David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

UPDATE: Official Says South Korea Attack One Step Closer to Brink of War

By: David Shepherd & News Sources [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Photo: MSNBC

UPDATE: South Korea’s President, Lee Myung-bak, says “enormous retaliation should be made to the extent that [North Korea] cannot make provocations again,” after Tuesday’s military attack on the South. He said that an “indiscriminate attack on civilians can never be tolerated.”

Myung-bak called an emergency security meeting shortly after the initial shelling that killed 2 South Korean soldiers and wounded others and the death toll may climb, according to NBC News.

The White House said Tuesday, President Barrack Obama was awakened in the early morning hours and given an emergency briefing on the situation. A spokesman for the President says Mr. Obama plans to speak with the South Korean President.

The White House is strongly condemning the attack saying the United States will honor its alliance obligations to the South.

Peter Beck, a research fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations told NBC News, “[the attack] brings us one step closer to the brink of

South Korean TV showing images of homes burning in the wake of the most aggressive military action against the South since the Korean War ended in the 1950's

 war because I don’t think the North would seek war by intention, but war by accident, something spiraling out of control has always been my fear.”

ORIGIONAL STORY: The South Korean island was attacked Tuesday by North Korean artillery shells in one of the most aggressive attacks on the country since the Korean War, NBC News is reporting. The North’s military attack killed 2 South Korean soldiers, wounded 15 others, and set up to 70 houses ablaze, according to South Korean TV YTN.

The news agency is reporting at least 200 shells hit the island of Yeonpyeong. Most of the shells landed on a South Korean military base there. Now, both countries are ready for whatever may come next, vowing to continue to fight if the other doesn’t back down. In Seoul, the South Korean government called the action an “indisputable armed provocation against the Republic of Korea.  Making matters worse, it even indiscriminately fired against civilians. Such actions will never be tolerated.”

The statement says the country “immediately and strongly responded to the provocation in accordance with the rules of engagement”and vowed to “retaliate against any additional acts of provocation in a resolute manner.”

North Korea also issued a statement saying the attacks were in response to an incident that stemmed from South Korean military drills, calling them “war maneuvers for a war of aggression.”

AP / Tentions mounting in South Korea after the attack from the North, which claims to have a strong and growing nuclear weapons program.

In Washington, there are fears of escalation with a U.S. Defense official telling CNN that the “hope is that this is just one isolated incident, not an escalation into a different military posture.”

For decades, North Korea has been a concern on the global front for their nuclear program. North Korea possesses nuclear weapons that may be able to reach as far as the United States. Many fear escalation could bring the two nations closer to the brink of nuclear war.

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November 23, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accused Russian Spies Gathered Intel on Nuclear Weapons; Other Sensitive Information

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

It sounds more like an old spy novel than reality.  10 people were arrested for allegedly spying on the United States for the Russian Federation, the Justice Department announced Monday.

As details continue to unfold, the more bizarre and potentially dangerous the situation seems.  Authorities say the 10 have been living in the United States for close to 20 years; going to great lengths to cover up any ties to the Russian government.  Officials say they used American names to conceal their identity; using secret code words and making document exchanges in public places like New York City’s Central Park.

The Justice Department says the alleged spies had a special, “deep-cover” mission:  Penetrate U.S. policy-making circles while posing as U.S. civilians.

But now, it appears their lives were anything but ordinary.  They lived across Manhattan, Boston, Montclair, NJ, Yonkers, NY and Arlington, VA while secretly working for the Russian intelligence service, or SVR.  They are the successor to the Soviet KGB.

While 10 of the suspects were arrested Sunday, one was still at large as of Monday night.

Suspects Allegedly Worked For Russian Intel Agency

Court documents show a message sent from the headquarters of the SVR, intercepted by U.S. government officials, to two of the defendants says, “You were sent to USA for long term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e., to search and develop ties in policy-making circles in the US and send intels (intelligence reports) to Center.”

Another intercepted message talks about one of the alleged spies, known as Cynthia Murphy.  It states she “had several work-related personal meetings” with a man the documents describe as a prominent New York-based financier who was active in politics.

Court documents describe other messages from the suspects to Moscow discussing turnover in the highest levels of the CIA and the 2008 presidential election between President Obama and Senator John McCain.

Sources say the information was received during private conversations between at least one of the suspected spies and a former legislative counselor on Capitol Hill.

Mission: Gather U.S. / World Nuclear Info.

The Justice Department also says Russian intelligence officials wanted one defendant to gain information from a man, who has not been identified, who worked at a U.S. government research facility back in 2004.

The suspect’s intelligence report allegedly said that researcher, “Works on issues of strategic planning related to nuclear weapon development.

That same report claims the suspect had conversations with the researcher about “programs on small yield high penetration nuclear warheads (also known has nuclear “bunker-buster” warheads) recently authorized by the United States Congress.

U.S. intelligence officials say Moscow encouraged the suspects to “try to build up little by little relations,” and to gain more information about U.S. foreign policy, and about the White House “internal kitchen.”   It’s not yet clear what they mean by “internal kitchen.”

Moscow is also accused of sending directives to some of the defendants in advance of President Obama’s visit to Russia last year.  Documents show Moscow wanted information on the United States’ position on a new Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty as well as intelligence information about Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear programs.

But, according to court documents, the alleged espionage didn’t stop there.  The documents show the defendants developed a short-range wireless network between laptop computers to communicate with other Russian agents.

As the investigation continues, U.S. intelligence officials are trying to determine how much the spies were able to learn during their time in the United States and if, or how, they damaged current or previous U.S. intelligence operations.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment