Sebastian Gorka, who recently departed the White House, on Tuesday appeared to publicly confirm the existence of a covert cyber sabotage program targeted at North Korea’s missile program.
“There’s many options in the more covert side of things,” Gorka told Fox News when asked about President Trump's missile defense options in the wake of North Korea’s test-fire of a missile that flew over Japan's territory on Monday evening.
“You’ve seen a lot of missile tests fail, most tests actually fail,” he said. “Sometimes there may be reasons other than just the incompetence of North Korea.”
The covert program has been widely reported. While officials from both the Obama and Trump administrations have acknowledged that cyber tools were increasingly important to deflecting enemy strikes, they have appeared more willing to imply the capability than confirm its use in North Korea.
Gorka, a former deputy assistant to Trump, was highly controversial and was reportedly unable to obtain a security clearance while in the White House. It’s unclear whether he resigned or was fired.
Speculation has long raged that U.S. cyber influence has been behind botched North Korean missile launches.
Former President Obama in 2014 reportedly ordered the Pentagon to ramp up its secret cyber and electronic operations against Pyongyang’s missile program to disrupt test launches in their opening seconds.
Since then, a staggering 88 percent of tests of North Korea’s intermediate-range missile, the Musudan, have failed, according to The New York Times.
The frequency of those launch failures suggests a U.S. effort, if it is being carried out, is working. But without the ability to do forensics analysis, it’s nearly impossible to determine what caused any given failure. It could be shoddy materials and poor engineering, or a piece of U.S. malware.
Experts say the explosions are more likely caused by internal failure in a complex R&D process with limited resources.
“North Korea is pushing really hard to pursue ballistic missiles. Any accelerated program experiences many failures,” Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for 38 North, a program of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told The Hill after an April launch failure.
“The probability is higher for this to be failures produced by an aggressive program with limited resources.”