Trump says US will not use spies on North Korea, then appears to retract statement

Trump CIA - JFUnited States President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he would not allow American intelligence agencies to use spies against North Korea, raising eyebrows in Washington, before appearing to backtrack a day later. The American president was speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, when he was asked about a report that appeared in The Wall Street Journal that day. According to the report, Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, held regular meetings with officers of the US Central Intelligence Agency before he was assassinated with VX nerve gas at a busy airport terminal in Malaysia in February 2017. The Wall Street Journal’s claim was echoed by a book written by Washington Post correspondent Anna Fifield, which also came out on Tuesday. In the book, entitled The Great Successor, Fifield claims that Kim had traveled to Malaysia to meet his CIA handler when he was killed.

On Tuesday, President Trump said he had seen “the information about the CIA, with respect to [North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s] half-brother. And I would tell [Kim] that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure”, said the US president, before repeating, “I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices”. Reporters interpreted Trump’s comments to mean that he would not use human assets or any other kinds of informants to collect intelligence on the regime of the North Korean leader. As can be expected, the US president’s remarks raised eyebrows among lawmakers and national security experts in Washington. It was suggested that Trump appeared to voluntarily eliminate a potentially invaluable tool of intelligence collection from America’s arsenal. The president’s comments were even more peculiar given the hermetically sealed nature of the North Korean regime, which Western spy agencies would argue necessitates the use of human assets for intelligence collection. Moreover, President Trump’s comments appeared to once again place him at odds with his own Intelligence Community, as previously in the cases of Iran’s nuclear program, the current status of the Islamic State, or Russia’s meddling in American political life.

On Wednesday, however, the US president appeared to backtrack on his comments. When asked at a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda about his earlier remarks, Trump denied that he had implied the US would not use spies to collect information on North Korea. “No, it’s not what I meant”, the president responded to the reporter who asked him the question. “It’s what I said and I think it’s different, maybe, than your interpretation”, said President Trump, but refused to elaborate on what he actually meant with his statement on Tuesday. The Reuters news agency contacted the CIA seeking an official statement on the US president’s remarks, but the agency said it had no immediate comment on the issue.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 June 2019 | Permalink

5 Responses to Trump says US will not use spies on North Korea, then appears to retract statement

  1. Pete says:

    US intelligence agencies need to be resigned to the fact that Trump’s black and white tweeting mentality is not well suited to the nuanced world of their activities.

    For example, the FBI/Justice Department can expect Trump will issue an off-the-cuff, premature presidential pardon for Julian Assange even before Assange is extradited to the US.

  2. Krypteia says:

    If you are among the “national security experts in Washington” whom conceive the idea that POTUS has an eagle eye over the IC, especially CIA, then your credentials should be stripped. Sad times we live in.

  3. Phil says:

    I thought his comments were in reference to using “family members” as intelligence sources – maybe not…

  4. Robert says:

    Krypteia, take your pro-Trump trolling somewhere else. We are all allowed to raise questions about the executive without having our “credentials stripped”. This is not China, yet.

  5. Phil says:

    The whole Cheollima Civil Defense aspect reeks – going back to their little raid in Spain, and now this information coming to light that they were involved with Kim Jong Nam. And not even mentioning how “coincidental” and suspect his run-in with the VX poisoning prostitutes was… A lot of games are being played and they are getting a tad too obvious about it. As far as pro Trump trolling goes, the article headline states that Trump – just like the fool he is painted to be – rules out using spies against North Korea altogether, which is not how I interpreted his statements at all. It seems like another effort to paint him as foolhardy, which, if it was so, there would not be such a need to twist his comments – they would look foolish without any extra “help.” The truth, at least to me, is that he has done a better job than his predecessors.

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