U.S. intelligence agencies are closely monitoring China’s missile facilities in anticipation of a test of China’s missile defense interceptor, which also doubled in the past as an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile.
The officials commented in response to reports that China is set to conduct another potentially destabilizing anti-satellite missile test in space. In 2007, China fired a missile that destroyed a weather satellite and resulted in tens of thousands of dangerous pieces of debris that threaten manned and unmanned spacecraft.
The Washington Free Beacon reported in September on new intelligence reports that indicate China is preparing to fire its Dong Ning-2 missile into space, this time at a high-earth orbit target.
Then last week Gregary Kulacki, a specialist with the Union of Concerned Scientist, reported on his blog, “All Things Nuclear,” that Chinese officials recently circulated an internal notice of an upcoming anti-satellite missile test in space,
A U.S. official said a test at this point does not appear imminent. However there are signs an interceptor flight test is being prepared.
After the vehement international reaction to the 2007 space weapon test, China has sought to mask its anti-satellite missile program as a less controversial missile defense program, specialists say.
That is what took place in 2010, according to a classified State Department cable made public by WikiLeaks.
The Jan. 12, 2010, cable reveals that China’s military a day earlier had launched an “SC-19 missile from the Korla Missile Test Complex and successfully intercepted a near-simultaneously launched CSS-X-11 medium-range ballistic missile launched from the Shuangchengzi Space and Missile Center.
“An SC-19 was used previously as the payload booster for the January 11, 2007, direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) intercept of the Chinese FY-1C weather satellite,” the cable says. “Previous SC-19 DA-ASAT flight-tests were conducted in 2005 and 2006. This test is assessed to have furthered both Chinese ASAT and ballistic missile defense technologies.”
Chinese state-run media reacted to reports of a coming anti-satellite missile test with optimism. The Communist Party’s nationalist and anti-U.S. newspaper Global Times reported Sunday that “hopefully, the speculation about China’s anti-satellite tests is true.”
Claiming Chinese space policy is “peaceful,” the newspaper then stated:
“It is necessary for China to have the ability to strike U.S, satellites. This deterrent can provide strategic protection to Chinese satellites and the whole country’s national security.”
Richard Fisher, a China military affairs specialist, said China is developing its second anti-ballistic missile program after a Mao-era effort was halted in the 1980s. The current program is “directly linked to the ASAT program,” he said.
“China’s successful development of missile defenses would only accelerate its ability to undermine Asian confidence in the extended U.S. nuclear deterrent, on top of its already troubling thousands-of-kilometers-long ‘Underground Great Wall,’ hiding an unknown number of missiles,” said Mr. Fisher, who is with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
CIA’s ‘own’ Brennan
The CIA’s bureaucracy is preparing to welcome CIA Director-designate John O. Brennan, one of the first agency insiders to lead the service in several years.
The agency has a long history of chewing up directors who were not veterans or who did not conform to the CIA bureaucratic culture.
The CIA as an institution long ago shed its image as an elite group of gentleman spies, mavericks and cowboys. Today, critics say, the bulk of CIA officials are what novelist John le Carre once dubbed “espiocrats.”
Today’s CIA is largely peopled by a new generation of officials, many whom joined after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Insiders say the new and old generations at the agency are divided between its headquarters bureaucrats — mainly analysts and technicians who tend to reflect the left-wing academic milieu found at universities — and elements of its much smaller operations branch.
On the operational side, the spies on the ground are said to remain mostly posted to embassies, where they are usually not secret. Secondly, they are mostly focused on conducting operations inside the United States, as outlined by former CIA officer and agency critic Ishamael Jones.
The bright spot for the agency is the post-Sept. 11 focus on the successful hunt for al Qaeda terrorists and the collection and use of intelligence in targeted attacks through its own drone strikes or in combination with U.S. military special operations forces and other covert action.
Acting CIA Director Michael J. Morell highlighted the agency’s us-versus-them mentality in a note to all CIA employees sent Monday, the day Mr. Brennan, currently the White House counterterrorism chief, was nominated.
“I want to share with you how pleased and deeply proud I was to learn from the president yesterday that he would be nominating John, one of our own,” Mr. Morell said.
The comment raises questions about how the CIA handled its other recent directors, including former congressman and Clinton administration official Leon E. Panetta, now outgoing defense secretary, and retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, a military strategist with no intelligence background who resigned over a sex scandal.
“John Brennan is indeed one of CIA’s own,” said former intelligence officer Angelo Codevilla. “It is significant that the agency regards this as important. That is because the agency has always placed itself — its welfare and prestige — ahead of the quality of its work and the welfare of the United States.”
Another victim of the agency bureaucracy was former CIA Director Porter Goss — a former agency hand and conservative former congressman who ruffled feathers at CIA as President George W. Bush’s director, only to find himself and his staff the target of career CIA bureaucrats’ wrath.
At one point during the Goss regime at the CIA, officials misused a secret counterintelligence database to dig up dirt on a Goss aide who years before had been caught stealing a piece of pizza. The information was then passed to The Washington Post, considered the agency’s house organ for political leaks.
Mr. Panetta managed the CIA with little opposition, mainly by taking a hands-off approach to agency operations. Mr. Petraeus also let the bureaucrats have their way.
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Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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