Epic Chinese Hacking is Forecasted


In 2015: Washington (CNN) A highly trained group of Chinese hackers is targeting defense, commercial and political organizations worldwide, pulling off sophisticated heists of sensitive information, according to new research out Wednesday.

Though Chinese cyberespionage has been well-documented, researchers from Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit — a division of Dell tech company — say this group, nicknamed Emissary Panda by another research firm, has pulled off cyberattacks at a level of sophistication and specialization rarely seen before among Chinese hackers. More here.

Security Firm Warns of
New Chinese Cyber Attacks

FreeBeacon: China’s cyber attacks against U.S. government and private sector databases are part of a major intelligence-gathering operation and are likely to continue, according to a new report by a cyber security firm.

Chinese hackers stole health care data pertaining to some 80 million Americans last year, and the Office of Personnel Management cyber attacks netted sensitive records on 22 million federal workers, according to an annual threat report made public Wednesday by CrowdStrike, a cyber security and intelligence company. The company is widely consulted by both government and private sector organizations.

The gathering of personal data by the Chinese represents a new trend in Beijing’s aggressive cyber attacks.

“This targeting underscores that intrusion operations associated with nation-states pose a significant risk to all data, no matter how uninteresting it may seem,” the report said.

The 49-page “2015 Global Threat Report” also states that the U.S.-China agreement not to conduct commercial cyber theft has had little impact on Beijing’s cyber operations.

“Beneath the surface, however, China has not appeared to change its intentions where cyber is concerned,” the report said.

Any reduction in Chinese cyber attacks this year likely will be temporary, and an apparent reduction may result from the use of more clandestine methods for conducting attacks following a major military reorganization.

The military changes “will likely increase [China’s] reliance on its civilian intelligence agencies and associated contractors, all of which generally employ better tradecraft,” the report said.

“If observed campaigns in late 2015 were any indication, it is unlikely China will completely cease its cyber operations, and 2016 will show the new direction it is headed,” the report said.

More cyber attacks seeking personal data could take place in the future, and organizations that hold such data “should remain alert to the possibility of similar activity going into 2016,” the report said.

China’s cyber spies usually use cyber intrusions to steal strategic information, such as intellectual property, business operations data, and sensitive government documents.

Stolen personal data, on the other hand, “is typically used to facilitate identity theft or other types of financially motivated crimes,” the report said.

However, the compromised personal information from health insurance companies Anthem, Premera, and CareFirst last year could be used by the government or state-run companies.

The large data theft also appears to be part of Chinese efforts to “build out profiles on individuals to support future operations.”

The federal government data breaches were more damaging and included sensitive background investigation information on federal employees, the report said.

“Without doubt, access to this degree of [personally identifiable information] for both successful and unsuccessful applicants represents a treasure trove of information that may be exploited for counterintelligence purposes,” the report said.

The Chinese can now exploit millions of stolen records for intelligence operations.

“Knowledge acquired during these operations could be used to create more individualized, and therefore more effective, spear phishing campaigns, or also in more traditional, real-world espionage activity,” the report said, noting that the background investigation data “would be particularly useful to traditional [human intelligence] operations as it contains details of a very personal nature about current and former government employees, as well as private sector employees working on government contracts.”

The Chinese government, through the Ministry of Public Security, has launched a major domestic campaign to crack down on online dissent. The Ministry is conducting cyber operations against people and websites that post information opposed by communist authorities, including use of an offensive cyber security force called the “Great Cannon,” a supplement to the Great Firewall designed to block online users from accessing unapproved content.

In Russia, hackers linked to the government used malicious software for intelligence-gathering and for political coercion, such as against Ukraine. Moscow hackers also have conducted cyber reconnaissance—preparation of the cyber battlefield—in Europe and elsewhere.

“In February, widespread spear phishing … was detected and analyzed,” the report said. “These attacks targeted numerous entities in government, defense, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and South America.”

Russian hackers used stolen emails from a hack against the U.S. strategic consulting firm Stratfor, the report said, a tactic not typical of Russian hacking in the past.

