Archive for December, 2012


December 31, 2012

The Washington Times on December 30, 2012, published a Bloomberg report on Japan detaining a Chinese fishing boat that entered its waters on December 29, bringing the captain and two of the vessel’s crew members in for questioning, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. Excerpts below:

The boat’s captain, Lin Shiqin, admitted his vessel entered Japanese waters, Xinhua reported.

The…incident comes amid a dispute between China and Japan over territorial claims in the East China Sea, with China asserting sovereignty over uninhabited islands that are administered by Japan. The detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain in September 2010 in the area of the islands strained relations between the world’s second- and third-biggest economies.


December 30, 2012

Michael Ledeen on his blog at PJ Media on December 29, 2012, reminded us that December 30th is Vladimir Bukovsky’s seventieth birthday. He is the only Russian barred by special law from running for president, a tribute to his immense popularity and force of character. Among the great generation of democratic dissidents–the generation that punctured the monstrous Soviet bubble and produced the celebrated sucking sound that ended the Soviet Empire and gutted the world Communist movement–Bukovsky is arguably the most important. Excerpts below:

Bukovsky has a rare combination of toughness, common sense, and good humor. He never compromised with his oppressors, even though he was subjected to the KGB’s infamous psychological and biochemical torments during his years in prison and the camps.

His memoir, To Build a Castle, is one of the masterpieces of the period, and his subsequent works document the crimes of the Soviet state, the complicity of Western leaders who played useful idiots to the evil empire, and the survival of the Soviet vision in the European Union.

He organized an effective international organization, Resistance International, whose members ranged from German Greens to French “new philosophers,” a New York diamond merchant of blessed memory by the name of Bert Jolis, and the celebrated Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco.

In the final year of the Soviet Empire, Bukovsky organized five of us to write a novel, The Golden Convoy, that predicted the internal fission of the Soviet Union

The book, which culminates in a military coup in Moscow, was published in Russian a few weeks before the failed military coup. As the regime came tumbling down, The Golden Train was read on Moscow radio, to the great delight of the listeners, and it sold out in record time. Typically, no English-language publisher was willing to print it (too hard on Gorbachev, who is removed from office in the last chapter), nor could Bukovsky find an American or British publisher for his subsequent blockbuster Judgment in Moscow based on hitherto-secret documents from the Politburo archives.


December 29, 2012

Professor Walter Russell Mead recently on Via Meadia of American Interest journal commented on the China threat. Excerpts below:

…last week, in a turn of events that would make diehard Nascar fans happy, India and the ten Asean nations cemented a deeper strategic relationship at a motor race. The Financial Times reports that Indian dignitaries met last week with representatives of the Association of Southeast Asean Nations at the Asean-India Car Rally in New Delhi.

The New Delhi meeting was just the latest of sign of Asean-India closeness, following on a decade in which trade between the two has grown tenfold and everything from a closer maritime alliance to a Trilateral Highway joining India to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia has been put on the table.

India and the Asean area have deep historical links, and under British rule modern Malaysia, Singapore and Burma were part of the same empire as modern India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

With the end of European rule, the region splintered. India became inward looking as Burma expelled Indian traders. Wars consumed Indochina and the Cold War alliance systems divided the region. But increasingly, the old historical patterns are making themselves felt, and India-Asean trade is rapidly growing from a low base, with both sides hoping to expand relations further.

India and Asean have been thrown together by their shared mistrust of China, and that country’s territorial ambitions…both Japan and the United States see India’s deepening engagement with southeast Asia as an important element in the construction of an Asian architecture that reduces the threat of Chinese domination.

China is a formidable power, and India, still smarting from its defeat at China’s hands in their 1962 border war, will be hesitant to take any open steps against the country. But alarm over heavy-handed Chinese policies continues to grow in the region…[and] we expect more summits of this kind and more concrete plans for strategic and economic cooperation.


December 28, 2012

Fox News on December 28, 2012, published an AP report on China saying it has dispatched a ship to the disputed South China Sea, in an apparent effort to reinforce its claim to the waters. Excerpts below:

The official Xinhua News Agency says patrol vessel Haixun 21, equipped with a helipad, departed the southern city of Haikou for the South China Sea.

China believes most of the South China Sea is its own, overlapping with claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan in parts of the gas- and oil-rich region.

The Philippines says it objects to Chinese patrols of Philippine maritime territory.


December 27, 2012

The Washington Times on December 26, 2012, reported that Japan’s newly elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, pledged to rebuild the economy and mend Japan’s alliance with the United States in the face of an assertive China at his first news conference on December 26. Excerpts below:

He vowed to defend Japanese territorial waters against Chinese aggression but stressed that his government will carry out a diplomacy drive to “win back” national interests.

