North Korea's Threat Might Be Worse Than We Think
If the U.S. pre-emptively attacks North Korea, Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and other places in Asia might get blasted in retaliation, but America will have knocked out North Korea's nuclear capability. Right?
Wrong – at least in the opinion of a U.S. senior intelligence consultant who worked on a secret study of North Korea's nuclear program for the government and disagrees with widespread intelligence opinion, echoed by the press, that there are no viable options for dealing with North Korea's nuclear threat except negotiations.
Dwight R. Rider, 30 years a targeting specialist for the U.S. with a master's degree from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), says the reason the U.S. intelligence community (I.C.) says negotiation is the only option is that the I.C. rejected the study his group made that identified hidden nuclear facilities and weapons in North Korea and now realizes they don't know where to target. Thus, in their minds, any pre-emptive attack might have only minimal effect on North Korea's capability and leave the rogue state with plenty of retaliation options.
Rider is so worried about the U.S. making wrong decisions regarding what to do about the North Korean threat that he's decided to go public, including writing a letter to President Trump and other officials he thinks might be able to influence Trump's actions.
"It is unlikely that long-standing issues between North Korea and the U.S. can be resolved through negotiation," Rider writes in the letter to the president. "Any effort to force North Korea" to bow to outside pressure "means regime change." That's not acceptable to North Korea, he says. Therefore, "some level of force may be necessary."
The problem is, he charges, that U.S. targeters don't have good information, and any strike deemed necessary might thus be impotent, inviting retaliation.
The only reason I'm privy to this is that Rider is a source for me in updating an early book of mine, Japan's Secret War, about Japan trying to make an atomic bomb in North Korea during World War II. As an expert in North Korean topography and nuclear signatures, he believes, as I do, that North Korea's nuclear program grew out of what the Japanese, who occupied the peninsula during the war, left there after the surrender. In my updating, we've become friends, and he's voiced the targeting problem more than once. With the current threat escalation and his fear that U.S. planners have bad information, Rider decided to try to correct the situation.
"I believe North Korea's uranium enrichment program long predates it's rather recent interest in plutonium and other nuclear weapons. I believe North Korea has far more capabilities than our intelligence community believes."
Beginning in 2002, Rider says, he participated in a Special Access Program ("Black") in response to 9/11 that, in time, transitioned "to an investigation of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program, also classified. "I was specifically charged to be the biggest pain in the ass possible to the intelligence community to force it to confront the most imminent issue facing the U.S: nuclear proliferation." Over the next five years, he says, "we identified much of Pyongyang's overt and clandestine" nuclear program, including its uranium enrichment facilities, plutonium production facilities, transit points where it shipped nuclear materials overseas, and reactors, among other aspects.
He says the study resulted in "overturning" parts about North Korea in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, an overall look at the world guiding U.S. decision-makers. The outside government advisory group, JASON, made up of elite scientists, commended the study, he says, as did the Department of Energy, which went on record concurring with JASON. But the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the country's top military intelligence agency, let the study languish. "It was noted and then we never heard about it again. There might have been a letter or something, but I didn't see it."
Basically, charges Rider in the letter, "[o]ur effort threatened the status quo." For years, he says, hoping to get North Korea to agree to treaties, such as that negotiated by former President Carter under the Clinton administration, and then appeasement under President Obama, the intelligence community, wanting to undergird the administrations, had been minimizing the threat and neglecting information. "Our effort revealed decades of poor performance and intellectual dishonesty within the I.C. They didn't want to hear it."
The North Korean "functions, facilities and installations identified" by the classified study were "cold-shouldered" by the I.C. community, writes Rider. Because of this "inaction" and "lack of [I.C.] competence," news reports suggest there are no options available for the U.S. in dealing with North Korea." Rider argues that there are many options, none of which has ever been explored by the I.C.
One obvious option, he says, is "preemption: a retaliatory attack as a crisis develops, or on ground that the U.S. chooses[.] ... I warn however that no successful outcome can be expected if the functions, facilities and installations" his group previously identified "are not confronted" as "Yongbyon and other do-nothing targets as currently proposed by the IC[.] ... To strike the targets ... as presently developed by the I.C. leaves the majority of Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities intact, [thus] inviting North Korean retaliation against China, Japan and Russia – and [with] America bearing all responsibility."
He believes that much of North Korea's production and capability are underground, first started by the Japanese who had built the peninsula into a Muscle Shoals of the East to supply its war-making in Asia. "There are people in North Korea who seldom ever see the sun. They live perpetually underground." This is one of the problems. Satellites and other information gatherers can't see there. "There is a lot that needs more expertise to identify, and they rejected it."
Rider continued to work with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) regarding the group's findings as well as other projects through 2015. They encouraged him about it, he says. But the study continued to gather dust. His recent attempts to sound an alarm through normal channels have been met with what to him has been alarming silence.
"Late last year , I filed a complaint at the Department of Defense [DoD] Office of the Inspectors General [DoDIG]." The complaint, he said, was delegated to someone "then confronting accusations of Russian involvement in U.S. Elections[.] ... That agent laughed off the issue."
Recently, he said, congressmen he's contacted – "Barr, Gowdy, and Nunez" – advised him to talk with the House Committee on Intelligence. He left messages with the committee, but calls were not returned. "Since then I have attempted to work through informal channels," calling former "high-ranking intelligence officials" he knew. Same thing. "I was told 'the problem was too big' for them to correct without the assistance of Congress."
He believes that a confrontation with North Korea is "likely within the next few years." U.S. success depends on "definitively destroying North Korea's WMD." American "potential to counterstrike rests entirely upon the information received" from its intelligence-gatherers being "accurately assessed and converted into actionable targets. Anything less than 90 percent surety invites counterattack. The U.S. intelligence community has, to date, failed to accurately interpret and convert the information received into actionable intelligence. Initiating action with less than accurate intelligence of North Korea's nuclear weapons ... will result in the deaths of millions, primarily Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Another Pearl Harbor or another 9-11 lies just around the corner."
Rider hopes his group's "J-39 special studies" – that's all he will label it, since it's classified – under the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be retrieved and incorporated into planning before any action against North Korea is taken. "J-39" is a generic name. "The study exists. We made at least five reports involving it. They can find it if they want, or they can talk to me. I'm available."