International pressure on Moscow over its military activities, such as the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea “portend increased intelligence collection by Russia-based adversaries particularly against regional targets and global energy companies,” the report said.

A Russian cyber intelligence operation, dubbed Berserk Bear, targeted oil and gas companies in the Middle East. Another operation, called Fancy Bear, targeted Chinese defense firms.

One Russian hacker group called CyberBerkut operating in Ukraine appears linked to Russian intelligence services.

North Korean cyber activities last year principally involved intelligence-gathering operations directed against South Korea.

Pressure from China could prompt Pyongyang to take a more aggressive cyber posture. And North Korean cyber activities also could expand into criminal activities to raise money for the regime, the report said.

Iran is expected to step up cyber attacks against Saudi Arabia. Regional tensions “increase the likelihood that Iran would use its proven cyber capabilities in 2016, targeting Saudi Arabia and regional governments that are becoming involved in the two countries’ dispute by choosing to align with Saudi Arabia.”

The report names more than 70 cyber adversaries and divides them into three types of attackers: Target intruders, such as nation states, cyber criminals, and “hacktivists.”

For cyber crime, attacks on banks and the use of ransom schemes increased during 2015.

“Phishing emails continued to dominate crimeware distribution throughout the year as the primary mechanism used for the aforementioned banking Trojans and ransomware threats,” the report said.

So-called hacktivist activities including politically motivated cyber attacks by groups like the Syrian Electronic Army and pro-ISIS hackers.

Several pro-Iranian hacker groups also were active last year, including Parastoo, Remember EMAD, and SOBH Cyber Jihad.

The group Remember EMAD—named after the Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyah who was killed in a Damascus car bomb in 2009—claimed to have penetrated Pentagon networks and then threatened to release stolen data. No data was ever released.

ISIS hacking was very active last year and included campaigns of web defacement, the release of personal data—known as “doxing”—and the hijacking of social media accounts.

New Sanctions Confirm Iran/China/North Korea Missile Partners

The State Department knew it, the White House knew it, the National Security Council knew it, the CIA knew it and yet, Barack Obama approved the Iran deal even while China, North Korea and Iran collaborated on missile construction, materials, tests and scientists.

Going back to 2007, even Condoleeza Rice earnestly challenged China on the matter.

The Keys to Iran’s Missiles are in China and North Korea

The latest revelations about Iran’s ballistic missile program make it clear that sanctions on Tehran are pointless unless they’re imposed on China and the DPRK, too.
On Monday, Tehran condemned sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department over the weekend. “The U.S. sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari, “have no legal or moral legitimacy.”

Gordon Chang, DailyBeast:

Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a threat: “Any action will be met by a reaction.”

In fact, action and reaction—sequencing, in diplomatic speak—was always part of the picture.

The Obama administration undoubtedly knew of Iranian violations before signing the landmark nuclear arrangement with Tehran in July.

Treasury’s measures follow by more than three months Iran’s Oct. 10 launch of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in violation of Security Council Resolution 1929.

On Sunday, a prisoner “swap” was announced by Tehran, then confirmed by Washington, in which four Iranian-Americans including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian were let out of Iran’s prisons. Hours later, Treasury imposed its measures on 11 designated entities and individuals “involved in procurement on behalf of Iran’s ballistic missile program.”

The sanctions, delayed from the end of December to facilitate the prisoner swap, prohibit Americans and others from engaging in business dealings with the named entities and individuals, and orders U.S. banks to freeze their assets.

The U.S. prohibitions target two Iranian procurement networks, one based in China and the United Arab Emirates and the other involving Pyongyang’s notorious Korea Mining Development Trading Corp, better known as KOMID.

The dealings between Iran and North Korea, as The Daily Beast has noted, have been extensive and spanned three decades.

