Was a Christian non-governmental organization funded by the Pentagon used to smuggle spy equipment into North Korea?
The story goes something like this: in 2004 the Pentagon, fired up by the need to “protect the country” post 9/11, was keen on muscling in on the CIA’s virtual monopoly on strategic intelligence collection. A scheme [was devised] to smuggle electronic monitoring equipment and other spyware into top priority target North Korea. … A religious charity called Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG) was developed [to enable] the smuggling of monitoring equipment into North Korea under cover of shipments of used clothing.
The HISG charity was funded by the Pentagon to the tune of an estimated $15 million during the course of the operation. It is reported that short wave radios and some electronic devices intended to monitor nuclear programs as well as interfere with North Korean military communications were smuggled into the country by unwitting Christian missionaries, aid workers, and Chinese smugglers, but whether they provided any critical intelligence is unclear. The operation continued to run [until] 2013.
Now it will be plausibly believed that Christian charities are actually hotbeds of American spies and the likely response will be commensurate with that perception. Using a Christian charity to spy puts at risk all the employees and volunteers linked to that specific organization while helping propagate the myth that any indigenous Christian is a potential traitor.
Using unwitting and unfocused humanitarian charity volunteers and employees to smuggle in spy gear was a non-starter right from the beginning and should never have been attempted. The United States government does in fact impose a ban on recruiting certain categories of individuals as spies. Clergymen are off limits partly for ethical reasons but more because the exposure of such a relationship would be devastating both to the religious organization itself and to the United States government. Use of the U.S. taxpayer-funded Peace Corps is also banned because exploiting it would potentially turn its volunteers into targets for terrorists.
[From American Conservative article by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer]