(Washington, D.C.): Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is clearly in a
swivet. After all, what
was supposed to be a ticket-punching visit to a Cabinet position that has, during the Clinton years,
been considered a “diversity” set-aside — long on pork and short on heavy lifting — on the
becoming Al Gore’s running-mate has turned into a potentially career-terminating,
wrong-place-at-the wrong-time experience.
An indication of the extent to which Mr. Richardson is not only in way over his head but
thoroughly rattled is evident in his characterization of the latest shoe to drop in the burgeoning
Clinton “Nukegate” scandal: a report yesterday by the New York Times’ Pulitzer
investigative team, Jeff Gerth and James Risen, that the Nation’s
“legacy codes” — a treasure
trove of Top Secret data representing virtually everything the U.S. has ever learned and
done in the field of atomic and thermonuclear weaponry — and associated “input data”
(concerning specific weapons designs) had been put into an unclassified computer system at Los
Alamos National Laboratory by Wan Ho Lee.
‘What, Me Worry?‘
According to the Washington Post, Mr. Richardson solemnly averred that,”We
don’t know the
extent of the damage, but I hardly believe that it’s on a massive scale, from our
dismissive statement with the
introductory clause “We don’t know the extent of the damage.”
More to the point, Mr. Richardson seems to be the only one connected (however tenuously)
the nuclear weapons complex — past or present — who believes that the compromise of the
“legacy codes” would be anything less than an immense blow to national security.
critical of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, like Lawrence Livermore nuclear
physicist-turned-anti-nuclear activist Ray Kidder, was quoted in today’s
New York Times as saying:
The combination of source code and input data was equivalent to a scientific blueprint,
bomb to be reverse-engineered, analyzing the completed product. In theory, Dr. Kidder said,
“you cannot only find out how it was done, but you can also improve the weapon by running the
code and changing some of the parameters.”
Whose ‘Heads Will Roll’?
As the Center for Security Policy noted on 26 April,
Secretary Richardson and the woman he
has entrusted with responsibility for the security of the nuclear weapons complex, Rose
scapegoats for the now-inescapable conclusion that
Chinese — and perhaps others’ — espionage at the national laboratories has continued during the
Clinton Administration. (In fact, Reps. Chris Cox (R-CA) and Norm
Dicks (D-WA) told
President Clinton last week that they believe it may even be occurring
right now.) As the
Washington Post reports today, “One high-ranking official said disciplinary action will
taken against managers at Los Alamos and at Department of Energy headquarters for failing to
move Lee out of his sensitive position years earlier. ‘Obviously there was a breakdown there.'”
Where The ‘Breakdown’ Really Was
Unfortunately for the Clinton team, any competent investigation will readily establish
“breakdown” was systemic. More importantly, it started at the
top, with the President and his
first Energy Secretary, Hazel O’Leary, and with the policies they promulgated. A short sampler
of these includes the following:
- Both Mr. Clinton and Mrs. O’Leary declared their commitment to
not well defined, this policy, in practice, clearly meant that the Nation’s traditional commitment
to assuring the future viability of the nuclear deterrent was greatly diminished. In fact,
personnel in the nuclear weapons complex could be forgiven for concluding that — under
President Clinton — that commitment was now non-existent.
- Mrs. O’Leary made a fetish of “openness” — including disclosing the
whereabouts and precise
contents of every facility in the country that housed nuclear weapons and/or related
- In 1995, the President issued Executive Order 12958 directing that classified information of
historical interest be automatically declassified after twenty-five years. While
this could not
legally be done to nuclear weapons-related Restricted Data (RD) and Formerly Restricted Data
(FRD) — thanks to the protections afforded such information under the 1954 Atomic Energy
Act — as a practical matter, the haste with which this Executive Order was implemented
resulted in the release of RD and FRD documents.
- Over the written objections of security personnel at the national laboratories and DOE
headquarters, Mrs. O’Leary directed that badges readily revealing who had
and who did not be abandoned on the grounds that they were “discriminatory.” What is more,
a number of Clinton appointees — including senior White House personnel — were unable to
pass the standard background checks needed to get security clearances due to problems with
drug or alcohol abuse, tax or other financial problems, sexual proclivities, etc.
- Throughout the Clinton years, funds that were needed to assure the security of
weapons sites were raided to meet other Administration priorities. One of the most
these priorities was the DOE counterpart of the Nunn-Lugar program, through which
American tax-dollars were sent to the Kremlin — ostensibly for the purpose of enhancing the
physical security of Russia’s nuclear facilities. Such “cooperation” has provided
for the presence of Russian nationals at the labs and for the unauthorized and/or ill-advised
transfer of sensitive technologies to the Russians.
- Mrs. O’Leary also directed that the practice of requiring reports about visits by
nationals from sensitive countries (e.g., Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc.) to
unclassified areas of the nuclear laboratories be discontinued. As a result, there were no
background checks conducted on most of the thousands of these foreign visitors, at least
of whom would likely have had access to the unclassified computer system to which Mr. Lee is
alleged to have transferred the U.S. “legacy codes.”
Enter the C.T.B.T.