Several Iranian officials vowed on Friday to expand Tehran’s missile capabilities, a direct challenge to the United States which has threatened to impose new sanctions even as the vast bulk of its measures against Iran are due to be lifted under a nuclear deal. “As long as the United States supports Israel we will expand our missile capabilities,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami,second-in-command of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. “We don’t have enough space to store our missiles. All our depots and underground facilities are full,” he added.
Several Iranian officials vowed on Friday to expand Tehran’s missile capabilities, a direct challenge to the United States which has threatened to impose new sanctions even as the vast bulk of its measures against Iran are due to be lifted under a nuclear deal. “As long as the United States supports Israel we will expand our missile capabilities,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami,second-in-command of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. “We don’t have enough space to store our missiles. All our depots and underground facilities are full,” he added.
Several Iranian officials vowed on Friday to expand Tehran’s missile capabilities, a direct challenge to the United States which has threatened to impose new sanctions even as the vast bulk of its measures against Iran are due to be lifted under a nuclear deal. “As long as the United States supports Israel we will expand our missile capabilities,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami,second-in-command of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. “We don’t have enough space to store our missiles. All our depots and underground facilities are full,” he added.

Some analysts believe that during this time there have been significant contributions of Iranian technology, but Bruce Bechtol, author of North Korea and Regional Security in the Kim Jong-un Era, disagrees. “The North Koreans are providing the expertise, the components, and the on-site development,” he told The Daily Beast over the weekend. “The Iranians are providing the money.”

Treasury’s explanatory comments tend to confirm the view that the transfer of technology has been one-way, noting that technicians from Iran’s Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group “traveled to North Korea to work on an 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Korean government.”

As Bechtol predicts, “The Iranians, of course, will insist that this is an ‘Iranian developed system,’” but it is not. The booster, he notes, looks like it is for the Taepodong series, the North’s longest-range launchers, or more ominously, a new family of missiles. The Taepodong missile, repainted, is the Unha-3 rocket.

This launcher “could allow Iran to achieve accurate global targeting of U.S. and Western military facilities in addition to large cities.”

Rick Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center told The Daily Beast that this launcher “could allow Iran to achieve accurate global targeting of U.S. and Western military facilities in addition to large cities.” Bechtol thinks it won’t be long before the “rocket booster”—actually the first stage of an intercontinental missile—will be produced both in North Korea and Iran.

That missile, in short, will pose a grave threat to the American homeland.

Treasury’s sanctions might slow North Korea-Iran missile cooperation, but as former Pentagon analyst Robert Collins, who is based in South Korea, suggests, Pyongyang has already figured out ways around obstacles like this. “The North Koreans have become experts at planning alternative routes for moving monies, moving equipment, and moving contacts,” he told The Daily Beast after the Treasury imposed the measures. They employ “a ‘dumping Peter to use Paul’ system designed to circumvent anticipated sanctions.” Pyongyang has become “very adept at counter-sanction planning.”

Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center believes Sunday’s measures will not be the last, as he noted in an email to The Daily Beast.

What is surprising is that Treasury essentially admitted that it was aware of proscribed Iranian activities before both the signing, on July 14, of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iranian nuclear deal, and its Oct. 18 “Adoption Day.” The 80-ton booster, after all, is designed for a missile useful only for carrying a nuclear warhead.

“The newest sanctions from the Treasury Department prove—without a doubt—that the State Department and the Treasury Department knew, as the agreement with Iran was in negotiation, that the North Koreans and Iranians were cooperating on new, advanced ballistic missile technology,” Bechtol writes.

In fact, work on the 80-ton booster has been publicly known for more than two years.

Treasury’s statement declares that “Iranian missile technicians” had gone to North Korea “within the past several years” in connection with the big booster.

The sanctions, therefore, look like an afterthought, and Washington appears unserious. If the U.S. really wants to end the missile threat, it will have to impose much more severe measures not just on Iran and North Korea but also on parties helping them.

Who is helping the two rogue states? WikiLeaks released an American cable showing that Chinese officials, despite pleas from then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, refused to stop shipments of North Korean missile parts passing through the Beijing Capital International Airport on their way to Iran.

That was 2007. Fisher, in his message to The Daily Beast on Monday, points out that Chinese entities are still involved in this deadly trade.

And so, it appears, is the Chinese central government. In all probability, the Iranian technicians in the last two years reached Pyongyang using the same route Tehran’s nuclear staff have routinely taken on their way to North Korea, through the airport in Beijing.

