Originally created 03/10/99

Shocking Red spying 031099 - The Augusta Chronicle



A select congressional committee, headed by U.S. Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., concluded last December that Communist China is not only energetically engaged in espionage against the U.S. but has actually breached this nation's security in serious ways.

The Cox report -- because it could not reveal specifics -- was largely written off by media elites as just another "partisan" rant against the Clinton administration.

But last weekend The New York Times confirmed at least some of what the Cox panel must have found out -- that enormous lapses in U.S. security, dating back to the 1980s, enabled Red China to steal nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos, N.M., nuclear lab.

The success of China's espionage, say officials, can be measured by the fact that Beijing developed small warhead nuclear technology about a decade sooner than would otherwise have been the case.

Also shocking is that once the Clinton administration discovered the extent of the spying it did little about it because it didn't want to ruffle China's feathers.

To be sure, the president did sign an order in February of last year to begin a major counter-intelligence push at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear labs, but no serious tightening took place until nine months after the order was signed and 18 months after details of the security breach were relayed to the White House.

This interminable delay, which was dangerously negligent or stupid, is what's prompting charges that the White House downplayed the severity of the spy reports to appease China's dictators.

So far there has been very little to counter that impression as top administration officials, including pudding-soft National Security chief Sandy Berger, blame the Department of Energy, which oversees Los Alamos, for dragging its feet. However, new Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was not briefed on the investigation until a month after joining the department. And not until this week, after The Times blew the whistle, was the Chinese-American scientist suspected of selling top secrets to China fired from his DOE job.

This story is still unfolding; yet to be heard from are the FBI and CIA. But there is already enough disclosed to conclude that the national security breach is one of the most serious in U.S. history. The betrayal cries out for more congressional probes, like the Cox panel's. With "friends" like China, we don't need enemies.