Monday, January 14, 2008

North Korean Supernote Counterfeiting R.I.P.

Over at McClatchy, Kevin Hall provides what promises to be the final word on the allegations of North Korean counterfeiting promoted by hardliners within the Bush administration.

...evidence to support Bush's charges against North Korea is uncertain at best and that the claims of the North Korean defectors cited in news accounts are dubious and perhaps bogus.

Hall delves into the interesting and, for me, new issue of the administration’s cooperation with friendly and perhaps overly obliging elements inside the South Korean intelligence and/or policy and/or emigre community to use defectors and their possibly tall tales to advance the story:

Many of the administration's public allegations about North Korean counterfeiting trace to North Korea "experts" in South Korea who arranged interviews with North Korean defectors for U.S. and foreign newspapers. The resulting news reports were quoted by members of Congress, researchers and Bush administration officials who were seeking to pressure North Korea.

The defectors' accounts, for example, were cited prominently in a lengthy July 23, 2006, New York Times magazine story that charged North Korea with producing the sophisticated supernotes.

The McClatchy investigation, however, found reason to question those sources. One major source for several stories, a self-described chemist named Kim Dong-shik, has gone into hiding, and a former roommate, Moon Kook-han, said Kim is a liar out for cash who knew so little about American currency that he didn't know whose image is printed on the $100 bill. (It's Benjamin Franklin.)

When the definitive history of Bush administration shenanigans is written (I know, probably never) there will be a big chapter on the regime change ideologues’ creation of an international fraternity of ethically challenged spooks and wannabes who served up incendiary but dodgy intelligence...dossiers that could be stovepiped to the policy level without the inconvenience of skeptical vetting or evidentiary nitpicking by the experts at the CIA and State Department.

David Asher, the sharp end of the stick for allegations against North Korea, is still keeping the flag flying, albeit rather circumspectly:

David Asher, who was the coordinator of a working group at the State Department that collected details on North Korean criminal activities, said his group turned up evidence of the counterfeiting and didn't rely on "intelligence" to make its case.

Asher, now a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington policy organization, declined to provide any details.

I guess it depends on what your definition of evidence—or “intelligence”—is.

As for John Bolton, the moustachio’d menace whose relentless regime-change machinations gave Kim Jung Il so much heartburn, he seems to be in Fuhgedaboutit mode:

John Bolton, the former Bush administration official most identified with a hard line on North Korea, told McClatchy that he never saw hard evidence that the North Korean government was making the supernotes.

As far as the Bush administration is considered, there is no more reliable means of coverup than failure.

When a policy craters, as the hardline North Korean policy assuredly did, people don't even remember the policy itself, let alone its shaky factual and logical underpinnings.

Hopefully, we won’t forget about this particularly disastrous, ill-conceived, and dishonest foray into foreign policy chicanery.

And we can start by reading Kevin Hall. His most recent article, previous pieces, and a raft of supporting documentation can be found here .


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