U.S. Lawmaker Blasts Clinton Over Nuclear Leak
March 7, 1999 - Reuters
WASHINGTON - Senate Intelligence Committee
chairman Richard Shelby Sunday criticised the Clinton
administration for moving too slowly to tighten security after a
major leak of nuclear secrets to China was discovered in 1997.
"We've been pushing, we've been prodding the administration
to do more, to tighten up security," the Alabama Republican
said on the NBC program "Meet the Press."
"I think they're beginning to but it's been a long time,"
Shelby said. "They waited a long time. They could have done
more. They could have done more immediately ... It will damage,
if it hasn't already damaged our national security in a big, big
Shelby said Congress would hold hearings as soon as possible
to look into the leak of secrets to China in the mid-1980s and
the administration's subsequent investigation.
"The attitude of lax security is going to do more damage to
our national security than what we've seen in these newspaper
articles," Shelby said.
The New York Times Saturday reported that China used secrets
stolen from the National Laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M., in the
1980s to produce smaller warheads that could be launched from a
single missile at multiple targets.
The paper quoted critics as saying the investigation into
Chinese espionage had been delayed because the discoveries came
at a politically sensitive time for the Clinton White House.
The information came to light while Congress was
investigating the role of foreign money in the 1996 presidential
campaign and as charges emerged that Beijing had secretly
funneled money to the Democratic party.
Saturday, administration officials said the matter was under
investigation. National Security Council spokesman David Leavy
said a number of steps had already been taken to "improve
security in a systematic and comprehensive way."
The revelations could further damage the administration's
attempts to convince Congress to allow China into the World
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, also concerned about
Chinese espionage, said Sunday that Congress may have to
consider holding the administration in contempt of Congress to
prod it into providing complete national security information.
"Congress is going to have to toughen up in dealing with
this administration, particular where it comes to China and the
violations that occurred there," the Mississippi Republican
told the "Fox News Sunday" program. "Our options are limited,
but clearly there are a number of things where they are stiffing
the Congress' ... requests for information."
Details of the theft were in a secret report by a U.S. House
of Representatives select committee that investigated the
separate transfer of sensitive U.S. technology to China. Lott
said this report should be declassified.
At the request of the committee, headed by California
Republican Representative Christopher Cox, the CIA and other
agencies are conducting a thorough damage assessment, the Times
said in its story.
Shelby said top Chinese officials visiting the United States
ought to be warned to cease their espionage efforts.
"I think the message should be we want to engage you, we
want to trade with you, but we're not going to look the other
way if you are going to conduct espionage in this country,"
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