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National Security For Campaign Contributions Nuclear/Missile Technology on a Silver Platter

"China rips us off for $60 billion a year, they steal our nuclear and missile technology, then they sell that technology and those missiles to our enemies. If this policy makes any sense, then we all need a lobotomy." Paul Mann, writing in the May 11 Aviation Week, quoted John E. Pike, whom he describes as "an outspoken Washington authority on aerospace, on the national security aspect of the issue": "It isn't just the Dana Rohrabachers of the world who think Clinton's soft on China. There's a very strong point of view in this town that China is the enemy, a strategic enemy -and that our relationship is fundamentally adversarial. That's not confined to the right wing community, the human rights community is not too thrilled with Clinton on this either, and that's the reason this [satellite export issue] may have some legs."

 

The issue does indeed have legs. There are at least three parts to the scandal that are likely to arouse the public's attention. First, the issue of national security is involved, did the Clinton administration permit, or even encourage, the transfer of technical information to a potential adversary that is critical to national security? Then, there is the issue of illegal foreign campaign contributions. Notice that this is independent of the national security issue. And finally, the scandal touches on the hot button issue of exporting high tech American jobs abroad. Any one of these issues could be damaging to the administration. Mix them and you have a potentially lethal cocktail, provided that the allegations can be substantiated.

 

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Denial and Additional Allegations

By mid-week, Loral had issued a "fact sheet" denying that the company had provided missile guidance technology to the Chinese. The company also denied that they had given the Chinese advice on how to fix problems in the Long March rocket. In fact, Loral maintains that their employees were specifically told not to render such assistance to the Chinese, in compliance with the export control laws. The "fact sheet" further notes that the license required to export a satellite to China "tightly restricts Chinese access to any part of the satellite and limits the technical data and assistance that may be provided to China"

 

That sounds nice, but restricting access and limiting technical data on a satellite of which the Chinese have possession is easier said than done. It is the nature of engineering projects that such information tends to be disseminated despite the best intentions of the people who write the groundrules. And it is well to bear in mind that the Chinese are no dummies in matters of science and technology, one need only note the ethnic backgrounds of engineering graduate students in this country to be convinced of that. Perhaps the best indicator of the benefits accrued to the Chinese from their cooperation with American companies such as Loral and Hughes is the current reliability of their boost vehicles relative to what it was prior to the initiation of cooperation.

 

Gerth implies in his New York Times articles that their reliability has greatly improved, but provides no statistics (other than the putrid 25 percent success rate mentioned earlier). The Chinese would be understandably reticent about providing such information regarding a vehicle used to launch nuclear warheads, but their recent track record in launching foreign satellites must be a matter of record. It is difficult to imagine that anyone would want to consign a satellite that cost perhaps several hundred million dollars to a launch vehicle that only worked once every four tries or so. Regarding the failure of the February 1996 attempt to launch the Long March rocket, Loral says that investigation was conducted by the Chinese alone and that they traced the failure to a defective solder joint, a defect which the "fact sheet" describes as "low tech."

 

Loral denies that they and Hughes conducted an "independent" investigation of the mishap. The company implies that the Chinese did not want outsiders poking around in their missiles, but the insurance companies insisted that non-Chinese engineers verify that the Chinese had solved their technical problems, else they would be unwilling to insure future launches with the Long March rocket. As a long-time consumer of propaganda disseminated by large corporations, governments and other bureaucracies, I am inclined to look for the significant facts in the blank space between the lines. What Loral seems to be saying here is that the reliability of the Long March rocket did indeed show marked improvement following the investigation of the 1996 failure.

 

Otherwise, the Chinese would have been unable to obtain insurance for future launches, which in effect means that they would be out of the satellite business. The Long March rocket has a history that extends over a period of years. Was it a coincidence that the Chinese were unable to solve their reliability problem until Loral and Hughes happened to be there, looking over their shoulder?, without dropping any hints, of course. Loral insists that the flow of information was one-way, "The review committee's function was to obtain information from the Chinese, not to help the Chinese solve their problem." So try to picture this, all these high-tech American companies review the failure investigation conducted by the Chinese.

 

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The Solution to the Problem

So obvious to them by reason of their vast combined experience with launch failures, eludes the Chinese. But do they tell them? Absolutely not, that would be against the rules. Never mind the huge investment that hangs in the balance. I can't say what actually happened, I wasn't there. But I believe that this constitutes what theologians would describe as Ivan occasion of sin." Perhaps the larger question here is whether we should be having such technical contacts with a potential adversary. Whatever Loral executives may tell us after the fact, you can be certain that the technical people involved were under enormous pressure to get results. Under the circumstances, who can say what information actually changed hands?

