National Security Crisis
By Notra Trulock
Where to begin dismantling the Clinton legacy? In severity, nothing compares to the state of America's counterintelligence (CI) capability after eight years of Clinton-Gore. It's easy to dismiss CI as nothing more than spy vs. spy, but the public should know that CI is the most important ingredient of "force protection." The "force protection" mission is what is supposed to prevent tragedies like the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, or the embassy bombings in Africa.
The most common refrain at the start of the Clinton administration was "the Cold War is over." Cabinet officials, like the late Ron Brown and Hazel O'Leary, seem to believe this meant throw open the doors and get rid of security. As for counterintelligence, critical CI capabilities were dismantled or starved into oblivion. FBI Director Louis Freeh "downsized" the FBI foreign counterintelligence units in favor of an emphasis on drugs and thugs. But did the threat from foreign intelligence services end with the end of the Cold War? Our technologies and expertise remain the envy of the world; consequently, Silicon Valley and other high technology centers are key targets for our economic competitors, such as France, South Korea and Japan.
Access to corporate secrets could save foreign competitors billions of dollars in research and development. But U.S. industries also tried to tap the reservoir of scientific talent in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. The Russians, for example, developed a number of innovative approaches to solving problems of applied sciences or computer modeling, most of which were applied to military or spy technologies. And Russian labor came very cheap. Common sense would dictate that there are risks involved in such cooperation, but surely corporate security officers would be on guard, right?
But one corporate agreement between Lockheed Martin and the Russians is now suspected of compromising our top secret Stealth aircraft technology. Seems the Russian end of this business arrangement had unfettered access to U.S. computers loaded with Stealth secrets. At the Energy Department, the National Laboratories became the "bait" in administration efforts to "engage" their counterparts in Russia, China, India and elsewhere. Engagement generally took the form of bringing scientists from these countries to our labs, assigning them work in unclassified areas, giving them access to unclassified computer networks, and turning them loose. All of these countries are deemed "sensitive" — that is, countries that have or are developing nuclear weapons.
The computer networks are the same ones that Wen Ho Lee stored our most precious nuclear weapons design secrets on for at least six years; recall that Dr. Lee's defenders claim that scientists do this all the time. But security got so sloppy that last year the Congress prohibited any further visitors from sensitive countries. The labs and their congressional supporters cried like babies over this "unfair" hindrance on the conduct of science. The truth is that lab managers use these foreign scientists because it's much cheaper than using U.S. students.
And who can forget the "declassification project"? Before Congress finally woke up to the nuclear secrets going out the front door, Department of Energy bureaucrats dumped thousands of declassified nuclear secrets onto its web site and out into the public domain. It took years to persuade these bureaucrats and their political masters that just because a "secret" is old and considered obsolete by U.S. scientists, it could still be the missing ingredient for a foreign nuclear program in an early stage of development, like Iraq or Iran. In other words, during the 1990s the DOE National labs became a prime source of nuclear secrets at the very time that the administration was declaring non-proliferation to be one of the gravest threats confronting U.S. national security.
Ironic — or just plain stupid? It was profitable for those involved, however; the lab scientists got a steady paycheck and cash awards, including at least one $20,000 presidential award, were distributed to the bureaucrats in Washington most zealous in shoving classified materials into the public domain.
But the Energy Department is not alone. Nearly every other federal agency with a national security mission has suffered from laxness and a bias against routine security procedures and policies. In the name of "openness" these agencies threw open their doors to an assortment of suspect individuals. The State Department allowed Russian "journalists" to roam its hallways unescorted. The Pentagon, at the insistence of the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, allowed Russian military intelligence officers to wander around the premises unescorted. It's harder for U.S. citizens to get into the Pentagon than for Russian military intelligence officers.
At the Energy Department, Chinese or Russian intelligence agents under surveillance by the FBI could shake off their "tails" by entering department headquarters and announcing their intention to visit the Freedom of Information library. The guards were instructed to allow them to pass, but would stop the FBI agents, demand identification, and then await the approval for their entry into the building. In the meantime, the Chinese or Russian agents could roam the hallways and slip out another entrance unchallenged. Unbelievable, yes, but true.
And what about the Commerce Department? Former Commerce official John Huang took the Fifth Amendment when asked if he had spied during his tenure at Commerce. Other Clinton appointees carried thousands of pages of classified materials out of the department on a routine basis. "Security there is a joke," reports a recent article in the World Net Daily.
But that seems to be the most common assessment of security under the Clinton administration. "Security at (fill in the agency) is a joke." But the only people laughing are employed by the intelligence services of our most intense rivals and perhaps our bitterest enemies.