GATES: Don’t expect the nuclear agreement to lead to a more moderate Iran

Former US defense secretary Robert Gates isn’t optimistic that the landmark July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran will lead the country to halt any of its disruptive policies in the Middle East or its support for terrorist groups.
In an interview with Business Insider, Gates, who spent nearly 27 years in the CIA and was the only cabinet secretary to have served under Barack Obama and George W. Bush, said that he didn’t believe the nuclear deal would have a moderating impact on Iranian behavior or lead Tehran to become a more responsible international actor.
“The notion that betting that this regime is going to temper its behavior in the region because of this nuclear deal I think is mistaken,” Gates told Business Insider. “I think that will not happen.”

In the six months since the nuclear deal was reached, Iran has tested two nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, fired live missiles within 1,500 yards of a US aircraft carrier, and continued its support for the Assad regime in Syria and for Shiite militia groups in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Full story here.

Obama: Naysayers on Economy, Peddling Fiction

The market is spiraling. China who is the second largest U.S. debt holder has an economy that is spiraling oil prices are spiraling and what about WalMart?

Walmart to shutter 269 stores – including more than half in US

Guardian: The retail giant announced it is working to transfer 10,000 US employees to nearby stores, as CEO said closings are ‘necessary to keep the company strong’

Walmart is closing 269 stores, more than half of them in the US and another big chunk in its challenging Brazilian market. The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1% of its global revenue, but according to workers’ group Making Change at Walmart, this announcement will affect 10,000 US employees.

More than 95% of the stores set to be closed in the US are within 10 miles of another Walmart. The Bentonville, Arkansas, company said it is working to ensure that workers are placed in nearby locations.

The store closures will start at the end of the month, and many closures will be of the company’s Walmart Express stores: all 102 of them (out of the 154 locations to be shuttered in the US).

In 2011, Walmart Express marked the retailer’s first entry into the convenience store arena. The stores are about 12,000 square feet and sell essentials like toothpaste. But the concept never caught on as the stores served the same purpose as Walmart’s larger Neighborhood Markets: fill-in trips and prescription pickups.

By: Greg Campbell

During his final State of the Union Address on Tuesday, amidst his unseemly campaign politicking in a year where he is ineligible for reelection, President Obama sniped at Republicans and touted supposed economic successes that have occurred under his stewardship.

He even insisted that anyone “claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

To hear Obama speak of supposed economic success is hardly surprising; the president has long kept his own counsel and obliged himself his own conjured facts and false realities.

His administration has touted “bringing peace to Syria” as an accomplishment. As Obamacare takes effect like Cancer metastasizing in a body, he continues to assert that Americans love it and that it is working. He insisted just last week that he held the constitutional authority to undermine the Second Amendment without Congress.

So, it is of little surprise to discover that this same delusional man asserted that it is those who warn of Obama’s economy that are “peddling fiction.”

The fact is that by simple and complex metrics alike, it’s easy to see the devastating toll his “leadership” has taken on our nation’s financial health.

It turns out that not only is Obama being less-than-honest, but he’s outright lying. Obama’s economy can boast of the worst economic numbers in over 80 years!

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The economic expansion—already the worst on record since World War II—is weaker than previously thought, according to newly revised data.

From 2012 through 2014, the economy grew at an all-too-familiar rate of 2% annually, according to three years of revised figures the Commerce Department released Thursday. That’s a 0.3 percentage point downgrade from prior estimates.

The revisions were released concurrently with the government’s first estimate of second-quarter output.

Since the recession ended in June 2009, the economy has advanced at a 2.2% annual pace through the end of last year. That’s more than a half-percentage point worse than the next-weakest expansion of the past 70 years, the one from 2001 through 2007. While there have been highs and lows in individual quarters, overall the economy has failed to break out of its roughly 2% pattern for six years.

Obama, admittedly, came to office at a time when America was in trouble. Applying for the job of president, he promised to help revitalize the economy. What came from him and his Democratic minions in Congress was a punishing program of job-killing economic burdens on job creators and an expansion of government increased government dependency and that squeezed more and more out of the middle class and the lower class.

