Chinese Secrets: Two Years of Congressional Probes Have Plowed Up Some Dirt on the Red-Hot Link between the Chinese and the Clinton Administration. So What's in the Cox Report? (Cover Story)

By Waller, J. Michael | Insight on the News, June 21, 1999 | Go to article overview

Chinese Secrets: Two Years of Congressional Probes Have Plowed Up Some Dirt on the Red-Hot Link between the Chinese and the Clinton Administration. So What's in the Cox Report? (Cover Story)


Waller, J. Michael, Insight on the News


Is the GOP blowing its chance to hold the Clinton-Gore administration accountable for the greatest national-security disaster since the Japanese caught us asleep at Pearl Harbor?

Two years of congressional probes, special prosecutors and federal indictments, all sparked by Capitol Hill Republicans, seized the national spotlight in late May when key Clinton-Gore fund-raisers who illegally funneled large sums of money from Communist China into the Democrats' 1996 campaigns either agreed to turn state's evidence or pleaded guilty. This badly shook key figures at the White House and the Democratic National Committee. But the biggest bonanza was from a bipartisan, Republican-led select committee that unanimously found Beijing systematically had penetrated the United States' nuclear-weapons program, just as Insight has been reporting for more than a year.

While President Clinton, Vice President Gore and others wooed Chinese illegal money, the evidence shows the administration ignored and downplayed intelligence reports, obstructed an FBI investigation and allowed a suspected Chinese spy continued access to nuclear-weapons secrets at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Officials even ordered an intelligence professional at the Energy Department not to reveal the thefts to Congress and, when ultimately he did, the intelligence specialist was instructed to mislead lawmakers about the danger.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox of California, was formed a year ago when then House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia decided to create a panel to probe whether illegal Chinese campaign contributions in the 1996 elections swayed the Clinton administration in its decisions to allow the sale of U.S. military-applicable high technology to Beijing. Formally titled the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, the Cox committee soon turned up the massive thefts of the latest U.S. nuclear-weapons designs.

The Cox committee unanimously found that the People's Republic of China, or PRC, "has stolen design information on the United States' most advanced thermonuclear weapons," that "the PRC's next generation of thermonuclear weapons, currently under development, will exploit elements of stolen U.S. design information" and that "PRC penetration of our national weapons laboratories spans at least the past several decades and almost certainly continues today." It also found a range of other serious lapses, many direct results of Clinton-Gore policy, in some cases carried out by top campaign donors, and it issued a series of policy recommendations that should have been implemented long ago.

The Cox committee uncovered two principal scandals at the nuclear-weapons laboratories run by the Department of Energy. First, "There was a national-security breakdown in the Energy Department labs ... that became nearly total beginning in 1993 under an administration that never has taken national security seriously," says Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a freshman Republican member of the House International Relations Committee. "And -- this is the bigger scandal -- the efforts to downplay, cover up and thwart investigations into the first scandal when it became known in 1995."

It is this second scandal, separating the security breakdowns from the active cover-ups and obstructions, on which Republicans risk losing the battle to hold perpetrators accountable, say Capitol Hill conservatives.

Even before the Cox report came out, the administration and its allies tried to confuse the issue by saying that the worst spying occurred under the Reagan and Bush administrations and that it wasn't until Clinton personally took action that the breaches were closed. What they avoided saying, critics note, is that Clinton is the only president ever to take large campaign contributions from Communist China, that his is the only administration ever to block an FBI investigation of a prime nuclear-spy suspect and that only the Clinton administration ever tried to prevent Congress and the public from learning about massive theft of designs for virtually the entire U. …

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