16 March 2019 — Moon of Alabama
The CIA is the main suspect in the military style raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid. It now launched a somewhat hapless effort to deflect from it. The Spanish report in which Spanish government sources accuse the CIA said:
At least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the US intelligence agency. The CIA has denied any involvement but government sources say their response was “unconvincing.”
That the CIA is the main suspect in the assault was reported on Wednesday in the Spanish mainstream paper El Pais. The paper made the extra effort to publish an abbreviated English language version. It was widely picked up by other international outlets. Some of the assailants were Asian and spoke Korean language. They were probably from the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS), a subsidiary of the CIA know for its extremely hawkish politics. It often rigs elections in South Korea in support of hawkish conservatives candidates.
Attacking a foreign embassy in a third country is far out of bounce of international law and diplomatic decency. After the El Pais report something had to be done to direct the attention away from the CIA and to find some other culprit.
A story was thought up and pushed to the favorite CIA outlet, the Washington Post. It wasn’t the CIA which did it, writes the Post’s national security reporter, it was a CIA controlled ‘regime change’ organization.
In broad daylight, masked assailants infiltrated North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, restrained the staff with rope, stole computers and mobile phones, and fled the scene in two luxury vehicles.
The group behind the late February operation is known as Cheollima Civil Defense, a secretive dissident organization committed to overthrowing the Kim dynasty, people familiar with the planning and execution of the mission told The Washington Post.
People familiar with the incident say the group did not act in coordination with any governments. U.S. intelligence agencies would have been especially reluctant to do so given the sensitive timing and brazen nature of the mission. But the raid represents the most ambitious operation to date for an obscure organization that seeks to undermine the North Korean regime and encourage mass defections, they say.
The CIA agents, led by torture queen Gina Haspel, are snowflakes who would never break the law or cause some international outrage. It must have been some independent group:
“This group is the first known resistance movement against North Korea, which makes its activities very newsworthy,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University.
The identity of the assailants is a particularly sensitive topic given the delicate nature of Trump and Kim’s relationship.
Any hint of U.S. involvement in an assault on a diplomatic compound could have derailed the talks, a prospect the CIA would likely be mindful of.
Derailing the talks was (and is) exactly what Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton wanted to do. We know that because the Post reported it on February 20, two days before the raid on the embassy and seven days before the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi:
Last month, in a lengthy speech at Stanford University, [Trump’s special envoy Stephen E.] Biegun set out his vision for North Korea to dismantle its plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities in exchange for “corresponding measures” by the United States.
Hawks such as Bolton have fiercely opposed this “step-by-step” process in favor of maintaining maximum pressure through economic sanctions that would, in theory, force a better deal by eroding North Korea’s resolve.
Tasking the CIA to raid a North Korean embassy to spoil the talks is exactly a thing John Bolton would do. The Post’s shameful attempt to make believe otherwise is laughable:
“Infiltrating a North Korean embassy days before the nuclear summit would throw that all into jeopardy,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former Korea analyst at the CIA. “This is not something the CIA would undertake.”
The agency declined to comment.
We can of course fully believe the ‘former’ CIA analyst’s assertion that the CIA would never do such a thing. Aside from Bolton’s urge to sabotage the negotiations it would have had no motive. Except, of course, it would have had many:
Experts say the computers and phones seized in the raid amount to a treasure trove of information that foreign intelligence agencies are likely to seek out from the group.
In 2017 Spain asked the North Korean ambassador Kim Hyok Chol to leave. He is now the leader of the negotiations with the United States. To know everything about him is important. He may even be susceptible to blackmail:
The assailants also possess a video recording they took during the raid, which they could release anytime, said one person who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive and illegal operation.
The Spanish language version of the El Pais report had a side box that might explain the possible content of a video (machine translated):
One of the darkest aspects of the assault on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid is the interrogation to which the head of the command, who called himself The Entrepreneur, subjected the charge of business, leading the diplomatic delegation since the ambassador was expelled.
The head of the commando separated the diplomat from the rest of the hostages and locked himself alone with him.
It is not known what he intended, but the current head of the Pyongyang delegation in Madrid probably knows a lot about Kim Hyok Chol, head of the North Korean delegation in the nuclear negotiations before the US, with whom he coincided when the latter was ambassador in Madrid, between 2014 and 2017.
