Intel Chief Dodges Questions on North Korea Report

The Pentagon’s top intelligence officer declined to answer questions about the revelation last week of a classified report that concluded North Korea may be able to launch a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which authored the classified assessment, appeared at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington to discuss a new study published by the organization, titled “Trends in Militancy across South Asia: A Region on the Brink.”

“I want to talk about South Asia today,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about his agency’s assessment of North Korea.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., made headlines on April 11 when during a House Armed Services Committee hearing he read what he said was an unclassified section of the report that concluded North Korea “has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however, the reliability will be low.”

In a subsequent interview with Military.com, Lamborn said he cited the document in a public forum to draw attention to the fact that the Pentagon plans to reduce funding for missile-defense programs next year.

“We should not be cutting missile defense, especially at this point in time,” Lamborn said. “The bellicose statements that North Korea is making should cause everyone to want to make sure that that part of our defense and that part of our national security is as strong as possible.”

Flynn also didn’t answer questions about the April 15 bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed at least three people and injured more than 100 people in what some lawmakers have called a terrorist attack.

“It’s a real tragedy and the viciousness in the way this thing was executed is really sad,” said Flynn, who’s from Rhode Island. He said his nephew ran in the race and that his sister has participated in it “probably a couple dozen times.”

The bombing is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is collaborating with law enforcement agencies and the military. The Navy dispatched an explosive ordnance disposal team to the city and hundreds of members of the Massachusetts National Guard remain on hand to provide security, bomb disposal and communications services.

Lawmakers briefed on the investigation said the attack, with its two coordinated explosions and the discovery of at least two more explosive devices, had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.

“We just don’t know whether it’s foreign or domestic,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said.

Flynn did say at least 27 militant groups operate in the South Asia region, which includes countries such as Pakistan, India, India and Nepal. In addition, about 20 countries with rising populations are “poorly governed, under-governed, not governed, and I think it’s really important that we understand that.”

The CSIS study warns the departure of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan may not translate into fewer attacks on Western targets in the region and elsewhere.

“Similar to the defeat and withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan [in] 1989, militant groups perceive a similar outcome for ISAF, and the United States,” it states, referring to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. “This sense of jihadist ‘victory’ may have an immensely stimulative effect both on locally-oriented militants … and on global actors.”

The CSIS study recommends for the U.S. to continue to devote intelligence and other resources to the region, target the financing of militant activities, and strengthen regional security and diplomatic alignments, especially with India, among other efforts.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Davis

    Does this really surprise anyone? Gen. Flynn is in charge of a spy agency; he’s not supposed to talk much. The fact that he’s doing this much is incredible. Seriously, how often do you see John Brennan (CIA) or Keith Alexander (NSA) talking about their work at a press conference or anywhere else for that matter?

  • USS ENTERPRISE

    Well, that is a shocker. Not. Why would he answer this? Like Davis said, he is head of a spy agency. He isn’t just going to give away classified information. Also, I simply don’t think that NK would want to fire an ICBM. Because they know that such an action will simply destroy them from all sides.

  • Norma

    Now why would the Pentagons top intelligence office not want to answer questions about N Korea? Perhaps the General does not know anything, therefore he has nothing to report. It seems that most high ranking officials do not want to answer questions concerning their specific agencies. Why then do we continue to pay these Generals to oversee an operation they have no knowledge about. No one had any idea that the Boston bombing was going to happen. Why? Where is our intelligence agencies? Terrorists will not act without orders from the top. Can we not intercept communications. Can we not break their codes.? Or is it that the American Constitution prohibits this type of activity. Whatever the answer we need to take whatever measures needed to prevent this from happening again.

    • Captain Obvious

      Norma, until you get into an intelligence analyst position, please save some face by not talking about areas that you have a serious lack of knowledge on.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Huh? Let me give you an example. When the British cracked the enigma code, did they just run about and give news interviews to take fame? When the US and Britain cracked Japan’s codes in WWII, did they go out and make sure the public was well versed in the breakthrough? NO. Why would they know?

    • The.Rogue.Analyst

      Norma,

      The last thing anyone would want to do is confirm in a public forum how much the United States knows about North Korean activities, hence the reason why nobody discusses it – ESPECIALLY in public (I repeated myself for emphasis). If these generals were to confirm that any “bad guy” was doing something wrong, you have just given that bad guy feedback on how visible his activities are, and then he can take measures to hide those activities, with the end result being that the US is denied indicators of such activities in the future – leaving the US at a disadvantage. You also make a heck of an assumption when you ignorantly say that “terrorists will not act without orders from the top.” You have obviously never heard of “self-radicalization.”

  • Rosalee

    There is far too much disclosure now………………it all started in the aftermath of 9/11
    Now it is open season on classified………..
    I remember we were told ‘you lose it, you disclose it, it’s fast track to Leavenworth’
    Now they just disclose whatever.
    I think Admiral Mullen was correct when he said following Bin Laden mission
    “Time to SHUT UP”
    I have felt that way for sometime
    BTW congressional whoever do not have need to know just because they have
    been elected by Joe Blow in Kansas
    Sorry that is NOT how it works.

  • oblatt1

    Boston will probably turn out to be some ex marine with a disappointed sense of entitlement. In Afghanistan if you killed a bunch of civilians you’d get a reprimand, here its considered a bigger deal.

  • Sev

    Loose lips get you’re ass sent to jail

  • DAVE

    Back in the early 60’s while in the Navy, we were told that LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS. Today, it seems that almost every where you turn; you can find information describing new weapons, deployments, stealthy warships, aircraft, etc. Granted, I love this stuff too but the question remains how much is too much? Our military has hard enough trouble without broadcasting what they will carry and where they will carry it.

  • DAVE

    Agreed. My primary concern is that we give just enough information to excite the covert spy organizations into action. Not only for the technology but the whereabouts of our military.
    This is not a complaint only a concern. I just hope our Pentagon experts take this into consideration. Thank you for your response.