Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Hurry Imperious Leader - destroy US before we run out of quarters!"

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CIA director faces a quandary over clandestine service appointment

By Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Published: March 26

As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall.

A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for Brennan, who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.

Brennan endured a bruising confirmation battle in part over his own role as a senior CIA official when the agency began using water-boarding and other harsh interrogation methods. As director, he is faced with assembling the CIA’s response to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that documents ­abuses in the interrogation program and ­accuses the agency of misleading the White House and Congress over its effectiveness.

To help navigate the sensitive decision on the clandestine service chief, Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said.

“The director of the clandestine service has never been picked that way,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

The move has led to speculation that Brennan is seeking political cover for a decision made more difficult by the re-emergence of the interrogation controversy and the acting chief’s ties to that program.

She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”

The former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing internal agency matters, said that Brennan “is obviously hesitating” at making the chief permanent.

CIA officials disputed that characterization. “Given the importance of the position of the director of the National Clandestine Service, Director Brennan has asked a few highly respected former senior agency officers to review the candidates he’s considering for the job,” said Preston Golson, a CIA spokesman.

The group’s members were identified as former senior officials John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes and Mary Margaret Graham.

Golson said Brennan will make the decision but added that “asking former senior agency officers to review the candidates will undoubtedly aid the selection process by making sure the director has the benefit of the additional perspectives from these highly experienced and respected intelligence officers.”

North Korea - cut-off ready for war.

NYTIMES: SEOUL, South Korea —

North Korea cut off the last remaining military hotlines with South Korea on Wednesday, accusing President Park Geun-hye of South Korea of pursuing the same hard-line policy of her predecessor that the North blamed for a prolonged chill in inter-Korean relations.

Amid tensions over the North’s third nuclear test last month and ensuing United Nations sanctions, North Korea had already shut down Red Cross hotlines with South Korea and a communication line with the American military command in South Korea. But its decision to cut off military hotlines with South Korea on Wednesday was taken more seriously in Seoul because the two Koreas have used those four telephone lines to control daily cross-border traffic of workers and cargo travelling to the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

The two countries run a joint industrial park at Kaesong, the last standing symbol of inter-Korean cooperation that has survived the political tensions of recent years. Seoul officials said 887 South Korean workers were in Kaesong on Wednesday. The traffic was running normal on Wednesday, South Korean officials said, indicating that the North Korean military did not go so far as to stop cross-border economic exchanges.

“There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the North and the South,” said a North Korean statement sent to the South Korean military by telephone and later carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. “Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces.”

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

The North’s action came a day after its top military command ordered all its missile and artillery units to be on “the highest alert” and ready to strike the United States and South Korea. It also vowed to take “substantial military actions” to retaliate against joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which involved American B-52 bomber sorties over South Korea.

North Korea had previously cut off communications lines with South Korea that are intended to prevent military clashes.

“Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep North-South military communications,” Pyongyang said on Wednesday.

The North Korean action came shortly after President Park Geun-hye of South Korea stressed both firmness and reciprocity in North Korea policy.

“If North Korea provokes or does things that harm peace, we must make sure that it gets nothing but will pay the price, while if it keeps its promises, the South should do the same,” she said during a briefing from her government’s top diplomats and North Korea policy-makers. “Without rushing and in the same way we would lay one brick after another, we must develop South-North relations step by step, based on trust, and create sustainable peace.”

Her new unification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, South Korea’s point person on North Korea, later told reporters that his government was willing to consider lifting trade embargoes imposed on the North following the deadly sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 - but not before North Korea takes responsibility for the incident that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

Seoul blamed the incident on a North Korean torpedo attack, but Pyongyang insists that it had nothing to do with it.

“We keep our door open for dialogue,” Mr. Ryoo said.

But on Wednesday, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the North Korean counterpart of Mr. Ryoo’s ministry, berated President Park for warning a day earlier that the Pyongyang regime can ensure its survival only when it stops building nuclear weapons while its people go hungry. “This time her remarks have gone beyond the line,” it said.

It said that Ms. Park’s recent comments were “utterly shocking” compared with her earlier indications that she would not maintain the hard-line policy of her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, whom she replaced on Feb. 25. “If she keeps to the road of confrontation like traitor Lee, defying the warnings of the DPRK, she will meet a miserable ruin,” it said.

Also Wednesday, the North's main ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said that its planned "substantial military actions" will include "pre-emtpive nuclear strikes" against the United States and South Korea.


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