Kenneth R. Timmerman is a contributing editor for Reader's Digest and a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.
ADVANCE COPY - CHECK AGAINST PRINT EDITION.
The Clinton administration has demoted four top China military analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency, because of their efforts to warn of Chinese efforts to acquire sensitive U.S. military technology through civilian contracts, current and former intelligence officials told TAS recently. The four analysts specifically warned the CIA that U.S. aerospace companies were transferring military equipment and technical information that could benefit China's nuclear weapons and missile programs through satellite launch contracts.
The disavowed analysts also authored reports containing explicit warnings that U.S.-made Supercomputers were helping the Chinese to improve their strategic weapons systems, develop information warfare strategies against the United States, and improve their biological and chemical weapons. Until the Clinton administration lifted export controls on the sale of super-computers to China in January 1996, the PRC had only managed to acquire a handful of these powerful machines. Since then, according to the bi-partisan report released in May by Congressmen Chris Cox (R,CA) and Norm Dicks (D,WA), more than 600 supercomputers have been shipped to China. "That figure is current only until January of 1999," Cox said in an interview. "Since then, these sales have accelerated."
Cox warned that the administration now plans to allow the PRC to gain access to even more powerful supercomputers starting in January 2000, with no U.S. controls whatsoever. "And through all of this, we are maintaining the fiction that Hong Kong continues to exist as a separate entity, that can receive more sensitive U.S. technology without any control because it will prevent it from be transshipped across the border into China," Cox said. "Well, guess what: since July 1, 1997, there's no border. So anything that goes to Hong Kong today goes directly to the PRC."
According to Jay Valentine, the head of Infoglide Corp., an Austin, Texas company that investigates computer security breaches for the U.S. government, the Chinese are now using their new capabilities to break into U.S. government computer systems in a massive way. In the wake of the accidental U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Valentine said recently, the Chinese assaulted an array of U.S. government web sites, revealing an astonishing 3,000 to 4,000 "back doors" to U.S. computer systems they had set up surreptitiously by hacking. In a report issued more than two years ago, the President's Commission for Critical Infrastructure Protection found "widespread capability to exploit infrastructure vulnerabilities. The capability to do harm - particularly through information networks - is real; it is growing at an alarming rate; and we have little defense against it." And that was before the Chinese had large numbers of U.S. supercomputers. Nuclear power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, water pumping stations and sewage treatment plants - just to name a few - could all be shut down or made to misfunction by Chinese government hackers in time of war.
William Triplett and Edward Timperlake, in their new book (Red Dragon Rising: Communist China's Military Threat to America. Regnery Publshing, Inc.; 271 pp) believe the effects of an info-warfare attack would be devastating. "First, the special operations team would manipulate [oil refinery process control equipment] to start cascading fires and explosions. Then it would set off a high-powered microwave weapon that would disintegrate all the electronics and make it impossible to isolate the fires or regain control of the system. As a result, emergency response teams would be overwhelmed, thousands of people would be killed or injured, gasoline rationing could be at World War II levels for months, and the entire economy would experience horrendous repercussions."
CIA analyst Ronald Pandolfi was the highest ranking scientist at the Agency when he visited the headquarters of Hughes Space and Communications in El Segundo California in 1996. Pandolfi was part of a team of CIA analysts tasked to do research for a new National Intelligence Estimate on PRC's military Science and Technology - a much more exciting topic than its title might suggest. To complete his research, Pandolfi had been instructed to vista a number of U.S. defense and high-tech companies trading with Communist China, to glean any insights they might have on his subject.
Hughes officials explained that after one of their Optus telecommunications satellites was destroyed in January 1995 during launch, they sent a technical team to China to examine why China's Long March rocket had failed. Pandolfi asked them if they had U.S. government permission to share technical information with the Chinese. By the time he left Hughes, accompanied by a female CIA liaison officer for Southern California, Pandolfi was carrying a copy of the Hughes launch failure report. It was precisely this type of technical exchange with the Chinese by satellite rival Loral that sparked intense Congressional investigations in 1997 and 1998, and led to the appointment of the Cox-Dicks committee.
But Pandolfi never made it out the door - at least, not with the report. According to TAS sources, the Hughes official asked Pandolfi to wait while he checked on the classification level of the accident report - a report which Hughes had already given to its Chinese partners. Hughes ultimately handed over the report to the CIA, and to several Congressional committees, but not before Pandolfi was victimized for reporting on Hughes' questionable relationship with the Chinese. Pandolfi's CIA escort wrote a memo back to the head of the China Military analysis office, John Culver. In it, she warned that Pandolfi had shown unusual interest in obtaining the Hughes damage report, and that it could spell trouble for the Agency.
Before long, Pandolfi was asked to testify on the incident by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Eager to head off any further leaks of information to a team of Congressional investigators scheduled to visit Hughes, Culver wrote a memo to the CIA's California field office, urging them to warn Hughes that Congress was starting to poke into the affair. Culver's letter triggered a Justice Department investigation into CIA for obstruction of justice, which is still being debated by a grand jury today. After Pandolfi testified in closed session before Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R,Ala), he was removed from the China division and put to work on developing alternative energy sources. "In other words, he was given an empty office, without a telephone or a computer," one source familiar with the case said.
And Pandolfi was not the only one. The head of the CIA's Nonproliferation Center, Dr. Gordon Oehler, was forced to resign in the summer of 1998, after he told Congress in public testimony the Clinton administration "regularly dismissed" information from the intelligence community on Russian and Chinese missiles sales to Pakistan and Iran. "After returning from vacation, Oehler found his office empty, his staff reassigned, and the phone disconnected," one Congressional aide said. "He got the message and resigned the next day."
Dennis Fred Simon, and two other unnamed China military experts, were demoted after they drafted an earlier National Intelligence Estimate on Chinese military S&T in 1997. Despite the fact that every agency within the U.S. intelligence community had signed off on their conclusions, which included warnings that the Chinese were using U.S. technology obtained through satellite launches and other commercial projects for military purposes, TAS has learned both NIEs were suppressed on the personal orders of CIA Director George Tenet. Two subsequent reports were also suppressed. They detailed recent developments of China's military industries, and its successes in "Deception and Denial" of U.S. satellite surveillance and communications intercept programs.
National Intelligence Estimates are shared on a regular basis with Congress. They are widely distributed throughout the intelligence and national security community. Many are also made available to the public in a declassified form. "This is the first time I know of that the Director of the CIA has intervened to block the release of such a product, after it has been cleared by all the intelligence community components that contributed to it," one knowledgeable source told TAS.
So far, the administration has stymied TAS efforts to obtain a copy of these documents through the Freedom of Information Act. "We've got such an enormous backlog, you're just going to have to wait in the queue," a CIA FOIA officer politely told us.
As any visitor to the CIA's website can see, the Agency has spent a tremendous effort over the past twelve months to declassify thousands of documents relating to U.S. intelligence activities in Chile during the early 1970s. But the Chile project is different, I was told. "That was done on Executive Order, at White House request."
Clearly, the Clinton-Gore White House believes it is in the national interest to rehash old horror stories from the 1970s, especially now that General Pinochet is facing extradition to Spain on charges of human rights abuses. The administration has determined it would do "irreparable harm" to release the intelligence community's assessment of how China is currently using U.S. technology obtained through commercial contracts or through espionage to improve its military capabilities. The only difference is, that harm would be caused to the current occupant of the White House, not to our national security.
With the nay-sayers removed from positions where they could influence the rampant politicization of the intelligence process, the CIA and the DIA have moved increasingly to produce homogenous products, painting China's People's Liberation Army as "the greatest junkyard army in the world," as well-known government analyst Paul Godwin puts it. The believe is that no matter how much the Chinese spend or how much they try to modernize, they will never be a match for U.S. military capabilities. "What you're seeing now at CIA," said California Republican Chris Cox, "is policy makers who all share the same bad ideas."
Bill Clinton and his cronies have refined spin to an artful form of butchery, with truth as the victim. While such skills might conceivably help a candidate besieged by bad news, this administration's bias toward spin can have tragic consequences when applied to national security.
