(Dec. '14) Until this month, many in the U.S. government dismissed the idea that North Korea could engineer a devastating cyber attack on a major American corporation. Now the US government, while conceding Pyongyang is behind the Sony hack, is downplaying the possibility that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korean (DPRK) could attack American movie theaters, as the Sony attackers have threatened.
It would be a mistake for the U.S. government to assume North Korea is incapable of launching a terrorist attack in the America. Pyongyang may or may not have the desire to attack the US homeland now or in the future (we think they don’t), but there’s a good chance they have at least some capability. There’s also reason to wonder if the U.S. government is well prepared to detect and prevent such a DPRK strike.
[Free Beacon reports on DHS/FBI reaction to DMZ War's report, with additional details. See it here.]
North Korean agents have committed a number of terrorist attacks, assassinations and kidnappings outside Pyongyang's main focus area of South Korea, ranging from the downing of a civilian airliner to the bombing of South Korean government officials. They’ve also kidnapped victims from several countries (perhaps including a U.S. solider in Germany, see more here.) They trumpet the role of their “human bombs” during the Korean War -- long before Islamist suicide bembers became well known -- and their potential use in future conflicts. The nation also maintains one of the largest and most fanatical special operations forces in the world. To be sure, most of North Korea’s attention has focused on its South Korean enemy and U.S. forces stationed there. But why wouldn’t Pyongyang send agents to the homeland of its biggest enemy, the United States? After-all, the DPRK in recent years has threatened America with nuclear missile attack.
Some potential North Korean threats are obvious. DPRK diplomats assigned to the United Nations are known to move around the New York City-area carrying weapons. Investigations have also uncovered North Korea agents and sympathizers hiding among the large (and overwhelmingly patriotic and law-abiding) U.S. population of Korean-Americans and Korean immigrants. North Korea has cooperated with international terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the IRA.
More specifically, North Korea has also trained and infiltrated agents into the United States for the purpose of attacking U.S. cities and nuclear power plants during a conflict with America, according to a declassified information report from the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA (below). An American, likely a U.S. military defector or former POW, has also trained North Korean special operations troops in special forces tactics and “American English,” according to a separate declassified report.
“Reconnaissance Bureau (DMZ War note: the primary North Korean intelligence and special operations organization), North Korea had agents in place with missions to attack American nuclear power plants…power plants in the United States in the event of hostilities between the United States and the DPRK,” says the heavily redacted September 2004 report. Most of the document is still classified and a related report was sent to another agency for review and not provided to DMZ War.
“The MPAF (DMZ War note: North Korean Ministry of People’s Armed Forces) established five liaison offices in early 1990s to train and infiltrate operatives into the United States to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in case of hostilities. One of the driving forces behind the establishment of the units and infiltration of operatives was the slow progress in developing a multi-stage ballistic missile,” notes the unevaluated “information report.” U.S. government evaluations of this "raw" information report -- for example, analysis of whether other intelligence supports or refutes this report -- were not released.
North Korea's interest in training its agents about Americans is supported by many other reports, including the one below about an alleged U.S. citizen known as “Jackson” who instructed North Korean special forces operatives in “U.S. Special Forces tactics, American English, and interrogation techniques” from before 1983 to at least 1993. The American, called “Comrade Ch’ang-sik” in Korean and said to be a U.S. Air Force POW, trained members of the 52nd Seaborne Sniper Battalion. He was reported to be the chief of psychological operations study at the Reconnaissance Bureau’s Madonghui College. (See analysis below on the possible identity of "Jackson.")*
How well prepared are U.S. intelligence and law enforcement departments to detect and disrupt North Korean attacks. Despite the reports mentioned above, and other Pentagon analysis on the Reconnaissance Bureau, the FBI has repeatedly rejected DMZ War Freedom of Information Act requests for its information on the Reconnaissance Bureau and related organizations. Not because all such reports remain classified, but – remarkably -- because the Bureau claims it can’t find any reports on North Korea’s main intelligence and terrorism group. Even after an appeal, the FBI claims it is “unable to identify main file records” on the Reconnaissance Bureau and other well-known North Korean intelligence and special operations organizations. This response comes years after the DIA received its information on the Reconnaissance Bureau's alleged agents in America.
Well, at least the stars of Sony’s “The Interview” seem to be taking the North Korean threat seriously. They’re reported to be under round-the-clock guard.