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May 28, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

North Korea missile
U.S. intelligence officials say North Korea is moving ahead with the development of a medium-range ballistic missile that can hit U.S. forces in Asia.

Recent intelligence reports indicate that the North Koreans are building new bases for the missile.

"They've got a new intermediate-range missile that is likely based on a retired Soviet missile," said a U.S. official familiar with the intelligence reports. The official did not identify the Russian missile or how North Korea obtained it.

The new missile is thought to have a range of about 1,240 miles, enough to hit targets in the Northeast Asia region.

The official said the new bases for the missile are not being built underground, as some Asian press reports have stated.

"The missile is new, but it doesn't really give North Korea any new capability," the official said. "They can attack South Korea and Japan with their current missiles."

It is not known how close the North Koreans are to deploying the missile, which is expected to be put on a mobile missile launcher.

North Korea's other missiles include 186-mile range Scuds, 620-mile range No-Dongs and 2,300-mile range Taepo-Dongs.

Taiwan support
The House has passed a measure calling on the Pentagon to set up high-level military exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries, in legislation that is being opposed by the State Department.

An amendment to the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill passed last week.

It calls for the Pentagon to establish a military exchange program with the Republic of China (Taiwan) "designed to improve Taiwan's defenses against the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China."

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Jim Ryun, Kansas Republican, who said it is aimed at helping Taiwan bolster its antisubmarine warfare, missile defense and communications capabilities. All are areas identified by the Pentagon as needing improvement.

Current policy bans exchanges of senior Taiwanese and U.S. military officers, a remnant of the Clinton administration's pro-Beijing policies that focused exclusively on exchanges with the military of communist China.

The Defense Department endorsed the amendment, but the State Department opposed it based on the views of many pro-China officials in the department.

According to a copy of the State Department's "talking points" that we obtained, Foggy Bottom diplomats argued against the amendment because it would upset "sensitive" U.S. foreign policy.

The talking points said U.S. military ties to Taiwan are "unofficial" and "low key," and "the substance of our exchanges [are] classified in almost all cases."

The State Department's anti-Taiwan diplomats also stated that the secrecy "has enabled us to assist Taiwan while avoiding unnecessary and potentially destabilizing political confrontations with the PRC," referring to the People's Republic of China.

A major fight over the amendment is expected when the bill reaches the Senate.

Poor PR
Not all members of the Pentagon-run Iraq Survey Group are happy with how the unit plays the public relations game.

The ISG, which is in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction and solve other mysteries from the nearly 25-year rule of Saddam Hussein, maintains a passive press policy. It does not proactively talk about its findings, but does respond to press queries and briefs Congress.

Some ISG employees think that the recent discovery of a sarin and a mustard gas shell should have been more thoroughly explained by the group, rather than just having the military make a humdrum announcement.

"The elite media is totally spiking the story," said a worker.

The find, the employees say, proves that Saddam still harbored weapons of mass destruction and that untapped arms caches likely hold more of them just as the CIA had said before the war.

Hersh and McCaffrey
What a difference a few years make.

In 2000, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey was on the warpath against New Yorker magazine writer Seymour Hersh. He accused the reporter of a smear in dredging up disproved charges that Gen. McCaffrey, as commander of the 24th Infantry Division, needlessly destroyed an Iraqi brigade after a cease-fire was reached in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Mr. Hersh said the Iraqis had been merely trying to retreat and suggested that Gen. McCaffrey be prosecuted for war crimes.

Gen. McCaffrey launched a pre-emptive attack on the article once he got wind that the hit job had been ordered. "Hersh and his article lack integrity," he said. That's the bottom line. He maligns the characters of 26,000 great young soldiers who conducted a 400-kilometer attack successfully where, thank God, we only lost eight killed and 36 wounded.... What he's doing is recycling charges that were investigated in 1991."

Gen. McCaffrey, President Clinton's antidrug czar, received support from the White House, which branded Mr. Hersh as a has-been.

Today, however, Gen. McCaffrey and Mr. Hersh find themselves on the same side: They belong to the mass of pundits hurling all sorts of charges at President Bush.

Mr. Hersh wrote in a recent New Yorker article that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is to blame for prisoner abuses at the Abu Ghraib facility near Baghdad because he had ordered get-tough policies against terrorists.

This week, Gen. McCaffrey echoed that theory during an appearance on MSNBC.

"I think one of the challenges though ... will be to investigate the extent to which Secretary Rumsfeld, Mr. Steve Cambone and this Major General [Geoffrey] Miller, to what extent that they apply nonlegal measures under an international law from Afghanistan to Guantanamo to Iraq. I think at the end of the day, that's going to be the condition that may have started a lot of this misbehavior going." Mr. Cambone is the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Gen. Miller is the commander of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.

Eight days after the September 11 attacks, Gen. McCaffrey said the following in an e-mail to West Point cadets in explaining how the nation should deal with terrorists:

"We will locate their training areas and surveil or mine them. ... If we can find out how they eat, or play, or receive rewards, or where they sleep, we will go there and kill them by surprise."

Reports that the FBI is investigating the purported transfer of secret information from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) to Iran are not supported by all administration officials. Some officials say they know of no such investigation.

They say the raid last week on the home of Ahmed Chalabi, who runs the INC, is an "Iraqi-on-Iraqi matter." The Iraqi Finance Ministry thinks that some of Mr. Chalabi's colleagues have stolen public funds. Based on that charge, L. Paul Bremer, who leads the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), approved a judge's warrant to execute the search and seize documents and computer disks.

CPA spokesman Dan Senor said the raid had been approved to "pursue some charges related to individuals who in my understanding have ties to Dr. Chalabi but not related to Dr. Chalabi himself."

Officials say the Pentagon cut off funds to the INC in anticipation of the June 30 turnover of sovereignty. Washington did not want to be seen as favoring the INC over other organizations.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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