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US used Christian NGO to spy on North Korea
The United States has used a Christian non-governmental organization (NGO) as a front for an espionage program to spy on North Korea, a new report reveals.
In 2004, the Pentagon launched a secret program to gather intelligence from inside the East Asian country that has long been a source of great concern to Washington, The Intercept reported.
“We had nothing inside North Korea,” one former military official familiar with US efforts in the country told the Intercept. “Zero.”
However, a Christian charity organization called the Humanitarian International Services Group, or HISG, was able to finally make way into North Korea through offering much-needed humanitarian aid to Pyongyang.
According to the NGO’s documents, HISG was established by three friends shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. Under the leadership of Kay Hiramine, the organization set out to provide disaster relief and sustainable development in poor and war-torn countries around the world.
The espionage program was the brainchild of Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin, a senior US Defense Department intelligence official during the George W. Bush administration.
Boykin who was an evangelical Christian, obsessed with finding new and unorthodox ways to penetrate North Korea.
He was assigned with the task of increasing the Pentagon’s ability to conduct intelligence operations independent from the CIA.
Boykin improvised a plan to use charities as a cover for espionage operations and this was how HISG was chosen to participate in the program.
In the period between 2004 and 2006, HISG helped coordinate a humanitarian shipment to North Korea.
The charity offered faith-based donations that the North Korean government would occasionally accept to help its population endure the country’s harsh winters.
However, the shipment included concealed compartments of bibles underneath the clothing. The idea was that if the bibles were not discovered, the Pentagon could use the same smuggling method to get military sensors and equipment into the country.
Once they made sure that the bibles entered the country unnoticed, the Pentagon tasked HISG with gathering the intelligence it needed inside North Korea.
Hiramine’s NGO used unsuspecting Christian missionaries, aid workers, and Chinese smugglers to move equipment into and around North Korea without any of them knowing that they were part of a secret Pentagon operation.
The Pentagon planted “spoofers” and similar devices in the country to disrupt North Korean military devices and radio signals. The report also noted that “[equipment] to measure nuclear anomalies” were scattered throughout the country.
The US even planted shortwave radios that could help a downed pilot to escape in the event of a future conflict with North Korea.
Citing a former US military official and documents reviewed in relation to the case, the report noted that before being dismantled in 2013, Hiramine’s organization had received millions in funding from the Pentagon through a complex web of organizations designed to mask the origin of the cash.
In 2007, President Bush awarded Hiramine with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.