Situation Report

Death by firing squad in North Korea?

This morning, Leon Panetta will meet with South Korea’s minister of defense and likely talk about the scary neighbor up north. The secretary will sit down with Kim Kwan Jin, and it will be hard for them to ignore a report out of South Korea this morning saying that North Korea’s vice-minister of the People’s ...

This morning, Leon Panetta will meet with South Korea’s minister of defense and likely talk about the scary neighbor up north. The secretary will sit down with Kim Kwan Jin, and it will be hard for them to ignore a report out of South Korea this morning saying that North Korea’s vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces was among senior officers executed by firing squad earlier this year. His crime? Drinking alcohol during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il. "Kim Chol was executed in January, in an apparent bid to force top military brass into submission," wrote Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper.

This story may or may not be true. An analyst tells Situation Report this morning that there were earlier reports of senior officials who were thought to be "dismissed" by firing squad who resurfaced later. Pak Nam-ki is one case in point, John Park, a Stanton junior faculty fellow at MIT, e-mailed us. "He was rumored to have been executed for the botched currency reform in 2010, only to reappear later."

Park added: "Welcome to North Korea, where being a part of the 1% is dangerous to your health."

The Army says "me-too" on the pivot. Each of the services sees big opportunity as the Pentagon looks to the East, and each wants its piece of Pivot Pie. At AUSA, the Army’s annual convention yesterday, the service’s senior officer in the Pacific said despite the perception that Asia is an air-and-sea AOR, it very much requires boots-on-the-ground, too. "Seven of the ten largest armies in the world are in the Pacific. Of the 28 nations that have militaries, in our area of responsibility, 27 of those nations are army-dominant. Twenty-one of the 28 chiefs of defense are army generals," Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific. And as the E-Ring’s Kevin Baron writes: "So begins the real fight over defense spending…one that has the military services scrambling to secure what they can for the Pacific pivot, amid limited budgets, equipment and manpower."

A reader submits a new word for the much-maligned "pivot" to describe the move to Asia: tilt. "Repositioning or rebalancing ones own foreign policy settings is like ‘tilting’ What ever happened to tilting!!" Lindsay Dorman asks.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report, where pivoting at the last minute comes naturally. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

Today, the Post begins a three-day series on the administration’s development of a sophisticated targeted killing program. In a series called "The Permanent War," the WaPo’s Greg Miller unveils the new term for the targeting list, a "disposition matrix." It’s just a term. But it reflects the reality that the war on terrorism will continue, not in the form of large counterinsurgencies, but in the secretive world of drone strikes and counterterrorism operations. Kill lists — seen as emergency measures after 9/11 — are now "fixtures of the national security apparatus," Miller writes.

Nut graf: "Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years," Miller writes this morning. "Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight."

Milestone: Some estimates suggest that the number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years exceeds 3,000 — more than the number killed on 9/11.

Today’s story:

Chilling Effect: Petraeus says prosecution of former CIA officer John Kiriakou should send a signal to the national security community about the need to protect secrets. Yesterday, Kiriakou, who wrote a book about his career in the agency and raised questions about waterboarding in media interviews, pled guilty to one count of violating what’s called the "Intelligence Identities Protection Act" for revealing the identity of a CIA officer to a reporter. He will receive a sentence of 30 months in prison. It’s the first successful prosecution of an IIPA case in 27 years.

Petraeus to CIA employees: "Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy."

The Army is studying what cyber-weapons it needs. The head of Army Cyber Command, Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, told an audience at AUSA yesterday that the Army is looking at gaps in cyber and other electronic weaponry that it must fill. Killer Apps’ John Reed translates: "That means that the service will look at the specific cyber effects that it needs on the battlefield (for example, taking over an enemy’s communications networks or wreaking havoc on a base’s power supplies) and it will then figure out the new weapons it needs to produce those effects." They could include jamming pods strapped to aircraft or advanced software, Hernandez said.

Bob Gates’ new portrait portrays him in his Pentagon office with a small MRAP on the desk behind him. On Monday, Secretary Panetta will host Gates and a private party of old friends, colleagues and officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations for the unveiling of his new, formal portrait by artist Everett Raymond Kinstler. This will be the first time Gates will be back in the building after his five years of service as secretary. Gates was proud of the life-saving MRAP vehicle, which he got into the field after pushing the Pentagon bureaucracy to move relatively quickly, and wanted a miniature MRAP given to him before he left the building to appear in the portrait.

"Of all Gates’ big initiatives, MRAPs were the closest to his heart because they saved so many American lives and he clearly wants to be remembered for his role in delivering them to the troops," Gates’ longtime adviser and former Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told Situation Report.

Gates speaks frequently, but he’s also writing. Morrell says he is about halfway through his book, likely due out sometime next year.

Kinstler painted Rumsfeld’s first portrait, as well as William Perry’s. He has also painted Tony Bennett, Carol Burnett, Peter O’Toole, Tennessee Williams, and Sen. Patrick Moynihan, as well as the official White House portraits of Ford and Reagan.

Gates will write a check for the portrait, Morrell says. A Washington Post report a couple years ago suggested that the portraits of official Washington, typically awarded in no-bid contracts, were costly. Situation Report reported in another life that Rumsfeld, who reimbursed the government for personal aircraft trips, also insisted on paying for the Steven Polson painting of him out of concern that the taxpayer shouldn’t foot the bill. It cost him $43,000.

Exiled Iraqi Vice President Hashimi confirms: Iran shipping arms through Iraq to Assad. Tariq al-Hashimi told The Cable’s Josh Rogin that Iran is supplying arms to the Syrian regime using ground convoys through Iraq. Rogin: "Hashimi said he has evidence and reports from politicians, from officers in the Interior Ministry, and from Iraqi intelligence officials, all pointing to a growing and active ground transport route from Iran to Syria. The route crosses through the Zarbatia checkpoint on the Iran-Iraq border, west of the Iranian town of Mehran, flows through the city of Karbala, and crosses over to Syria via the al-Qaim border crossing."

Sympathies to one of the Army’s best-known public affairs officers, Paul Boyce, who lost his mother, Billie Boyce, over the weekend.


Twelve Years and Counting

Horses and Bayonets

 Twitter: @glubold

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola