Connect China's Dots
May 10, 1999 - William Safire - The New York Times
I called three friends in the Departments of Energy, Defense and Justice
and asked them to turn on their office
computers and read to me the first
banner that came on their screens.
"Anyone using this system expressly consents to monitoring" is the message. Government employees using
Government equipment on Government time thus waive privacy claims.
Wen Ho Lee, the scientist who downloaded millions of lines of the nation's
most secret codes to a computer easy
to penetrate, also signed a waiver
consenting to a search of his computer
without his knowledge.
And yet the Reno Justice Department denied the F.B.I.'s request for
permission to search Lee's Government computer. Eric Holder, Janet
Reno's deputy, decided that a court
search warrant was necessary -- but
then refused to apply to the special
foreign-surveillance court to get it. Of
more than 700 such F.B.I. requests a
year, a surveillance official admits
that a flat turndown is extremely rare.
Why this one?
Ms. Reno, who never met an investigation of Chinese penetration she didn't try to undermine, is suckering us
with a claim that the denial of surveillance was to protect a criminal investigation. That is foo-foo dust. This was
counterespionage, and the Criminal
Division was kept in the dark.
Making C.D. the scapegoat for the
failure to protect America's deepest
nuclear secrets is typical of the Clinton-Reno refusal to accept responsibility for endangering national security.
Reno has appointed her personal
Whitewash Brigade of favorite roundheels. This enables her to rebuff Congress and the press for months with
the usual "I cannot comment because
an inquiry is ongoing."
Her non-investigation of this Mr.
Lee, following last year's oh-so-gentle
prosecution of another Mr. Lee for
espionage, is part of a pattern of
averting exposure of Clinton's national-security laxity. Connect the dots:
- Political contributions poured in
from Beijing spymasters through
Johnny Chung, 50-time visitor through
Hillary Clinton's office. Richard Shelby's Senate Intelligence has now
passed evidence of "suspicious banking relationships" to Reno Justice,
where it will languish unless Senate
Banking picks up the trail.
- Secret U.S. technology flowed
out to China, made possible by Clinton's easing of export controls to his
"strategic partner." This included
missile improvements to target U.S.
cities and supercomputers that could
take advantage of secrets being stolen
while Justice was determinedly protecting Mr. Lee from search.
- Nuclear secrets poured out of
Los Alamos and other labs to computers easily accessed. Though The
Washington Post, a day late and a
scandal short, treats this as the partisan conclusion of "GOP Senators,"
Democrat J. Robert Kerrey said yesterday he had "no doubt" that the
technology transfer and Chinese espionage at nuclear labs damaged our
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Bill
Richardson cannot explain why Clinton claimed not to know of heavy
espionage on his watch when he demonstrably did. With exquisite irony,
Richardson makes a great show of
strapping scientists into lie detectors.
They never learn. Wen Ho Lee beat
a polygraph when he was first suspected, just as the Soviet spy Aldrich
Ames did. Reliance on the sweat machine is the surest way to intimidate
innocent scientists while letting downloaders and dead-droppers appear to
be not guilty.
With Clintonites hunkered down and
Justice covering up, Congress must do
the digging. A report by the Wisconsin
Project on Nuclear Arms Control
showed what Chinese arms enterprises received U.S. technology over
the past decade -- but could supply no
names of U.S. exporters during the
Clinton years. That's because that embarrassment is "proprietary information" at the Commerce Department.
John McCain's Senate Commerce
Committee has the power to subpoena
those names from Commerce, and to
have Wisconsin's Gary Milhollin run
those sales against his Chinese-arms
data base. That would tell us what
political contributors were allowed to
sell sensitive technology in 1996 and
1997 to which Chinese nuclear, missile
and military sites.
Staring at us are dots connecting
political money and radical policy
switches to laxity in stopping the sale
and theft of secrets. But none are so
blind as those who will not see.
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