The surprising Defense Intelligence Agency assessment of North Korea's potential nuclear capabilities emerged during Thursday's House Armed Services Committee hearing.
At the hearing, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, read from a declassified version of the document in which the DIA expresses "moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however, the reliability will be low."
As Kerry did Friday, top officials in Washington tried Thursday to downplay concerns about the report.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said that "it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced" in the DIA study.
That stance was echoed by James R. Clapper, director of U.S. national intelligence, who said: "North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the agency has no independent information to verify the DIA's assessment.
The DIA has been wrong in the past, producing an assessment in 2002 that formed the basis for arguments that Iraq had nuclear weapons -- a view later found to be incorrect
Confusion over intel's release
The report was "mistakenly" marked as declassified, according to an administration and a defense source. A House Armed Services Committee aide said staffers checked with the DIA to confirm that the passage was not classified before Lamborn read it.
Lamborn told CNN's "AC360" that he acted properly in disclosing it during the hearing.
"Given the seriousness of the threat, this is something that I think people do need to know about," he said.
On Friday, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California, also backed disclosure of the assessment.
"I have to believe they know what they're doing," said McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "I think it's good for the American people to understand how tenuous this situation is and how important it is for us to have a strong defense."
North Korean missile adjustments
On Thursday, North Korea briefly raised a missile into an upright firing position, stoking concerns that a launch was imminent, a U.S. official told CNN. Later, another U.S. official said it had been tucked back into its launcher.
That could signify that a much-feared launch by the North is less imminent. It could also mean the government was testing the equipment.
The first U.S. official cautioned that raising the untested Musudan missile, which South Korea says has a range of up to 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers), could have been just a trial run or an effort to "mess" with the United States and its allies.
The believed range means the Musudan could reach Guam, a Western Pacific territory that is home to U.S. naval and air bases, and where the United States recently said it was placing missile defense systems.
The United States and South Korean militaries have been monitoring the movements of mobile ballistic missiles on the east coast of North Korea. Japan has deployed defense systems.
Clapper, the national intelligence director, said Thursday at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he didn't think Kim had "much of an endgame" other than to get recognition from the world as a nuclear power, which "entitles him to negotiation, accommodation and, presumably, aid."