First, it was supposed to be video of North Koreans inside of Syria’s alleged nuke facility. Then it turned out the “video” was really just the intel community’s own presentation, which contained still photographs.

Now Reuters seems to knock the story back another notch:

A U.S. official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss classified matters, said that among the intelligence the United States has was an image of what appeared to be people of Korean descent at the facility.

“Appeared to be people of Korean descent”?

As a friend of the site wondered in a email a little while ago: “I’m not sure how one would recognize NKs in photos…’Hard Rock Café Pyongyang’ T-shirts?”

Late Update: The Financial Times offers a more definitive account from a source:

One photograph shows a North Korean nuclear scientist named Chon Chibu standing beside a person believed to be his Syrian counterpart. Mr Chon has worked at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which produced the material for the bomb North Korea tested in 2006, and has dealt with US officials in the past. The US official said the date of the meeting was unclear, but said the vintage of a car that appears in the background suggests it was sometime after 2005.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.