Fallout from the China Spy Case

To 15 March 1999


Materials presented chronologically.

Risen, James, and Jeff Gerth. "China Stole Nuclear Secrets From Los Alamos, U.S. Officials Say." New York Times, 6 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

China's technological breakthrough in the 1980s in producing small nuclear warheads "was accelerated by the theft of U.S. nuclear secrets from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico." In June 1996, "the FBI formally opened a criminal investigation into the theft.... The bureau maintained tight control over the case. The CIA counterintelligence office, for one, was not kept informed of its status, according to [Paul] Redmond, ['the agency's chief spy hunter,'] who has since retired."

Sanger, David E. "Clinton Aides Admit Lapses on Espionage by Chinese." New York Times, 7 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said on 6 March 1999 "that the investigation into China's acquisition of U.S. nuclear weapons technology showed enormous lapses in security at the Energy Department's laboratories in the 1980s."

Suro, Roberto. "GOP Calls for Hill Probe of Chinese Nuclear Spying." Washington Post, 8 Mar. 1999, A13. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 7 March 1999, "Republican congressional leaders ... called for investigative hearings and threatened sanctions against the Clinton administration if it was found to have looked the other way while Chinese spies raided U.S. nuclear warfare technology."

CNN. "CIA Measures Damage Following Leaked Nuclear Secrets." 9 Mar. 1999. [http://www.cnn.com]

According to U.S. officials on 8 March 1999, "[a] CIA-led task force is assessing how much damage may have been done to U.S. national security after a Chinese scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico allegedly shared nuclear secrets.... The information leaks at the Los Alamos nuclear research laboratory allegedly happened during the 1980s."

Gates, Robert M. "The ABC's of Spying." New York Times, 14 Mar. 1999. [http://www. nytimes.com]

This Op-Ed by the former DCI argues that "[t]he current furor in Washington over Chinese espionage at Los Alamos offers fresh evidence that finger-pointing and sound bites are a lousy way to protect and advance American security interests.... [B]oth the Clinton Administration and its critics neglect [a reality]: despite the bonhomie of countless summit meetings and press statements, the post-cold-war world is a very tough neighborhood in which nations still cynically and ruthlessly pursue their own interests."

Harris, John F., and Vernon Loeb. "Spy Case Tests U.S. Openness With China; Engagement Policy Failing, Critics Say." Washington Post, 14 Mar. 1999, A1. "Is the U.S. Too Engaging with China?" Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 22 Mar. 1999, 15-16.

"At its heart, the Los Alamos case remains a mystery. The prime suspect, Chinese American scientist Wen Ho Lee, was fired ... by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson after failing an FBI polygraph test.... But government sources acknowledge that he may never be charged, noting that FBI agents secretly investigated him while he performed his duties from June 1996 almost up until the point when he was polygraphed last month. They never had enough evidence to obtain a wiretap to monitor his calls or a warrant to search his home."

Sanger, David E. "'No Question,' U.S. Says, Leak Helped China." New York Times, 15 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger "acknowledged [on 14 March 1999] that 'there's no question' that China benefited from obtaining the design of America's most miniaturized nuclear warhead from the Los Alamos National Laboratory."

Loeb, Vernon. "CIA Probe Gets Outside Review: Retired Admiral to Examine Report on China Spy Case Damage." Washington Post, 16 Mar. 1999, A16. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 15 Mar. 1999, DCI George J. Tenet announced that "an outside review ... of the CIA's internal assessment of national security damage resulting from China's possible theft of nuclear weapons secrets from Los Alamos National Laboratory" will be led by retired Adm. David E. Jeremiah. The announcement "came in direct response to a recommendation of a House select committee [chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.)] probing technology transfers to China." See also, Bill Gertz and Nancy E. Roman, "CIA Chief Orders Study of Damage Done by Chinese Spies," Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 22-28 Mar. 1999, 18.

U. S. Department of Energy. "Press Release -- Richardson Announces Seven New Initiatives To Strengthen DOE's Counterintelligence Efforts." 17 Mar. 1999. [http://www.doe.gov]

On 17 March 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson "formally unveiled" before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence "seven new initiatives to strengthen the Department's ability to prevent the loss of sensitive information."

Barry, John, and Gregory L. Vistica. "The Penetration Is Total." Newsweek, 19 Mar. 1999.

U.S. officials believe that China may have acquired considerable information over the last 20 years about U.S. nuclear weapons. "The government's damage-assessment team is now trying to figure out who could have given the secrets to Beijing. They do not believe it was a foreign visitor to the labs, or leaks through U.S. allies.... 'This was done by American citizens,' says one source close to the investigation.... [T]he close-knit nuclear community [is] wondering if a colleague could have done the unthinkable."

Stout, David. "Clinton Asks Panel to Analyze Security Threats at Nuclear Labs." New York Times, 19 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 17 March 1999, President Clinton announced that the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) will "analyze security threats at the Energy Department's nuclear laboratories, after suspicions surfaced that China stole nuclear-weapons designs from the United States.... The president asked the board's chairman, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, to report back within 60 days." See also, Jeanne Cummings and David Rogers, "White House Plans to Launch a Review of Security Threats at U.S. Nuclear Labs," Wall Street Journal, 19 Mar. 1999, A3.

Loeb, Vernon. "Chinese Spy Methods Limit Bid to Find Truth, Officials Say." Washington Post, 21 Mar. 1999, A24. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"[S]enior U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials say they may never solve the mystery of how China learned about miniaturized warheads precisely because the Chinese employ a diffuse and maddeningly patient espionage strategy far different from the Cold War paradigm of moles, agents and payoffs. China's spying, they say, more typically involves cajoling morsels of information out of visiting foreign experts and tasking thousands of Chinese abroad to bring secrets home one at a time like ants carrying grains of sand."

Seper, Jerry, and Bill Gertz. "FBI Probes New Leads." Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 22-28 Mar. 1999, 1, 23.

"An FBI investigation of Chinese nuclear espionage has widened to include additional targets and a review of new information, law enforcement forces said" on 17 March 1999.

Thurman, James N. "Spying On America: It's A Growth Industry." Christian Science Monitor, 23 Mar. 1999, 1.

"While Washington focuses on the alleged Chinese theft of US weapons technology, experts say intelligence-gathering in the post-cold-war era is now far more sophisticated and involves a multitude of nations and motives -- economic, strategic, and political."

Pincus, Walter, and Vernon Loeb. "FBI's Spying Probe Proves No Easy Task: 'Staleness' of Case at Weapons Lab Cited." Washington Post, 28 Mar. 1999, A20. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh "in recent testimony before House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees provided the first authoritative on-the-record description ... from the administration's perspective" of what has been going on with regard to accusations that China obtained weapons secrets from U.S. nuclear labs.

U. S. Department of Energy. "Press Release -- Secretary Richardson Orders Additional Measures to Strengthen Security at Department of Energy Sites: Security Report for 1997 and 1998 Sent to Congress." 30 Mar 1999. [http://www.doe.gov]

On 30 March 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson sent to Congress the Department's "Annual Report on Safeguards and Security at its nuclear weapons facilities." He also "outlined a series of measures being taken to strengthen departmental security."

Forward to China - April 1999

Return to Spy Cases/U.S. Table of Contents

Return to China Table of Contents

Return to Spy Cases/China Table of Contents