The Daily Caller reports on Obama’s failures:

Over the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew more slowly than during any five-year period since just after the end of World War II, averaging less than 1.3 percent per year. If we leave out the sharp recession of 1945-46 following World War II, Obama looks even worse, ranking dead last among all presidents since 1932. No other president since the Great Depression has presided over such a steadily poor rate of economic growth during his first five years in office. This slow growth should not be a surprise in light of the policies this administration has pursued.

An economy usually grows rapidly in the years immediately following a recession. As Peter Ferrera points out in Forbes, the U.S. economy has not even reached its long run average rate of growth of 3.3 percent; the highest annual growth rate since Obama took office was 2.8 percent. Total growth in real GDP over the 19 quarters of economic recovery since the second quarter of 2009 has been 10.2 percent. Growth over the same length of time during previous post-World War II recoveries has ranged from 15.1 percent during George W. Bush’s presidency to 30 percent during the recovery that began when John F. Kennedy was elected.

Facts and figures are to Obama like BBs to a tank; they just simply bounce-off without having any real effect.

When he and his fellow Democrats encounter facts that do not jibe with their preferred narratives, they simply deny reality in favor of crafting a new one to spoon-feed to the lapdog media and the government-dependent and government-created invalids who are willing to believe his lies without any semblance of critical thought.

In truth, it takes no economic genius to understand our situation. It requires just some honest observation.

Are jobs more plentiful than they were before?

Is it easier to obtain the American dream now than before?

Is $18 trillion+ in national debt a good indicator of economic stability?

Ukraine Cyber Attack on Power Grid, U.S. Warning

Ex-spy chief: Ukrainian cyberattack a warning sign for US utilities

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, says the US faces ‘darkening skies’ after malware linked power outages in Ukraine.

MIAMI — Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Michael Hayden warned that a recent malware attack on the Ukrainian power grid is yet another troubling sign that the US electric supply is vulnerable to hackers.

The Dec. 23 attack on utilities serving the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine appears to be the second confirmed incident of a computer-based attack to damage physical infrastructure. The attack led to blackouts throughout the region for several hours before power was restored. The Stuxnet worm that targeted the Iranian nuclear program is the only other such incident.

What happened in Ukraine is a harbinger for the kinds of cyberthreats the US faces, possibly from rival nations such as Russia and North Korea, the retired Air Force general told a crowd of critical infrastructure experts at the S4x16 security conference in Miami. General Hayden served as director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and served as CIA chief from 2006 to 2009.

“There a darkening sky,” he told reporters after his speech Tuesday, referring to the increasing threat of malware infections leading to physical damages. “This is another data point on an arc that we’ve long predicted,” he said, acknowledging that the Ukraine attack reinforces concerns in official circles about security of the American power grid. What’s more, he said, if early analysis of malware discovered at the Ukrainian facility that links it to Russia is accurate, the incident foreshadows a troubling uptick in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the disputed Crimea region.

The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that a version of the BlackEnergy program linked to the Ukraine attack has been discovered in US facilities. Hayden said that the link was troubling. “If they have a presence on the grid [with BlackEnergy] then they have already achieved what they need to carry out a destructive attack.”
Analysis of the malware recovered from the Ukrainian facility conducted by the security firm iSight Partners and SANS Institute revealed that a variant of BlackEnergy, dubbed “BlackEnergy3,” was present in the compromised utilities. However, security experts caution that it is premature to conclude that BlackEnergy was actually involved in the outages.

“It is possible but far too early in the technical analysis to state that,” wrote Michael Assante, who heads up industrial control system research for SANS. “Simply put, there is still evidence that has yet to be uncovered that may refute the minutia of the specific components of the malware portion of the attack.”

Hayden also remarked during his talk Friday on the general state of overall cybersecurity, calling on US lawmakers to pass legislation that will help bolster the nation’s digital defenses.

He also criticized of efforts by FBI Director James Comey, and others in the Obama administration, to weaken strong encryption on consumer devices to make it easier for law enforcement to conduct surveillance operations. “End-to-end encryption is good for America,” he said. “I know that it represents challenges for the FBI, but on balance it creates more security for Americans than the alternative – backdoors.”

