- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

CIA Director Mike Pompeo says U.S. spies fear North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be getting inaccurate briefings from his circle of officials on the Trump administration’s determination to neutralize Pyongyang’s nuclear threat, raising the risk of a miscalculation in the standoff.

“We’re concerned that he may not be getting really good accurate information,” Mr. Pompeo said Tuesday in wide-ranging remarks at a Washington think tank, offering a glimpse of his thinking on a host of challenges facing U.S. intelligence as he celebrated the one-year anniversary of his being sworn in as head of the CIA.

At the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Pompeo weighed in on threats posed by Russia, Iran, China and global jihadist terrorism, and said more attention should be paid to instability in Latin America.

The former Kansas Republican congressman said he’s taken aggressive measures to improve the CIA’s counterintelligence operations, speaking in the midst of a heated debate in Washington over the scope of China’s penetration into the U.S. intelligence community following last week’s arrest of a Chinese-American former CIA case officer accused of spying for Beijing.

Mr. Pompeo also stressed the Trump administration’s resolve to counter Russia on the world stage. The CIA’s assessment is that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is bent on returning the former Soviet Union to its greatness and glory — that’s what he wakes up thinking about each day,” he said. “This administration is deeply aware that we need to continue to push back against the Russians everywhere we find them.”

But it was on North Korea that Mr. Pompeo had his most pointed comments.

“It is not a healthy thing to be a senior [North Korean] leader and bring bad news to Kim Jong Un,” he said before drawing loud laughter from the crowd. “Tell someone you’re going to do that and then try to get a life insurance policy.”

Mr. Pompeo said the Trump administration is “taking the real-world actions that we think will make it unmistakable to Kim Jong Un that we are intent on denuclearization.”

He said that when he arrived at the CIA a year ago, the agency was not devoting sufficient attention to the North Korean threat, but that his move in May to establish a “Korea Mission Center” within the agency has helped remedy the situation.

The U.S. government now has intelligence significantly bolstering its capability to “interdict shipments into North Korea,” Mr. Pompeo said of a U.S.-led campaign to economically isolate Pyongyang.

He said the Kim regime is “several months” from having the capacity to directly threaten the U.S. homeland with nuclear-topped intercontinental ballistic missiles. But Pyongyang still does not have the capacity, he said, and “we are working diligently to make sure that a year from now I can still tell you they are several months away.”

Declining to comment on how seriously the Trump administration may be considering a pre-emptive military strike, Mr. Pompeo stressed the president is intent on delivering a solution through “diplomatic means.”

On counterintelligence, Mr. Pompeo said one his first moves as CIA director was a reorganization so that “the woman who runs our counterintelligence mission center reports directly to me now.”

There is a ferocious debate within the CIA and FBI over the extent to which Chinese spies have infiltrated the intelligence community in the wake of the arrest and charging last week of Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, in U.S. federal court.

An FBI affidavit said Mr. Lee was found — well after he left the CIA — with notebooks filled with agent names and phone numbers. Some have speculated he played a major role in an alleged intelligence breach that might have betrayed as many as 20 clandestine CIA informants in China back in 2010 and 2011.

Mr. Pompeo said he’s intent on ensuring the CIA “has the resources it needs to deliver on its counterintelligence mission, which includes making sure that we’re doing offensive counterintelligence that is working against our adversary services in a way that prevents them from getting inside of our service.”

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