Context of the Korea Special Forces Story
Categorie: David Axe, North Korea, Special Forces |
Tags: North Korea, Special Forces
by DAVID AXE
Some folks have accused me of "fabricating" quotations I attributed to Army
Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley regarding U.S. surveillance operations in North
Korea. See the original story here . and skepticism here and here.
The context was a panel featuring theater Special Operations Forces
commanders at the SOFIC conference in Florida the week of May 21. Tolley
spoke on the record to an audience of hundreds of industry, government and
If he was speaking hypothetically, he did not say so. He spoke in the
present tense . and at length. (Probably five minutes or so.)
Update #1: Oops. Actually, don't take Paul McLeary at Defense News as
corroboration. He has a different spin on the story. And besides, I forgot
that he and I used some of the same notes - my notes. But my notes have
Tolley saying what I attribute to him in the story.
Look people, Korea's not my usual beat. Far from it. I don't always know
what's news and what isn't in Korea. But I was in the room at the
conference. I took notes. There were many hundreds of witnesses - and
Update #2: People are telling me that surely Tolley was speaking
hypothetically. If so, he did not specify. Or if he did, I did not hear him.
I heard him describing the technical challenges of conducting human
surveillance in North Korea. He described the problem, and his solution to
the problem, and the challenges incumbent in the solution. Sounded pretty
concrete to me.
Update #3: Comment from U.S. Forces Korea:
Brig. Gen. Tolley recently participated in a theater special operations
command commander panel discussion at a Special Operations Forces industry
conference. Some reporting has taken great liberal license with his
comments and taken him completely out of context. Quotes have been made up
and attributed to him. No U.S. or ROK forces have parachuted into North
Korea. Though special reconnaissance is a core special operations force
mission, at no time have SOF forces been sent to the north to conduct
special reconnaissance. The use of tunnels in North Korea is well
documented. Several of the known tunnels along the DMZ are visited by
tourists every day.
Update #4: Frankly, I'm relieved to hear the military say we're NOT sending
troops into North Korea. Some observers wonder how I could ever believe that
we HAD - after all, that would be an act of war. Yes, but we routinely
strike military and terror targets in foreign countries in ways that could
be construed as acts of war. Pakistan, anyone? Korea watchers are SHOCKED at
Tolley's comments, whatever the general's true meaning was. I guess I wasn't
as shocked because I'm accustomed to creeping American warfare.
By the way, I'm beginning to realize what a big deal this all is. Wish I'd
realized that earlier. But all that doesn't change what Tolley said,
according to my notes.
Update #5: I got to say, I'm hating this. I honestly had no idea this tiny
little story would be such a big deal. Yes, the news was "surprising" to me.
But a lot of news is a surprise to me . that's why it's news.
Update #6: I really hope someone has a transcript of this panel. Are my
handwritten notes inaccurate? Was the general vague in his comments? A
third-party written record will help clear this up. Anyone?
Update #7: So I'm attaching photos of my notes. Hard to read, I know. And
yes, I could FAKE notes. So I realize these won't necessarily convince
anyone who thinks I'm a North Korean agent trying to incite a war. For what
it's worth .
Update #8: Any other reporters who want clarity on this chain of reporting,
contact me at david_axe-at-hotmail.com. I'm in U.S. eastern time.
Update #9: Can I reiterate please how much I'm hating this? I've been shot
at and blown up and even kidnapped without feeling as crappy as I do about
this. I'm in this weird vortex where so many people are telling me I could
not possibly have heard what I said I heard that part of me is beginning to
believe them. I keep re-reading my notes, as though looking for something
new. I'm a reliable note-taker and a fairly seasoned reporter (I think) but
I can only write down what I hear and what I understand. Did I really screw
something up here? Am I being snowed by a general who said something he
shouldn't have and now fears for his career? Is it all a misunderstanding? I
have no idea any more. I just have these two sheets of paper in my hand .
and a lot of people telling me I'm about to start a war.
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