Regarding the recent Office of Personnel Management hack – which US intelligence agencies and cybersecurity expert have blamed on China – Hayden said that as head of the NSA he would have absolutely stolen similar data from the Chinese government if given the opportunity. What’s more, he said, he wouldn’t have had to ask permission to carry out the operation.

“Fundamentally, the limiting factor now is a lack of legal and policy framework to do what we are capable of doing today,” Hayden said. “OPM isn’t a bad on China,” he said. “It’s a bad on us.”

What is vulnerable in the United States?

Project ‘Gridstrike’ Finds Substations To Hit For A US Power Grid Blackout

Turns out free and publicly available information can be used to determine the most critical electric substations in the US, which if attacked, could result in a nationwide blackout.

Remember that million-dollar Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) study in 2013 that found that attacks on just nine electric substations in the US could cause a blackout across the entire grid? Well, a group of researchers decided to see just what it would take for a small group of domestic terrorists to identify the US’s most critical substations — using only free and public sources of information.

While FERC relied on confidential and private information in its shocking report and spent a whopping $1 million in research, researchers at iSIGHT Partners used only so-called open-source intelligence, at a cost of just $15,000 total for 250 man-hours by their estimates. The Wall Street Journal, which obtained and first reported on the confidential FERC report, never publicly revealed the crucial substations ID’ed by FERC for obvious reasons, nor does iSIGHT plan to disclose publicly the ones it found.

Sean McBride, lead analyst for critical infrastructure at iSIGHT, says the goal of his team’s so-called “Gridstrike” project was to determine how a small local-grown terror group could sniff out the key substations to target if it were looking to cause a power blackout — either via physical means, a cyberattack, or a combination of the two. “How would an adversary go about striking at the grid?” McBride said in an interview with Dark Reading. He will speak publicly for the first time about the Gridstrike research next week at the S4x2016 ICS/SCADA conference in Miami.

The iSIGHT researchers drew from a combination of publicly available transmission substation information, maps, Google Earth, and grid congestion documentation, and drew correlations among the substations that serve the top ten cities in the US. They then were able to come up with 15 substations that serve as the backbone for much of the electric grid: knocking out those substations would result in a nationwide blackout, they say.

FERC’s report had concluded that the US could suffer a nationwide blackout if nine of the nation’s 55,000 electric transmission substations were shut down by attackers.

“We looked at maps and tried to … identify [power] generation facilities, and looked up both centers and what substations are in the middle that would make high-value targets,” for example, McBride says. “We tried to identify which substations have the highest number of transmission lines coming in and out,” as well, and weighed their significance.

The researchers shared the findings from Gridstrike with their customers as well as “organizations most interested from a defense perspective” to such attacks, says McBride, who declined to provide any further details on the specific organizations.

“We were extremely concerned about the amount of publicly available information” on the critical substations, McBride says. There were several documents available publicly that should not have been: in some cases, a sensitive document was sitting on an organization’s public website even though it specified that the report was not for public consumption.

The hope is that the findings will alert critical infrastructure and other organizations with ties to the power grid that understanding how an adversary thinks can help shore up defenses, McBride says. “They need to manage their recon exposure.”

What does all of this mean for the US power grid’s actual vulnerability to a physical or cyber-physical attack? McBride says the openly available intel is “reason for concern.” He says he worries more about the possibility of a regional, localized, grid attack targeting a city or area, than a nationwide attack.

As for the recent power blackout in the Ukraine that appears to have been due in part to a cyberattack, McBride says he’d be surprised if the attackers didn’t gather some of their reconnaissance via open source intelligence.


THAAD vs. North Korea weapon test

I was asked today if the facts told by North Korea launching a thermonuclear weapon was accurate. My response was kinda sorta. The matter of North Korea performing this launch test was no surprise for those paying attention as North Korea warned of this last month.

One would think that after this recent North Korea test and the three previous tests, the National Security Council, the White House and the Pentagon would announce the placement of all offensive measures with respect to North Korea and Iran…so far…nothing announced at all. Hummmm.