Mentioning a video recording taken during the raid is supposed to sow ‘fear and doubt’ in and about the North Korean negotiator.
The new Washington Post/CIA story goes on to describe the ‘regime change’ organization that is supposed to divert from the direct CIA involvement in the raid:
The Cheollima group, which also goes by the name Free Joseon, came to prominence in 2017 after it successfully evacuated the nephew of Kim Jong Un from Macau when potential threats to his life surfaced. The nephew was the son of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s exiled half brother who was assassinated in a nerve-gas attack in a Malaysian airport in 2017.
For safety reasons, the leader of the group does not disclose his name, and his identity is known only to a small group of people.
Cheollima is the name of a mythical horse in Chinese and Korean folklore. The Joseon dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1897. It went down when Japan tried to gain control of the country which it achieved a few years later.
Kim Jong Nam was killed on February 13, 2017. In a redacted video his son Kim Han-sol thanks the people who picked him up. (They might want to use him as a future replacement for Kim Jong-un.) The video was recorded on February 15 2017 (“my father was killed two days ago”). It was published on March 7 2017 on a Cheollima channel on Youtube created on March 4 2017. The Cheollima website domain the group uses was anonymously registered in March 2017. It was updated on November 29 2018 shortly after the South Korean NIS received new orders from its headquarter in Washington DC.
Cheollima/Free Joseon also seeks defectors from North Korea. On February 28 2019 (not “in March” as the Post claims), the very same day the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi failed, Cheollima published a manifest that clearly aims at ‘regime change’ in North Korea:
WE DECLARE ON THIS DAY the establishment of Free Joseon, a provisional government preparing the foundations for a future nation built upon respect for principles of human rights and humanitarianism, holding sacred a manifest dignity for every woman, man, and child.
We declare this entity the sole legitimate representative of the Korean people of the north.
The U.S. driven ‘regime change’ attempt in Venezuela also has a figure that claims to be the “sole legitimate representative” while having zero power in that country.
The English version of the manifest reads like it was written by someone who is a native English speaker or at least studied English literature:
Joseon must and shall be free. Arise! Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!
We reject the chains of our historic unrequited grief, declare henceforth a new era in our history, and prepare the way for a New Joseon. We therefore proclaim the birth of our revolution and our intentions towards building a more just and equal society, as truest expressions of the shared affections of our people.
A report on the manifest launch in the British Sun remarks:
The Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD) organisation has declared itself as a shadow government which is working to overthrow the regime.
Not a lot is known about the CCD but some people believe it is linked to South Korea’s spy agency.
The White Helmets, the MI-6 organization for ‘regime change’ in Syria, has the website domain “www.syriacivildefense.org”. Cheollima’s website domain is “www.cheollimacivildefense.org”. The logos of the two organization are also somewhat similar.
Is there a corporate design/marketing company specialized in promoting spy service cutouts for ‘regime change’?
The ‘former’ CIA analyst in the Post piece ‘predicts’ that there will be more’embassy raid’ operations:
“In its messaging, the group said they have formed a provisional government to replace the regime in Pyongyang,” said Terry, who is a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They have now shown the seriousness of their intent and some capabilities to carry out operations. We will see in the coming months the extent of their capabilities.”
While the CIA makes a hapless attempt to cover its traces in Madrid, North Korea continues to follow its game plan for the next round of negotiations. It prepares the public for a U.S. failure:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon decide whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said Friday, adding that the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders.
She saidPyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.”
The North Korean statement blames Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo for the failure of the negotiations while it empathizes a special relation between Kim and Trump.
The signaled satellite launch by North Korea will proceed. It will push the Trump administration back to the starting point of its efforts to ‘denuclearize’ North Korea.
The difference now is that North Korea has earned good will in China and Russia. It showed its willingness to negotiate and stuck to its commitments made in the Joint Declaration in Singapore while the U.S. obviously refused to fulfill its parts. China and Russia already gave North Korea some unofficial ‘sanction relief’. They are unlike to again support the failed ‘maximum pressure’ approach the Trump administrations once set out with.
The hapless CIA nonsense will not change those facts.