During the Kosovo crisis, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was warned repeatedly by CIA analysts that bombing Yugoslav forces would actually create the very ethnic cleansing the administration claimed it was trying to prevent. Faced with the evidence of ethnic cleansing, the administration now blames the CIA for providing "faulty" intelligence. But in a letter sent to Congressman Curt Weldon recently, a top CIA Balkan analyst set the record straight "CIA's Balkans military analysts unanimously believed that bombing would not stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We wrote this up in numerous analyses and memos over the last year," he told Weldon. "Milosevic would not have ordered massive ethnic cleansing in full view of international observers. On the other hand, the bombing campaign facilitated the removal of the observers. Clinton hence created a situation where Milosevic had nothing to lose by murdering and driving out Kosovo's Albanian population."
The most famous whistle blower to recently fall victim to political necessities is the former head of the Department of Energy's counterintelligence department, Notra Trulock.
Trulock began investigating a possible breach of security at our nuclear laboratories in 1995. Before long, with assistance from the FBI, he came to the conclusion there was a high probability that the Chinese had an agent on the inside who had passed on critical information on several advanced nuclear weapons designs, including the W-88 Trident warhead. The main suspects to appear after a grueling investigation were a Chinese-American scientist, Wen Ho Lee. Lee and his wife "stood out from the other suspects for various reasons," according to a report by the Senate Governmental Affairs committee, "principal among them the aggressive efforts Sylvia Lee had made to involve herself with visiting Chinese scientific delegations and Wen-Ho Lee's prior involvement as a suspect in a previous espionage investigation in 1982-1984." Lee failed a lie detector test during that earlier investigation when asked whether he had helped a Chinese communist agent who was subsequently prosecuted for espionage. He later admitted to having passed unclassified information to a foreign government.
But then the spin began. The Chinese government soon issued its own 40-page rebuttal of the Cox report, whose arguments soon began appearing in mainstream media outlets, including the Washington Post - without any citation of the source. That report painted Trulock, and anyone who accepted his conclusions, as a racist. As the months went by and the spin shifted in its favor, the White House began to declare victory. "Isn't it incredible how a story like this can get started and then it turns out to be totally false," a top NSC official told me recently. "The Cox report has been totally invalidated. Not a single one of it's conclusions that stands up to close scrutiny."
I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn, too. Problem is, most of the mainstream press is buying.
The latest wrinkle of this extraordinary effort to reinvent the truth is the administration's response to new Congressional requirements to provide annual reports on Chinese espionage against the United States, and on PLA companies operating on our shores.
The first espionage report was delivered in June 1998. "It comes in two flavors: classified, and unclassified," says Cox. "Both of them are a void. Either our intelligence community has suppressed this information, or they are producing nothing. This is a clear violation of the National Security Act."
But identifying PLA companies operating in the United States has turned out to be even more sensitive. In September - ten months after the legal deadline for filing the PLA report, President Clinton wrote Cox telling him that he had turned the matter over to the Secretary of Defense. What Clinton didn't know, or didn't care to find out, was the Secretary Cohen had already written Cox three weeks earlier, to tell him the Defense Intelligence Agency knew nothing about the subject - despite the fact that DIA is the intelligence community's primary collector on PLA companies, and produces a detailed organization chart showing the chain of command controlling China's biggest Defense-Industrial organizations.
"The Agency [DIA] determined that in the summer of 1998 the Chinese Government announced that the Chinese army would no longer engage in commercial activities," Cohen wrote. "Despite this official de-linking, however, many Chinese commercial entities, some formerly associated with the People's Liberation Army, continue to operate in the United States. To determine whether any such entity retained overt or covert ties to the Chinese military required additional investigation... Accordingly, we have undertaken an effort to identify, within the executive branch, an agency which might more appropriately facilitate compliance" with the reporting requirement. A more perfect example of doublespeak is hard to find.
Of course, if Secretary Cohen was sincerely interested in uncovering the Chinese army's operations in this country he might start by directing the DIA to purchase a copy of the Membership Director of the China Enterprise Association, which is published in El Monte, California and conveniently lists more than one hundred State-owned companies now operating in Southern California, including their parent companies. Or he might consult the FBI, which told the Cox-Dicks committee there were more than 3,000 PLA-owned companies currently operating in the United States. Then again, he wouldn't want to be the one who showed the Emperor wore no clothes.