This test appears to be a hybrid weapon of sorts or a primary test launch for that they are designing and building. Either way, there are many widespread implications and it is necessary to put China and Iran into the blame equation. The Obama White House as well as the John Kerry State Department immediately threw cold water on the whole notion of accuracy in the successful post launch announcement. Of course they did given this administration is not equipped or opposed enough to condemn the action except to pass it off to the United Nations for a lame and feeble isolation resolution.

What never does get mention is what are the defenses against a successful more destructive launch either by Iran or North Korea? We DO have them.

Missile Defense

Learn about THAAD. Perhaps a courtesy of Ronald Reagan and his ‘star wars’ mission.

THAAD = Terminal High Altitude Area Defense



Gertz/FreeBeacon: Preliminary U.S. intelligence estimates have concluded that North Korea’s fourth underground nuclear test on Tuesday involved a small explosion that could be a component of a larger-scale thermonuclear device.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports of the underground test estimated the low yield of the detected blast to be between 5 kilotons to 7 kilotons—far less than would be detected in a two-stage thermonuclear blast, or hydrogen bomb.

The Pyongyang government announced that the test that took place Wednesday morning local time at a nuclear testing site in northeast North Korea and that it was a successful “first H-bomb test.”

The test was announced in two official statements broadcast on state-run radio and television.

Unlike the past three nuclear tests, the regime conducted the test with no advance notice. Past tests were preceded by stern public warnings in state-run media.

Also in a break with practice, the two official North Korean statements asserted the test was directly ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A copy of Kim’s written order was shown on North Korean television, and he was shown signing the order.


Another unusual feature in the handling of the nuclear test were statements indicating the blast was carried out “safely and flawlessly” without harming the environment. The statements noted that North Korea is a responsible nuclear power and would not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict and would not transfer nuclear technology unless “hostile forces infringe upon its sovereignty.”

Initial U.S. intelligence analysis of the official statements indicates the test had two goals.

One key objective for the underground blast was to bolster statements last month by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the North has developed a hydrogen bomb.

By conducting the test, Kim is seeking to cement his position within the regime. The supreme leader turns 33 on Friday and is widely viewed by intelligence analysts as inexperienced, compared to his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.

A second objective of the test was to persuade China, North Korea’s main patron, to back off pressuring the regime to abandon its nuclear program.

The harsh language used in the official statement—including a threat to adopt a more hostile posture in the coming months—were interpreted as a sign that the current tense relations with China over its opposition to the nuclear program was a main driver behind the surprise nuclear test.

“Initial reports indicate the North Koreans may be bragging a little bit too much,” said one official of the claims of a hydrogen bomb test.

The test was widely reported on social media shortly after it took place based on detection of a 5.1 magnitude seismic event Tuesday evening near a nuclear test site called Punggye-ri, in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province.

The test prompted international condemnation but a limited reaction from the Obama administration, which sought to play down the latest nuclear provocation.

In New York, the United Nations held an emergency meeting during which additional sanctions on North Korea were discussed. Sanctions were imposed after earlier nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who was briefed on the test by Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, spoke by telephone to South Korean Defense Minister Han Min Koo. Both officials agreed the test was an “unacceptable and irresponsible provocation” as well as a “flagrant violation of international law and a threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the entire Asia-Pacific region,” according to a statement.

Carter stressed in the call the United States was committed to maintaining U.S. extended nuclear deterrence protection for South Korea.

The White House said the United States and regional allies would take up the test at the United Nations, which sanctioned North Korea for past nuclear and missile tests.

“What is true is that North Korea continues to be one of the most isolated nations in the world and their isolation has only deepened as they have sought to engage in increasingly provocative acts,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.

On Capitol Hill, senior Republican leaders criticized the Obama administration for weak policies toward the rogue state.

House Speak Paul Ryan said the increasing nuclear threat posed by North Korea grew out of the failed nuclear agreement with North Korea reached by the Bill Clinton administration.

“This is exactly what happens when we appease and embolden rogue regimes,” Ryan said, noting the test had not been confirmed.

