China's espionage coup

May 31, 1999|By Cal Thomas

HOW BAD is the damage caused to America's defenses by "the largest espionage success against the United States since the Soviet Union in the 1940s," in the words of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich?

It was Mr. Gingrich who launched the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., before leaving Congress.

So bad, said former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, "it renders us immediately a great deal more vulnerable than we have ever been in our history."

Both Ms. Kirkpatrick and Mr. Gingrich believe the Chinese are capable of launching a missile at American troops, allied targets and even American cities. Ms. Kirkpatrick said the Chinese do not value human life and might be willing to suffer retaliatory consequences for the psychological benefit of striking American soil with a missile.

Mr. Gingrich worried that our military and intelligence capabilities are in disarray. "I see a country with a president who has overused the military while under-investing in it. We're losing a lot of our best people, who are leaving.

"Our equipment is wearing out. The intelligence community is over-extended and under-funded. They missed the Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade and the Indian nuclear tests, among other things, because they don't have enough analysts to look at all the photographs."

The Cox report not only reveals laxness on the administration's part, it suggests corruption that allowed the secrets to continue flowing to China long after a lid should have been put on the source of the problem.

While Congress should fully investigate all of the issues raised by the Cox committee, the likelihood of President Clinton being held accountable while still in office is remote. That is why the public should make Vice President Al Gore the target of any moral retribution.

"If you want political accountability, defeat Gore," said Mr. Gingrich, and added: "Any citizen who cares about America's survival knows you cannot have eight more years of this administration. You have a president who is totally mendacious. You have a vice president who can't even recognize monks when they're wearing saffron robes."

Mr. Gore succeeding Mr. Clinton "would be a commitment to the decay of America. You've never had 16 years in a row that would be as bad, undermining American defenses and allowing the Chinese to become a genuine threat."

The Clinton administration's response to the Cox report is wholly inadequate. The administration admits to no mistakes and certainly no wrongdoing. In a familiar exercise of hubris and spin, it claims to have already been working on security concerns long before the Cox committee began its investigation.

And it asserts that Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is "aggressively implementing" a presidential directive to strengthen security and counterintelligence at U.S. National Laboratories. Why is it, then, that Mr. Cox says security breaches continue and probably will not be fixed until next year? The nuclear horses are gone, and only now does the president express interest in closing the barn door.

The administration's claims are as credible as Beijing's assertion that China stole nothing. The Clinton legacy may be that he helped begin a new cold war to keep his office. The spying may have started 20 years ago, but it was discovered and ignored on this president's watch.

The Chinese now have everything they need to make the world an unsafer place.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 5/31/99

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