“There are many issues concerning Japan-China relations, Japan-South Korea relations and Japan-U.S. relations — which is the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy,” he said.


December 26, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on December 19, 2012, commented on the British naming of land in Antarctica. Excerpts below:

From Georgetown in South America to Maryland in the U.S. to Prince Edward Island in Canada to Victoria Falls in Africa: British royals have lent their names to places across six continents over the centuries…

This week Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the Queen’s name would get its own place in the sun (for six months out of the year, at any rate). A British-administered part of Antarctica, nearly twice the size of the U.K. itself, is to be named Queen Elizabeth Land in honor of her Diamond Jubilee.

A desolate place, this wedge-shaped piece of land begins at the South Pole, encompasses the jagged-edged peaks of the Pensacola Range, and reaches the edges of the Ronne and Filchner ice shelves.

Mr. Hague’s polar gesture hasn’t been without controversy, however. Geopolitician Klaus Dodds of the University of London called it “provocative” and warned that it’s “a ratcheting up of the parlous relations between Britain and Argentina.” Apparently, Buenos Aires also disputes U.K. claims in the Antarctic.


December 25, 2012

Fox News on December 25, 2012, published an AP report on an Iranian semi-official news agency saying there has been another cyberattack by the sophisticated computer worm Stuxnet, this time on the industries in the country’s south. Excerpts below:

The report by quotes provincial civil defense chief Ali Akbar Akhavan as saying the virus targeted a power plant and some other industries in Hormozgan province in recent months.

Tehran has said both worms are part of a secret U.S.-Israeli program that seeks to destabilize Iran’s nuclear program.


December 22, 2012

Professor Walter Russell Mead recently commented on his blog Via Meadia at American Interest on a surprising movie on Chinese TV. Excerpts below:

China’s state-run television network lately had a surprising fare for a totalitarian state.

Television audiences across China watched an anarchist antihero rebel against a totalitarian government and persuade the people to rule themselves. Soon the Internet was crackling with quotes of “V for Vendetta’s” famous line: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

The airing of the movie on China Central Television stunned viewers and raised hopes that China is loosening censorship.

Was somebody asleep at the switch, or is this a signal that under Xi Jinping things in China will be a little more open?

This could be the shape of things to come [but likely] someone in a CCTV office in Beijing was having a very, very bad day.


December 21, 2012

PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PRESIDENT’S INTELLIGENCE ADVISORY BOARD By Kenneth Michael Absher, Michael C. Desch and Roman Popadiuk, University Press of Kentucky, $39.95, 528 pages

The Washington Times on December 19, 2012, published a review by Joseph C. Goulden of a new book on the U.S. President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Excerpts below:

Since the Eisenhower administration, every president with the exception of Jimmy Carter has made varying use of an outside advisory panel that authors Kenneth Michael Absher, Michael C. Desch and Roman Popadiuk term “one of the smallest, most secretive, least well-known, but potentially influential parts of the U.S. intelligence community.”

During most of its existence, the body was known as the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, or PFIAB. In 2008, during the post-Sept. 11 restructuring of the intelligence establishment, the name was changed to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which continues to be used under President Obama.

Because of the highly classified material with which it deals, the board is by nature secretive. It also operates under a blanket of executive privilege that President Eisenhower articulated in a 1958 letter to Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson in denying a request to access to PFIAB materials: “From time to time the President invites groups of specially qualified citizens to advise him on complex problems. These groups give the advice after intensive study, with the understanding that their advice will be kept confidential. Only by preserving the confidential nature of such advice is it possible to assemble such groups or for the President to avail himself of such advice.”

Long-term board member (and chairman, 1981-90) Leo Cherne repeatedly emphasized to colleagues “that PFIAB was special because it was the one part of the U.S. government that never leaked.” He regularly refused to cooperate with investigations of the PFIAB by other parts of the intelligence community and the congressional oversight committees.

Given these strictures, the authors of this book worked with a very thin documentary base. The board, whose membership has ranged in numbers from eight to 19, is housed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds. Traditionally, it met every other month for two to three days (although the current Obama board meets monthly). Its executive director is appointed by the president, and it has a permanent staff of three to four members, drawn from the intelligence community. Members are unpaid, but they receive travel expenses.

A recurring theme in board recommendations over the years has been management of the CIA’s Operations Directorate, the spy arm of the agency.

The authors write that advisers to President Kennedy took umbrage at the very existence of the board, calling its members “useless impediments, bureaucratic obstructions to a vigorous, activist foreign policy.” The failed Bay of Pigs operation, however, convinced JFK that he needed such a board to provide oversight.