If the foregoing were not enough to persuade even the most dedicated, conscientious and
patriotic employees at the nuclear laboratories and other sensitive facilities that information,
personnel and physical security no longer mattered, one other Clinton agenda item surely did:
The campaign to secure and sell a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
The CTBT has been an ide fixe for the President, his national security
team and other left-wing
ideologues for decades. Consequently, the Clinton Administration has spared no expense
endeavoring to secure international support for this accord — particularly from nuclear and
nuclear-wannabe states. Not surprisingly, some of those nations (notably, Russia, China, India
and Pakistan) were reluctant to agree to a permanent prohibition on nuclear testing — even if the
treaty’s inherent unverifiability meant that such nations could covertly continue testing with little
risk of being caught.
To overcome such opposition, as the Center for Security Policy noted on 23 March, “the
team saw access to [U.S. nuclear codes and related] technology and the relevant DOE lab
personnel as means of inducing China and other CTBT holdouts to sign on….” They did
apparently without regard for the principal likely effect of such collaboration: an
enhancement of the nuclear threat posed by others who may not have the United States’
best interests at heart.
The Administration’s single-minded pursuit of the CTBT also contributed
to DOE’s deplorable
security condition in other ways, as well. For example, in order to persuade the nuclear labs to
abandon their historic position against a Comprehensive Test Ban, the Clinton team pledged
(temporarily, at least)
and ambitious “Stockpile Stewardship
This program aims to develop new experimental facilities, computer modeling and other
techniques to exploit the “legacy codes” as a substitute for nuclear testing. Unfortunately, there
are not only serious technical risks associated with this program (e.g., that it will not get
completed, work as advertized or be accurately calibrated via nuclear testing); it also has
important liabilities from a counter-intelligence point of view.
Furthermore, information that used to be closely held by a relative handful of nuclear test
designers has now been made accessible via computer to the likes of Wan Ho Lee — and, through
him evidently, to a far wider universe. Regrettably, it appears that senior DOE officials — fearful
that counter-intelligence (CI) revelations about the PRC’s penetration of the nuclear weapons
laboratories could have had chilling effects on congressional support for the SSP — refused to
cooperate fully in the CI investigation and in implementation of recommendations concerning
corrective actions that resulted therefrom.
The Bottom Line
President Clinton reportedly told Secretary Richardson to “get to the bottom” of the
scandal. It is to be earnestly hoped that the Congress will organize itself (ideally, by creating a
single, permanent joint committee) to examine this national security debacle — and to oversee the
steps needed to ensure that, to the extent possible, the damage is contained and not repeated.
Of course, if President Clinton is serious about getting to the bottom of the unraveling story
China’s penetration — i.e., not only that involving its access to the United States’ nuclear secrets
but the PRC’s penetration of its political system, economy and military-industrial sector),
have to start at the top.
Unfortunately, as the attached column by William Safire in today’s
New York Times makes clear,
the available evidence suggests that Mr. Clinton has no intention of finding
out — let alone
helping others to find out — where the buck stops on Nukegate and related issues. In
particular, Mr. Safire rightly cautions against the expectation that the President’s Foreign
Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) will be able to break the code (no pun intended):
the PFIAB’s members, appointed just in time to participate in the review of China’s espionage at
the nuclear labs, is former Congresswoman Jane Harman. Prior to her service
Mrs. Harman was a registered lobbyist for Communist China.
Happy ‘Secretaries’ Day: Will A Competent Woman
Be Denied Top Energy Job Again To Satisfy Latino ‘Quota’ for Gore-2000? ( href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=98-D_69″>No. 98-D 69, 22
prominently in the article —
above the fold on the front-page and in the caption of an accompanying photograph —
co-authored by Walter Pincus and Vernon Loeb. This article seems to fit a pattern in which Mr.
Pincus — who has long-standing family ties to the Clintons — assists, or at least publicizes, the
Administration’s damage-limitation efforts with respect to “Nukegate.”
Clinton Legacy Watch # 41: Security Meltdown at
D.O.E. (No. 99-D 48, 26 April 1999).
Clinton’s Policy of Denuclearization: the
Gottemoeller Nomination (No. 98-D 166,
29 September 1999) and Clinton’s Reckless Nuclear
Agenda Revealed? Study Co-Authored By Candidate For Top Pentagon Job Is
97-D 96, 12 July 19997).
Denuclearization (No. 97-D 190, 8
December 1997) and The Most Important Justification for Firing Hazel O’Leary:
Her Role in
Denuclearizing the United States (No. 95-D
90, 10 November 1995).
Dismantle the US Strategic Triad, Security
Policy? (No. 94-D 41, 22 April 1994) and
U.S. ‘De-Nuclearization’: Who Is Minding the
Store? (No. 93-D 103, 9 December 1993).
Secrets, D.O.E. Is Suddenly Seized with
the Need to Protect Them — from Us (No. 99-D 46,
20 April 1999).
‘No-Gate’ Demonstrates ‘It’s the People,
Stupid’ (No. 94-D 32, 25 March 1994).
Crumbling Iraq and Russia Policies (No.
99-D 23, 16 February 1999).
of fully funding the SSP
program — at a cost of at least $4.5 billion per year in constant dollars — if it is able to secure the
Senate’s advice and consent to the CTBT. See Warning to the Nuclear Labs: Don’t
‘Stockpile Stewardship’ to Maintain Either Overhead Or Confidence ( href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=97-D_183″>No. 97-D 183, 1
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