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October 28, 2015

Report: U.S. Used Christian Aid Group for N. Korea Espionage

The U.S. government used an evangelical charity as a front to spy on North Korea for nearly a decade as part of a highly classified Defense Department intelligence program, according to The Intercept.

Humanitarian International Services Group, or HISG, received millions of dollars from the Pentagon through a web of commercial and nonprofit entities to conduct espionage — unbeknownst to most of the aid organization's staff and volunteers — from 2004 until it was dissolved in 2013, the investigative news website writes.

Defense intelligence officials allegedly tasked HISG's Colorado-based CEO, Kay Hiramine, with gathering intelligence in North Korea after the charity gained rare access to the totalitarian country through clothing donations. Founded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, HISG had partnered with the Pentagon on reconstruction programs in Afghanistan and later received a presidential medal for its Hurricane Katrina relief work.

Mr. Hiramine's tasks included finding transit routes for clandestine operatives and military equipment, according to The Intercept, which cites documents and interviews with current and former military and intelligence officials, humanitarian workers, former HISG staffers, and others in reporting on the alleged spying. Mr. Hiramine and other senior HISG officials did not respond to requests for comment, and the Pentagon declined to comment.