Chinese Spying Called Worse than Kosovo

The Washington Times - March 22, 1999 - Joyce Howard Price

A leading Senate voice on defense issues yesterday described China's theft of nuclear secrets a graver threat than Kosovo and urged that FBI agents be placed in U.S. weapons labs.

"There have been a series of leaks, all very serious ... and much more threatening to the national interest than Kosovo," Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, a Republican member of the Intelligence Committee, said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

He said he has asked FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to detail field officers to U.S. weapons laboratories and is "optimistic" this will be done. "We've got to change the culture of these labs. The atmosphere has to change to include counterintelligence."

Clinton administration officials were put on the defensive again yesterday by a Newsweek magazine report that the Chinese had succeeded in "total penetration" of American weapons labs and had recovered two unexploded U.S. cruise missiles from Afghanistan.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, whose department oversees the weapons labs, called the "total penetration" claim "an over-exaggeration."

"There's a lot of hysteria out there that is unfounded, but we will get to the bottom with ongoing investigations of any future problems," he said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."

Mr. Richardson did not deny the accuracy of the Newsweek report, which said CIA analysts -- responding to President Clinton's order for a preliminary "damage assessment" to determine just how much Beijing knows about U.S. nuclear technology -- found evidence the Chinese "have cracked even the most secret weapons labs."

According to Newsweek, U.S., officials investigating Chinese espionage believe China, over the past two decades, may have acquired design information about seven U.S. nuclear warheads, including the neutron bomb developed in the, early 1970s. They believe China may also have stolen secrets about U.S. efforts to develop a nuclear weapon able to create an electromagnetic pulse "that would short out anything in an enemy nation that uses electricity,

The CIA and a team of top nuclear-weapons experts came to these conclusions, Newsweek says, after CIA analysts pored through data gleaned from U.S. espionage against China. The material included years of communications intercepts and revelations from a 1995 defector involved in China's nuclear Program.

The material -- much of it written in Chinese and never read --had been stored in CIA computers and forgotten about until now.

Newsweek said that when the CIA showed the evidence to several nuclear-weapons experts "they practically fainted, " The magazine quoted one unnamed U.S. official close to the probe: "The Chinese penetration is total. They are deep, deep into the labs' black programs."

Newsweek said that China recently obtained two U.S. cruise missiles that failed to detonate in last fall's retaliatory attack on terrorist Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Those weapons have sophisticated guidance and electronics-control systems.

The report closely follows the New York Times' disclosure of a classified congressional intelligence report that China obtained U.S. secrets for making compact nuclear weapons for multiple-warhead missiles in the 1980s from a Chinese-American scientist who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Clinton administration has been criticized for a slow response after the security breach, which took place in the 1980s, was discovered in 1995, China denies it engaged in espionage.

On NBC yesterday, Mr. Richardson confirmed there was a "serious breach" of security at the Los Alamos lab, that the Chinese got nuclear secrets and "damage" was done.

"The extent of the damage, the nuclear design of the W-88 [miniaturized warhead] will be determined in the CIA's damage assessment, he said. Mr. Richardson said the Energy Department has, "taken aggressive steps so that never happens again. " He enumerated changes already made or in the works. He was not asked about Mr. Kyl's call for FBI agents at the weapons labs.

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