Surprise, surprise. North Korea will have a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead against the U.S. mainland as early as next year, according to the most recent intelligence estimate, provided to Congress on Wednesday, July 26.
Reportedly, this changes dramatically the previous "consensus view" on the North Korean ICBM threat to U.S. cities. Virtually overnight, North Korea’s ICBM threat has gone from being 2-4 years in the future — to next year.
Moreover, the new intelligence estimate is that North Korea’s KN-20 ICBM can strike well beyond Alaska and Hawaii and hit the U.S. west coast. Independent analysts assess North Korean ICBMs may be able to strike New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami — the entire nation.
Intelligence community sources admit they were surprised by the technological advances displayed by North Korea’s recent successful ICBM test on July 4, necessitating a change in their estimate.
Our nation can't afford such surprises.
Surprises like this can prove fatal to millions of Americans. Now we have less time, years less time, to protect ourselves from North Korean ICBMs through diplomacy, improved missile defenses, improved preemptive strikes, or other solutions.
Unfortunately, major intelligence failures like this are commonplace.
For example, the intelligence community was:
· Surprised by the collapse of the USSR
· Surprised that Saddam Hussein was within months of an A-bomb in 1991, during the first Iraq War
· Surprised that Pakistan and India would become nuclear weapon states in 1998
· Surprised by the 9/11 attacks and the global jihad
· Surprised that Saddam Hussein had not revived his A-bomb program in 2003, a motive for the Second Iraq War
· Surprised by Iran’s A-bomb program, revealed by Iranian dissidents in 2002
· Surprised by Syria’s A-bomb program, supplied by North Korea, blasted out of existence by Israel in 2007
Why is the intelligence community so often so wrong?
Eight years of an Obama administration that punished those willing to speak truth to power, and rewarded those willing to conform to such fantasies as the claim that global warming is the greatest threat facing America, has done enormous damage. To many Americans the intelligence community now appears to be little more than a politically correct extension of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“Group think” puts a premium on speaking with one voice so that minority views, often the best and brightest analysts, are ignored in favor of assessments representing the lowest common denominator. Mediocrities always outnumber geniuses in any organization.
A conviction that “absence of evidence is evidence of absence.”
For example, satellite imagery could not see Iran’s underground A-bomb program in 2002. Therefore, it could not possibly exist.
Failure to learn from past mistakes or listen to critics has long been a big failing of the intelligence community. When I was a CIA analyst (from 1985 to1995) the 1974 "Team-B Report" by independent experts — who correctly concluded CIA was underestimating the Soviet nuclear threat and misunderstood their nuclear warfighting doctrine — was so reviled that there was not even a copy in the CIA library.
Nor has the intelligence community apparently learned anything from the independent Rumsfeld Commission, that in 1991 warned they were underestimating nuclear missile threats from North Korea and others.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 was supposed to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to institute Team-Bs and encourage dissenting, alternative views, to lessen the likelihood that the intelligence community would again be taken by surprise.
So where are the Team-B reports and intelligence community alternative views? The absence of such healthy disagreement indicates a dangerous intellectual conformity in our intelligence community that could result in a nuclear Pearl Harbor.
A Team-B is certainly necessary to revisit the intelligence community fantasy that President Trump is Russia’s Manchurian candidate.
President Trump deserves enormous credit for launching what amounts to a Team-B to assess Iranian compliance with the JCPOA nuclear deal. Helpful hint — if Iran already has the bomb, they are not in compliance with the JCPOA. (See my article, "Iran: The Worst Deal" Family Security Matters, Oct. 3, 2015).
I have another surprise for the intelligence community.
North Korea can probably already strike the U.S. mainland with a high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would blackout the national electric grid and kill millions of Americans. Warnings by the Congressional EMP Commission are also apparently being ignored by the intelligence community.
The same people warning about EMP have also been warning that the intelligence community is grossly underestimating North Korea’s ICBM program. Among these sages are Dr. William R. Graham (President Reagan’s science Adviser and Chairman of the EMP Commission), Ambassador R. James Woolsey (former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency), Ambassador Henry Cooper (former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative), and Fritz Ermarth (former chairman of the National Intelligence Council).
Maybe it is time to fire those who are consistently wrong and listen to those consistently right?
Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars."
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