As if the mysteries surrounding Israel’s raid on an alleged Syrian nuclear facility and subsequent revelations about North Korean complicity in a reported cash-for-reactor deal were not cloak-and-dagger enough, Chris Nelson – the uber insider political newsletter scribe behind The Nelson Report and whose contacts in the national security establishment are stellar – reports the rumor that the video showed by the CIA to Capitol Hill lawmakers may have been “doctored.”
Some are arguing that there is a “pixel mismatch.” Arghhh… You have to be kidding!
Nelson points out that this should be easy to check, but the real issue here is not whether the video is completely fake (which I don’t believe it is) but rather that the well has been badly poisoned before on false intel allegations and that the bar now is very high before presented data is trusted. Nelson also notes that the video ID of the so-called North Korea nuclear expert is wrong.
Maybe this intel show wasn’t ready for prime time after all – which then begs the question of why the rush.
The Nelson Report – 28 Apriil 2008
N. KOREA. . .since our Reports of Thursday and Friday last week, possibly debilitating rumors, but little “fact” has been added to the deconstruction of the CIA’s controversial “Syria briefing”.
In the sexy rumor department, there are those claiming that the Israeli-supplied photos used in the “video” shown on Capitol Hill “came from a photo-shop”, specifically, “the pixels don’t match” on the alleged N. Korean nuclear expert and his Syrian compatriots.
This strikes us as amazingly easy to confirm, one way or the other, but we cite it as emblematic of the fundamental destruction of trust in nuclear-related “intelligence” since the Colin Powell “Iraq WMD” debacle at the UN, oh so many long years ago.
On the photo allegedly of a DPRK nuclear expert, Administration sources confirm that the video ID is inaccurate, but our sources say the S. Korean newspaper identification of the man as a senior political official from the Foreign Ministry is also incorrect.
On the briefing itself, we can report that Capitol Hill “customers” are not at all happy that less than an hour after professional staff with the appropriate clearances were barred from the room, the whole video was handed over to the world.
“You have to think the Administration didn’t want to have experts in the room who might dare to ask tough questions”, notes one disgruntled bar-ee, whom, we should note, said he did not believe the “pixel” mismatch rumor “because it would be so unbelievably stupid…”
The majority of our expert sources do say they feel that the video briefing can be accepted as conclusive that…assuming the photos are not a complete fabrication…the Syrian plant can now be said to definitely be a Yongbyon-type of nuclear facility.
But after that, consensus breaks down completely on whether it was a nascent bomb facility, a power station of some kind, or what.
One Congressional expert, after watching the video, comments “the very first line in the briefing is false…there’s no way the plant was ‘ready to be switched on’, so you have to question the entire premise for the raid…”
For those who want to follow the pros and cons of what kind of a nuclear plant may have been bombed, and what about Israel’s “motive”, we urge you to check the blogs. For Asia purposes, the focus needs to shift to the effect of all this on the 6 Party Talks.
On the issue of how “Syria” relates to the 6 Party Talks, and the “Singapore” deal hammered out by A/S Chris Hill, now under review in both Washington and Pyongyang…
Indications are that the lack of support from his immediate boss, Condi Rice (noted in last Wednesday’s NY Times), plus the warning from President Bush “don’t make me look weak”, has led Hill to conclude he needs more detail than was brought back over the weekend by Korea Desk chief Sung Kim.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Kim is sent back to Pyongyang in hopes of generating materials which skeptics and supporters alike will accept on the vital “verification” issues now under such strong attack.
Hill cannot have been pleased to see a predecessor as Asst. Sec., Winston Lord, and the highly respected Les Gelb, join in an OpEd criticizing the Singapore deal, and thus legitimizing the concerted conservative/neo-con attack on what is clearly still a work in progress.
Oh…one important point…the Sanger article in the Times last week led to speculation that Hill was close to resigning, and there were quotes being passed around by various “friends”…the Truman dictum at work again.
We can report definitely from Hill himself, “still here…still here…”
More later. Need to go give a talk on blogging and foreign policy.
— Steve Clemons