Congressional report details China's espionage

May 26, 1999

Excerpts from the congressional report on Chinese espionage: The People's Republic of China (PRC) has stolen classified design information on the United States' most advanced thermonuclear weapons. These thefts of nuclear secrets from our national weapons laboratories enabled the PRC to design, develop, and successfully test modern strategic nuclear weapons sooner than would otherwise have been possible. The stolen U.S. nuclear secrets give the PRC design information on thermonuclear weapons on a par with our own.

The PRC thefts from our national laboratories began at least as early as the late 1970s, and significant secrets are known to have been stolen as recently as the mid-1990s. Such thefts almost certainly continue to the present.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) has stolen classified information on all of the United States' most advanced thermonuclear warheads, and several of the associated re-entry vehicles. These thefts are the result of an intelligence collection program spanning two decades, and continuing to the present. The PRC intelligence collection program included espionage, review of unclassified publications and extensive interactions with scientists from the Department of Energy's national weapons laboratories.

The stolen U.S. secrets have helped the PRC fabricate and successfully test modern strategic thermonuclear weapons. The stolen information includes classified information on seven U.S. thermonuclear warheads, including every currently deployed thermonuclear warhead in the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. Together, these include the W-88 Trident D-5 thermonuclear warhead, and the W-56 Minuteman II, the W-62 Minuteman III, the W-70 Lance, the W-76 Trident C-4, the W-78 Minuteman III Mark 12A, and the W-87 Peacekeeper thermonuclear warheads. The stolen information also includes classified design information for an enhanced radiation weapon (commonly known as the neutron bomb), which neither the United States, nor any other nation, has ever deployed.

In addition, in the mid-1990s the PRC stole from a U.S. national weapons laboratory classified U.S. thermonuclear weapons information that cannot be identified in this unclassified report. Because this recent espionage case is currently under investigation and involves sensitive intelligence sources and methods, the Clinton administration has determined that further information cannot be made public.

Although the United States has been the victim of systematic espionage successfully targeted against our most advanced nuclear weapons designs -- and although the select committee judges that the PRC will exploit elements of those designs for its new generation of ICBMs -- the United States retains an overwhelming qualitative and quantitative advantage in deployed strategic nuclear forces. Nonetheless, in a crisis in which the United States confronts the PRC's conventional and nuclear forces at the regional level, a modernized PRC strategic nuclear ballistic missile force would pose a credible direct threat against the United States.

Our national weapons laboratories are responsible for, among other things, the design of thermonuclear warheads for our ballistic missiles. The information at our national weapons laboratories about our thermonuclear warheads is supposed to be among our nation's most closely guarded secrets.

Counterintelligence programs at the national weapons laboratories today fail to meet even minimal standards. Repeated efforts since the early 1980s have failed to solve the counterintelligence deficiencies at the national laboratories. While one of the laboratories has adopted better counterintelligence practices than the others, all remain inadequate.

Given the great significance of the PRC thefts, the select committee is concerned that the appropriate committees of the Congress were not adequately briefed on the extent of the PRC's espionage efforts.

The select committee recommends that the president report to the speaker and minority leader of the House and the majority leader and minority leader of the Senate, no less frequently than every six months on the steps, including preventive action, being taken by the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and all other relevant executive departments and agencies to respond to espionage by the People's Republic of China as typified by the theft of sophisticated U.S. nuclear weapons design information and the targeting by the PRC of U.S. nuclear weapons codes and other national security information of strategic concern.

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