Fallout from the China Spy Case

May 1999


Materials presented chronologically.

Click for materials on the Cox Committee Report, the unclassified version of which was released on 25 May 1999.

Gerth, Jeff, and James Risen. "1998 Report Told of Lab Breaches and China Threat." New York Times, 2 May 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

A secret report, prepared by U.S. counterintelligence officials "throughout the Government" and "distributed to the highest levels of the Government" warned that "China posed an 'acute intelligence threat' to the Government's nuclear weapons laboratories and that computer systems at the labs were being constantly penetrated by outsiders.... The 25-page counterintelligence report contains many examples of lax security and serious intelligence breaches at the labs that have not been previously disclosed, involving more than a dozen foreign countries."

Pincus, Walter, and Vernon Loeb. "GOP Senators: U.S. Bungled Probes of Atomic Spying." Washington Post, 6 May 1999, A2. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"Senate Republicans unveiled new evidence [on 5 May 1999] that investigations of the chief suspect in possible Chinese espionage at nuclear weapons laboratories have been marked by repeated bungles over the past 15 years, including at one point the loss of his security file."

Johnston, David. "Justice Department to Investigate Handling of Spy Case." New York Times, 7 May 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"Attorney General Janet Reno said [on 6 May 1999] that the Justice Department would examine whether federal authorities had mishandled the investigation of a nuclear scientist suspected of spying for China."

Hosenball, Mark, and Daniel Klaidman. "The Slow Boat to China Crew: Did the Feds Take Too Long to Investigate the Lee Case? " Newsweek, 10 May 1999. [http://www.newsweek.com]

"Government officials tell Newsweek that both the Energy Department and the FBI failed to act aggressively on suspicions that [Wen Ho] Lee may have been leaking secrets despite warning signs that spanned nearly 20 years."

U. S. Department of Energy. "Press Release -- Richardson Unveils Security Reform Package." 11 May 1999. [http://www.energy.gov]

On 11 May 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson "unveiled the largest, most sweeping reform of security programs in the department's history. The announcement includes the creation of a new high-level Office of Security and Emergency Operations and improved oversight, increased nuclear materials inventory accountability, additional cyber-security improvements, a zero-tolerance security policy, new counterintelligence measures, accelerated safeguard and security improvement goals, more physical upgrades, cyber-threat training, and an extension of the executive order on automatic declassification."

See also, James Risen, "Energy Secretary Announces Program to Strengthen Lab Security," New York Times, 12 May 1999.

Johnston, David. "Reno's Handling of Reports of Chinese Spy Are Criticized." New York Times, 20 May 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"Senators at a closed-door hearing of the Intelligence Committee [on 19 May 1999] lashed out at Attorney General Janet Reno for what they said was her failure to aggressively manage the case of a suspected spy for China at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons."

New York Times. "Cohen Puts Off Trip to China." 26 May 1999.

"Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen has postponed his trip next month to China, citing tension between Washington and Beijing, the Pentagon announced" on 25 May 1999.

Johnston, David. "If Lawmakers Call for Blood, They May End Up With Reno's." New York Times, 27 May 1999.

The Cox committee's "conclusion that China systematically stole nuclear secrets has roused angry lawmakers in both parties to look for a high-profile official to blame, and increasingly they are taking aim at Attorney General Janet Reno, for failing to respond aggressively to the threat. Ms. Reno is not alone in the cross hairs; other officials, like Samuel R. Berger, the national security adviser, have also come under attack. But it is Ms. Reno who appears to be most vulnerable."

Johnston, David. "Pushed to a Wall by Lawmakers, Reno Defends Herself." New York Times, 28 May 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"Attorney General Janet Reno said on [27 May 1999] that she was never fully informed of a dispute between the Justice Department and the FBI over a proposal to wiretap a scientist suspected of spying for China. Reno ... said that FBI Director Louis J. Freeh or her own intelligence staff should have advised her of their disagreement."

Pincus, Walter. "Lab Reforms Stall in House." Washington Post, 28 May 1999, A3.

"Legislation to tighten security at the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories ran into a snag in the House [on 27 May 1999] after a separate measure breezed through the Senate by a voice vote."

Roman, Nancy E., and Dave Boyer. "Senate Approves Tighter Security at Nuclear Labs." Washington Times, 28 May 1999. Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 31 May- 6 Jun. 1999, 3.

"The Senate responded to Chinese spying [on 27 May 1999] by easily passing legislation to tighten security at U.S. nuclear laboratories.... [T]he Senate adopted a set of proposals by Majority Leader Trent Lott ... that would expand congressional oversight of technology exports and increase Pentagon monitoring of satellite launches in China."

Seper, Jerry. "Reno Blames FBI For Not Initiating China Wiretap." Washington Times, 28 May 1999.

"Attorney General Janet Reno, sharply criticized in Congress for declining to aggressively investigate suspected Chinese espionage, said [on 27 May 1999] the FBI should have come to her two years ago if it had concerns about a Justice Department refusal to seek a wiretap in the spy probe."

Freedberg, Sydney J., Jr. "Misdirected Energy: Good Science Springs from Openness; Good Security from a Closed Loop. The Energy Department Struggles to Reconcile the Two in the Wake of Chinese Spying." National Journal (29 May 1999), 1463-1466.

Associated Press. "Energy Chief to Dismiss Officials in Spy Case." 31 May 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said [on 30 May 1999 on the NBC News program 'Meet the Press'] that he would dismiss some department officials for failing to act on signs that China was stealing secrets from an American nuclear weapons lab."

Gribben, August. "Chinese Spies Take Advantage of Open U.S. Society." Washington Times, 31 May 1999.

"[T]he People's Republic of China has perfected the technique of using against the United States its most envied and cherished virtues -- its liberty and openness.... [B]y 'being very, very patient in taking bits and pieces to make the larger whole,' Chinese intelligence has scored impressively....

"Consider that each year, U.S. government agencies, universities and businesses routinely invite Chinese bureaucrats, business representatives, scientists, educators and students to attend conferences, trade shows, workshops, expositions and the like.... Chinese participation in such events seems harmless. To the PRC, they seem like targets of opportunity.... The Cox report and defense analysts make clear that the Chinese have relentlessly exploited every opening to tease from the United States the information China wants or needs."

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