RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A top American intelligence official is questioning how much we really know about the activities in North Korea, intelligence information that sparked a crisis with that country, and the official says that intelligence may not have been as reliable as it seemed.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Back in 2002, the CIA reported on North Korea's nuclear activity. It said North Korea was constructing a plant capable of producing enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear bombs per year. President Bush then ordered a cutoff of oil supplies to Pyongyang.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: We have IEAE inspectors there watching carefully their plutonium stockpile. And then we discovered that contrary to an agreement they had with the United States, they're enriching uranium with the desire of developing a weapon.
MONTAGNE: In response to that allegation by the president, North Korea kicked out all the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. It also restarted its only nuclear reactor. Then last October it conducted an underground nuclear explosion.
INSKEEP: Now an intelligence official named Joseph DeTrani has re-evaluated the original information about North Korea. In Senate testimony this week, he said the U.S. is not as sure as it has been about North Korea's uranium enrichment.
Mr. JOSEPH DETRANI (U.S. State Department): Sir, we had high confidence. The assessment was with high confidence that indeed they were making acquisitions necessary for, if you will, a production scale program. And we still have confidence that the program is in existence, at the mid-confidence level. Yes, sir. Absolutely.
INSKEEP: The mid-confidence level. DeTrani's comments raise questions about the merit of the CIA's analysis in 2002. But the chief negotiator for disarmament talks with North Korea - Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill - said yesterday at a House hearing that there is still cause for concern.
Mr. CHRISTOPHER HILL (Assistant Secretary, State Department): We cannot have a situation where they pretend to disarm and we pretend to believe them. We need to run this to ground. And we do know, we do know, as a fact, that they made purchases of equipment whose only purpose can be highly enriched uranium.
MONTAGNE: Hill said North Korea has not acknowledged the existence of a uranium enrichment program, but has agreed to future discussions on the issue. Those discussions take place in New York early next week between the assistant secretary of state and his North Korean counterpart.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.