Of Nukes & Spooks
March 15, 1999 - ESSAY / By WILLIAM SAFIRE - The New York Times
WASHINGTON -- "Absolutely no truth to it -- it's an
outrageous statement," fumed Samuel Berger, the first national security
adviser to regularly attend political
campaign meetings in the White
House. "It's wrong . . . not based on
any facts whatsoever."
He was responding to Tim Russert's
quotation on NBC's "Meet the Press"
of my assertion of connections
among: (a) the Clinton-Gore fund-raising from admittedly illegal Asian
sources, followed by our stunning
turnabout in trade policy; (b) the uncleared access to the White House by a
high Chinese military intelligence official; (c) the Clinton decision, accompanied by huge campaign contributions by a satellite manufacturer, to
switch regulation of technology transfer to his anything-goes Commerce
Department, and (d) the years of foot-dragging by the Clinton National Security Council when confronted by evidence that China had stolen nuclear
secrets from Los Alamos.
Mr. Berger would have us believe
that these are not facts, and if they
are, they are wholly unrelated.
It would be outrageous indeed to
suggest that American officials were
consciously betraying our national interest. But the confluence of these
facts in election year 1996 -- combined
with the urge to disregard or derogate
any intelligence that would stop the
political blessings of a "strategic partnership" with China -- led to Clinton's
denial of a dangerous penetration.
A few questions to the committees
holding closed hearings this week:
The White House line is that Congress was adequately briefed on this
17 times. If true, were the intelligence
"Big Four" properly forewarned and
did they then fail in their oversight
Chris Cox tells me no: "Our committee expressly found the Administration failed to comply with National
Security Act requirements for keeping
Congress informed. To claim otherwise is outrageous."
Spooks wonder if the F.B.I. office in
New Mexico that bungled the Edward
Howard capture fumbled again in 1995
by taking a full year to react to evidence of heavy theft. Others suggest
that Beijing, eager to intimidate us in
the Taiwan Strait, wanted us to know
it had our W-88 nuclear-warhead technology. Who's right?
Why did the Justice Department's
intelligence surveillance policy staff,
which reports directly to Janet Reno,
deny the F.B.I. authority to tap the
telephone of its suspect, Wen Ho Lee,
at Los Alamos in 1995? This was no
mere Mafia drug bust; a Chinese document showed our most vital national-security secrets were threatened.
Over three years, did F.B.I. Director
Louis Freeh protest to Reno about this
Why has Berger & Co. repeatedly
stressed that "other countries, including friendly countries," spied on us? Is
this the spin machine's not-so-sly way
to get supporters of Israel in the Congress and the media to shut up and
The former chief of Department of
Energy intelligence, Notra Trulock,
says he was ordered not to inform
Congress of his suspicions, but his
boss, Elizabeth Moler, disputes this.
Whose story will change under oath?
Why, if Secretary Bill Richardson
were so "seized of" this secret issue
last August when he was named, did
he demote the expert, Trulock, and put
in charge a C.I.A. man from his U.N.
embassy staff -- Larry Sanchez --
who knew nothing about the agency's
Does Lieut. Col. Liu Chaoying,
daughter of a top Chinese general,
provide a link between the stealing of
secrets at our national laboratories in
the 80's and the purchase of secrets
from our American satellite and computer manufacturers in the 90's? Did a
U.S. company help China widen the
acquisition envelope of its SA-12 anti-aircraft missile by 20 degrees, and are
Air National Guard F-16 pilots now
being briefed on their new danger?
Is it true that even now, tens of
thousands of E-mail messages every
month flow out of our national laboratories at Sandia and Los Alamos -- but
our National Security Agency's Big
Ear fails to monitor them?
Is Berger telling the public the
same story he told the Cox committee
If so, why was President
Clinton denied knowledge from 1995 to
1997 about this most damaging atomic
spy coup since the Rosenbergs? Isn't a
President entitled to such information
before proposing a "strategic partnership"? Or did Clinton really know?
But to pose these questions is outrageous.
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