Another action that contained more than a hint of politics came during the Ford administration, stemming from an in-house dispute at the CIA over Soviet missile strength. A majority of analysts thought White House fears of increasing Soviet strength were overblown. Dissidents, supported by outside conservative allies, persuaded the PFIAB to task rival “teams” from each faction with examining the hard evidence. The report of the “Team B” hard-liners, which highlighted an increasing Soviet aggressiveness, was used to bolster support for defense spending increases during the Reagan years. (A detailed — and declassified — account of the Team A-Team B turmoil can be found in Studies in Intelligence, the CIA’s in-house journal, available online.)

The political doors swung wide open under President George W. Bush, who, the authors write, “filled his board with those to whom he owed political favors, and large campaign donors.” In selecting PFIAB members in 2005, “he appointed nine campaign donors to fill his 16-member board.”

As the authors conclude, “One of the board’s strengths — but also a potential weakness — is that it is subject to the whims of presidents. Previous presidents have used the board well, ignored it, politicized it, even disliked it.” Still, the “fresh perspective” brought to intelligence issues by outside experts is valuable, they contend.

Perhaps. In the post-Sept. 11 period, however, the intelligence community has been besieged by such a plethora of ad hoc experts that its usefulness has been impaired. It’s time to let the professionals do their work in private.

Joseph C. Goulden, former Washington bureau chief of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is the author of 18 nonfiction books.


December 20, 2012

Washington Post on December 19, 2012, in a commentary warned that North Korea now has an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States, as demonstrated by their successful launch and orbiting of a satellite on December 12. Certain poorly informed pundits among the chattering classes reassure us that North Korea is still years away from being able to miniaturize warheads for missile delivery, and from developing sufficiently accurate missiles to pose a serious nuclear threat to the United States. Excerpts below:

North Korea is a mortal nuclear threat to the United States— right now.

North Korea has already successfully tested and developed nuclear weapons. It has also already miniaturized nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery and has armed missiles with nuclear warheads. In 2011, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Ronald Burgess, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea has weaponized its nuclear devices into warheads for ballistic missiles.

North Korea has labored for years and starved its people so it could develop an intercontinental missile capable of reaching the United States. Why? Because they have a special kind of nuclear weapon that could destroy the United States with a single blow.

In summer 2004, a delegation of Russian generals warned the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission that secrets had leaked to North Korea for a decisive new nuclear weapon — a Super-EMP warhead.

Any nuclear weapon detonated above an altitude of 30 kilometers will generate an electromagnetic pulse that will destroy electronics and could collapse the electric power grid and other critical infrastructures — communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water — that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 300 million Americans. All could be destroyed by a single nuclear weapon making an EMP attack.

A Super-EMP attack on the United States would cause much more and much deeper damage than a primitive nuclear weapon…

Both North Korean nuclear tests look suspiciously like a Super-EMP weapon. A Super-EMP warhead would have a low yield, like the North Korean device, because it is not designed to create a big explosion, but to convert its energy into gamma rays, that generate the EMP effect.

A Super-EMP warhead would not weigh much, and could probably be delivered by North Korea’s ICBM. The missile does not have to be accurate, as the EMP field is so large that detonating anywhere over the United States would have catastrophic consequences. The warhead does not even need a re-entry vehicle, as an EMP attack entails detonating the warhead at high-altitude, above the atmosphere.

So, as of Dec. 12, North Korea’s successful orbit of a satellite demonstrates its ability to make an EMP attack against the United States — right now.

The Congressional EMP Commission estimates that, given the nation’s current unpreparedness, within one year of an EMP attack, two-thirds of the U.S. population — 200 million Americans — would probably perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse.

Thus, North Korea now has an Assured Destruction capability against the United States.

Nevertheless, some very bad developments are foreseeable. Iran will certainly be inspired by North Korea’s example to persist in the development of its own nuclear weapon and ICBM programs to pose a mortal threat to the United States. Indeed, North Korea and Iran have been collaborating all along.

If North Korea and Iran both acquire the capability to threaten America with EMP genocide, this will destroy the foundations of the existing world order, which has since 1945 halted the cycle of world wars and sustained the global advancement of freedom.

Most alarming, we are fast moving to a place where, for the first time in history, failed little states like North Korea and Iran, that cannot even feed their own people, will have power in their hands to blackmail or destroy the largest and most successful societies on Earth.

The president should immediately issue an Executive Order, drafted for the White House earlier by the Congressional EMP Commission, to protect the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures from an EMP attack. The Congress should pass the SHIELD Act (HR 668) now to provide the legal authorities and financial mechanisms for protecting the electric grid from EMP. The Congress should enhance Defense Department programs for National Missile Defense and Department of Homeland Security programs for protecting critical infrastructures.

The administration and the Congress owe the American people security from an EMP Apocalypse.

Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.