Fallout from the China Spy Case

May 1999

Cox Committee Report on Chinese Spying

U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on U.S. Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China -- Unclassified version released 25 May 1999


Text of the unclassified version of the report of the House select committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA) is available at: http://www.house.gov/coxreport/. See also Kenneth E. deGraffenreid, ed, The Cox Report: The Unanimous and Bipartisan Report of the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1999).

From the "Preface": "This three-volume report is an unclassified, redacted version of the Final Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the Peoples Republic of China issued on January 3, 1999."

As noted by John Macartney, "[e]xcept for an item in the appendix that criticizes the CIA for warning industry that Congress was going to be questioning them..., there is not much criticism of the Intelligence Community." [AFIO WIN 21-99 (28 May 1999)] Click to access the item referred to by Macartney.

Richard Carpenter has assisted by compiling many of the listed items.

Materials presented chronologically.

Gertz, Bill. "Technology Transfers Threaten U.S.: Panel." Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 4-10 Jan. 1999, 18.

A report by the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns, chaired by Christopher Cox (R-CA), has "made 38 recommendations to both the administration and Congress that would tighten controls over sensitive technology transfer."

Gertz, Bill. "House Panel Urges Action on Chinese Thefts." Washington Times, 5 Feb. 1999.

The recommendations of the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns, chaired by Christopher Cox (R-CA), have been declassified by the White House. The full report remains secret, but "reveals how Chinese intelligence agents stole data on the neutron bomb ... from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California circa 1986."

Pincus, Walter, and Vernon Loeb. "Chinese Espionage Is Termed 'Pervasive': Report Hits Labs For Loss of Secrets." Washington Post, 16 May 1999, A18.

According to congressional and administration sources, the report of the House select committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA), which will be released this week, "describes China as an emerging military threat and strategic nuclear rival that has gained design secrets of America's five most modern nuclear warheads through 'pervasive' spying at the nation's nuclear laboratories." See also, Jeff Gerth, "China Stole Data, Report Concludes," New York Times, 21 May 1999.

Fenton, Ben. "US Officials Face Sack over China Spy Report." Telegraph (London), 25 May 1999. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk]

"Some of those who have seen advance copies of the [Cox Committee's] report have called for the head of Janet Reno, the Attorney-General, over her failure to follow up FBI reports that China was obtaining 'the crown jewels' of American nuclear secrets. Others have suggested that Sandy Berger, the National Security Adviser, should be fired for failing to bring the matter to the attention of President Clinton soon enough. Mr Clinton is accused of dissembling over what he knew and when."

Weiner, Tim. "Nuclear Thriller With Ending as Yet Unwritten." New York Times, 25 May 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

The Cox report's "conclusions are blunt...: China has stolen data on every significant American nuclear warhead, the stolen secrets helped China design and test modern nuclear weapons, and Chinese espionage at the biggest government weapons labs is long-standing and continuing." However, "[n]ot everyone agrees with the conclusion that the Chinese stole nuclear weapons data." See also, Juliet Eilperin, "Panel Unites to Expose Chinese Espionage," Washington Post, 25 May 1999, A4, which discusses Cox's leadership in producing a bipartisan document.

U.S. Department of Energy. "Press Release -- Secretary Richardson Points to Dramatic Progress in Strengthening Counterintelligence and Security." 25 May 1999. [http://www.energy.gov]

Energy Secretary Richardson reacts to Cox Committee report: "I want to caution against oversensationalizing the conclusions of the report. Not every allegation is a proven fact."

Eckholm, Eric. "China Labels Spying Claims 'Groundless.'" New York Times, 26 May 1999.

"Accusations that Chinese spies stole nuclear weapon designs and missile technology from the United States are 'totally groundless,' China's Foreign Ministry said" on 25 May 1999.

Gerth, Jeff, and James Risen. "Spying Charges Against Beijing Are Spelled Out by House Panel." New York Times, 26 May 1999.

The long-awaited report by the the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China "that describes a pattern of systematic and successful Chinese espionage to learn American nuclear secrets was released on [25 May 1999], and President Clinton said he agreed that national security should be improved."

See also, John M. Broder, "President's Sober Response Assures Public of Security Measures," New York Times, 26 May 1999; Vernon Loeb, "Spy Report Sparks GOP Attack," Washington Post, 26 May 1999, A1; Walter Pincus, "China May Add 100 Missiles Over 15 Years," Washington Post, 26 May 1999, A22, and "Missiles May Be Added Despite Stated Policy," Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 31 May 1999, 15-16; Nancy E. Roman, "China Spy Report Stuns Capitol Hill," Washington Times, 26 May 1999; and Bill Sammon, "Clinton Distances Himself From Scandal," Washington Times, 26 May 1999.

New York Times. "[Editorial:] America's Stolen Secrets." 26 May 1999.

"Better coordination is needed among the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies in detecting, investigating and prosecuting nuclear espionage. The Energy Department must clearly demonstrate that it can manage the labs. Otherwise it may make sense to transfer them to Pentagon control. Whichever department is in charge, more rigorous security screening is needed for those engaged in the most sensitive weapons work."

Risen, James. "Fund-Raising Figure Had Spy Case Role." New York Times, 26 May 1999.

According to the House select committee report, "Johnny Chung, a Chinese-American at the heart of the campaign finance controversy, was given $300,000 by two Chinese military officials in an apparent effort to establish one of them, [a Lieutenant Colonel in the Chinese Army and] the daughter of a Chinese general, in the United States so she could acquire American technology."

Washington Post. "[Editorial:] Nuclear Pickpocket." 26 May 1999, A28.

"Finding a balance between openness and caution will never be easy," but it does not "make sense for the United States to open its strategic pockets and allow China to help itself."

Washington Times. "[Editorial:] The Cox Report." 26 May 1999. Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 31 May-6 Jun. 1999, 36.

The conclusions of the Cox report "demonstrate that the Chinese nuclear espionage and legal and illegal willful technology transfers will drastically compromise U.S. national security for decades to come."

Weiner, Tim. "How Right Is Report? Caveats by Experts." New York Times, 26 May 1999.

"Almost everyone in the Government agrees that Chinese spies stole nuclear secrets from American weapons laboratories. All concur that security at the labs was lax. But the Cox report's conclusions -- classified and unclassified -- do not all dovetail with those of the American intelligence community.... The Cox committee emphasizes espionage as the main source of China's ill-gotten nuclear knowledge. But assessing which part of China's nuclear know-how came from espionage is like trying to unscramble an egg, intelligence officials say: it also came from scientific conferences and publications, declassified documents, unauthorized leaks and Chinese expertise."

Pincus, Walter. "Prescriptions for Keeping Secrets: Report on Chinese Espionage Inspires a Variety of Hill Proposals." Washington Post, 27 May 1999, A3.

"One day after a House select committee delivered its Chinese espionage report in Congress, legislators in both houses began discussing what to do about it. Proposals ranged from requiring nuclear lab employees who visit sensitive foreign countries to be accompanied by an anti-spying expert to setting up a bipartisan commission to review counterintelligence across the federal government."

Loeb, Vernon, and Walter Pincus. "Planted Document Sows Seeds of Doubt: Spy Experts Wonder What China Hoped to Reap." Washington Post, 28 May 1999, A3. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

The House select committee has concluded "that Chinese spies had stolen secrets on seven of the United States' most advanced thermonuclear weapons, giving them nuclear design information 'on a par with our own.' But the committee's ... report on Chinese espionage revealed that this central conclusion rested largely upon a document deliberately fed to the CIA by a 'walk-in' Chinese agent, a spy secretly acting on the orders of China's intelligence agency. That discovery suggests that China deliberately supplied the United States with evidence of its own espionage against the U.S. nuclear weapons complex."

On 31 May 1999, the Washington Post, p. A22, carries a letter, "China's Nuclear Data Theft," from Representatives Christopher Cox (R-CA) and Norm Dicks (D-WA), respectively, chairman and ranking member of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military-Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. The letter reads in part: "While there is mystery in the motives of the PRC in providing this document to the United States..., there is no question about the authenticity of the U.S. nuclear weapons design data it contains.... The debate over whether the PRC stole design information for the W-88 is over: it did."

Maggs, John. "Secrets Shanghaied: Warhead Design, Missile and Satellite Technology, Machine Tools -- You Name It, the Cox Committee Says China Stole It." National Journal, 29 May 1999, 1454-1461.

The Cox Committee report "builds a largely circumstantial but overwhelming case for the claim that China has gained crucial design information for all of the U.S. nuclear arsenal ... -- yet, the report sticks close to its mandate in avoiding sweeping judgments on the significance of these losses."

Pincus, Walter. "China Spy Gains Overvalued, Two Former Lab Directors Say." Washington Post, 30 May 1999, A10. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Two former heads of national nuclear labiratories, Harold M. Agnew and Johnny S. Foster, "say information allegedly stolen by China through espionage was not as valuable as portrayed" by the House select committee's report.

Pincus, Walter. "Hill Report on Chinese Spying Faulted: Five Experts Cite Errors, 'Unwarranted' Conclusions by Cox Panel." Washington Post, 15 Dec. 1999, A16. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

The report of the House select committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA) "contained significant factual errors, 'inflammatory' language and 'unwarranted' conclusions, according to a point-by-point rebuttal to be issued [on 15 December 1999] by five experts at Stanford University." The analysis was coordinated by Michael M. May, co-director of Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation and a former director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"The panel's expert on Chinese governance and policy was Alastair Iain Johnston, a Harvard professor who is a visiting scholar at Stanford. The nuclear weapons section of its report was by Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky, former director of the Stanford High Energy Physics Laboratory; the Chinese arms control section was by Marco Di Capua, a Lawrence Livermore physicist who served at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 1993 to 1997; and the section on China's acquisition of U.S. missile technology was by Lewis R. Franklin, a career intelligence expert on Sino-Soviet missile and space research who is a visiting scholar at Stanford."

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

Return to China Table of Contents

Return to Spy Cases/China Table of Contents