“President Obama has been guilty of this on more than one occasion,” he added, noting failed policies in Syria and Iran.

“The world is a safer place when we stand up to brutal regimes like those in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang—and that’s not happening under our current president,” Ryan said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said the test shows “the world is rapidly growing more dangerous, and the United States cannot afford to focus only on ISIS or Iran or Russia.”

“We must be prepared to protect our national security against many threats,” Thornberry said. “Unfortunately, the view around the world is that U.S. leadership is in decline while the administration’s inaction only fuels those concerns.”

Thornberry called for deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in South Korea and for strengthening the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, criticized the president’s policies.

“We are watching seven years of President Obama’s failures play out—this is what ‘leading from behind’ has wrought,” said Rogers (R., Ala.)

“While the president has wasted his two terms in office, North Korea has continued to develop its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities,” Rogers added.

Former Pentagon nuclear forces official Mark Schneider said the reported low yield of the test indicates the blast was not a thermonuclear device.

“It could be a fission trigger or primary for a thermonuclear weapon,” he said.

Schneider said nuclear specialists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are betting at estimating nuclear yields than U.S. intelligence agencies, which during the Cold War consistently underestimated Soviet thermonuclear tests.

“If the yield is significantly higher than the 6-kt estimated in [news reports], it could be more than a primary test,” Schneider added.

North Korea is estimated to have a stockpile of between one and several dozen missile-deliverable warheads.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the North Korean nuclear threat is “a frightening vision of a future with President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.”

“This is yet another example of how President Obama and former secretary [of state Hillary] Clinton’s policy of ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea has led the U.S. down a perilous path, and we are in urgent need of a new approach,” said Pompeo (R., Kan.)

“We cannot continue President Obama’s policy of turning a blind eye to North Korea and Iran.”

A Chinese government spokesman said Beijing opposed the test but warned Japan not to take provocative counter actions in response.

China has sought to rein in North Korea military provocations, including nuclear and long-range missile tests.

“We strongly urge [North Korea] to remain committed to its denuclearization commitment, and stop taking any actions that would make the situation worse,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The European Union, in a statement, said that if the test blast is confirmed as nuclear it would be “a grave violation” of North Korea’s international obligations under U.N. resolutions not to produce or test nuclear weapons.

A nuclear test would be “a threat to the peace and security of the entire North East Asia region,” the EU said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg criticized the announced nuclear test. “I condemn the continued development by North Korea of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and its inflammatory and threatening rhetoric,” he said.

The latest nuclear test was not a surprise and followed a recent boast from Kim, the North Korean leader, that his state had developed a thermonuclear bomb.

South Korea’s Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Defense Command, a Defense Ministry group, stated in a report made public Sunday that a nuclear test was expected but that it likely would not be a large-scale thermonuclear blast.

“We can’t discount the possibility that the North’s excavation of a new tunnel at its Punggye-ri test site could be designed for thermonuclear weapons tests,” command said. “Considering its research of nuclear technology, its history of underground and projectile tests, and elapsed time since its nuclear development, North Korea has the foundation for thermonuclear weapons, the report added according to the semi-official Yonhap news agency.

Thermonuclear bombs are advanced weapons that employ a nuclear blast to create a larger hydrogen blast.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency official Bruce Bechtol said if the test was a hydrogen bomb “this means the North Koreans are advancing their nuclear weaponization program at a faster and more efficient—and deadly—pace than most analysts have predicted in the past.”

“Yes it changes things,” he added. “It increases the possibilities regarding the threat that North Korea can pose to South Korea, the region, and the USA.”

The nuclear test follows North Korea’s successful submarine missile ejection test Dec. 21 from a submerged submarine. The test was regarded by U.S. intelligence agencies as a significant advance in Pyongyang’s bid to develop nuclear-armed submarine-launched missiles.

The submarine used in the test, known as the Gorae, or Whale, suffered a serious malfunction in attempting an ejection test Nov. 28. That test nearly sank the submarine, which returned to port listing at a 45-degree angle, according to U.S. officials.