signing the Agreed Framework.

Well, how about the alleged DPRK “uranium enrichment” program? Sig continues –

“In the Foreign Ministry, we discussed the contentious issue of DPRK’s supposed admission on Oct. 4, 2002, to having a clandestine highly enriched uranium (HEU) program in violation of the letter and spirit of the 1994 Agreed Framework.”

According to Sig, delegation member Jack Pritchard, formerly the US Special Envoy for DPRK negotiations, then made this statement:

“The key issue is the intelligence that makes the United States believe that the DPRK has an HEU program. In the U.S., there is the widespread view that the complete, verifiable resolution of this HEU issue is now mandatory. This is a practical issue, and there must be a multilateral discussion to resolve it.”

According to Sig, Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan immediately responded that North Korea has no HEU program; no facilities, no equipment or any scientists dedicated to it, and has never claimed to have one.

Three years later, that is still the North Korean position.

But Sanger has just “reported” that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has declassified part of a one-page update circulated to top national security officials about the status of “North Korea’s uranium program.”

“The assessment, read by two senior intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity in a joint interview, said the intelligence community still had “high confidence that North Korea has pursued a uranium enrichment capability, which we assess is for a weapon.”

It is unclear to Sanger why the new assessment is being disclosed now.

“But some officials suggested that the timing could be linked to North Korea’s recent agreement to reopen its doors to [International Atomic Energy Agency] international arms inspectors. As a result, these officials have said, the intelligence agencies are facing the possibility that their assessments will once again be compared to what is actually found on the ground.”

You reckon?

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.