 

The crunch, according to Loral, came when the review committee, in which they, Hughes and other American companies participated, issued their report to the Chinese without first consulting the authorities at the State Department who handle export licensing. This might have been as inadvertent as Loral would seem to imply, but it suggests that the technical people were not operating on the same frequency as the people at State who are charged with protecting U.S. technical secrets. The issuance of that report to the Chinese has become the subject of investigations by the Justice Department and several congressional committees. Loral says that it "does not believe that any of its employees dealing with China acted illegally or damaged U.S. national security."

 

Even by their own relaxed standards, Loral management appeared to be uncertain about the legality of what actually happened. Now comes the rub, President Clinton subsequently authorized the export of satellite technology to the Chinese, undercutting the Justice Department's investigation. This waiver authorized Loral to launch another satellite on a Chinese booster. Loral minimized the importance of the presidential authorization, likening it to waivers that had been issued by other presidents and asserting that it did not authorize Loral to transfer technology to the Chinese.

 

This is difficult to reconcile with an Associated Press report regarding federal employees in the Pentagon office that oversees exports involving technology that might affect national security. These employees have told House investigators that they were prevented from registering their objections to Clinton's authorization of the transfer of satellite technology to China. The Pentagon maintains that the authorization was approved only after a determination had been made that "sensitive missile technology" would not be given to the Chinese, but some employees are on record as saying that they were told that Clinton had already made his decision before they had made their determination.

 

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Referred to in the article is the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration

 

This office approved the technology transfer by Loral, which is still under investigation by the Justice Department. Pentagon workers have told the House National Security research and development subcommittee that the director of the Technology Security Administration suppressed memos and drafts of their documents that argued against Clinton's authorization of the satellite technology transfer. The employees said that in order to minimize the paper trail indicative of opposition to the approval, some documents were actually erased.

 

The director referred to is David Tarbell. Three subcommittee staffers have said off the record that some of his subordinates allege that Tarbell told them prior to the president's announcement in February that Clinton had already made his decision. At about that time Tarbell is said to have told them not to submit the documents they had prepared that were in opposition to the president's position and to erase the drafts of memos they had written on the subject. Tarbell, who is a career government employee, issued the following statement: "I have no recollection of telling anybody on my staff not to oppose the license or the waiver in this case. I had no idea in advance whether or not the president was going to grant the waiver.

 

Any report that I asked people to eliminate or destroy documents of any kind on this matter is absolutely wrong." Why doesn't anybody who works for the federal government ever state forthrightly, "I didn't do it"? Why does it always have to be, "I don't remember doing it"? Is it reasonable to suppose that Tarbell might have told his subordinates not to buck the president on so critical an issue, and then have forgotten doing so? Has the Alzheimer's epidemic that has raged unchecked at the White House for the past few years now spread to the Pentagon? Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., the chairman of the House subcommittee, indicated that many Pentagon officials believe that the export of such satellite technology makes possible the transfer of information that could result in marked improvements to China's ballistic missile force.

 

Weldon was quoted by the AP as saying, "There was a lot of momentum to get people not to espouse that view because the president had already made up his mind." Here we have two diametrically opposed views of what happened -which should we believe? I'll leave that to the reader to decide. I would note, however, that Tarbell and the Loral officials are saying what one might expect them to say under the circumstances, this is a dog bites man story. On the other hand, raising strong objections to a presidential directive, with intimations that national security may be adversely affected, is not a career enhancing move for a government employee. The landscape is littered with the bleached bones of whistle blowers. The story here is definitely man bites dog.

 

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This is the Part that really Taxes One's Credulity

The AP report said that according to sources close to the congressional investigation, nine months prior to Clinton's February decision Tarbell's office had raised the possibility that Loral and "another defense contractor" (presumably Hughes) may have provided China with "highly sensitive information" in 1996 that the Chinese could have used to improve their ballistic missiles. The AP story quotes a report they obtained from the Congressional Research Service: "DTSA concluded that Loral Space and Communications Co. and Hughes Electronics had transferred expertise to China that significantly enhanced the reliability of its nuclear ballistic missiles."

 

Does this perhaps help to explain Mr. Tarbell's extraordinary loss of memory? The subcommittee staff is curious to know how the same agency that drew this conclusion in 1997 was able to give a green light a few months later to a decision by Mr. Clinton that would transfer even more of the same kind of sensitive military technology to the Chinese. Perhaps Mr. Tarbell will soon have the opportunity to explain this seeming conundrum. House Speaker Newt Gingrich got into the act last Tuesday with an announcement that he would ask for congressional approval of a select committee to investigate "an effort by a foreign military to penetrate our military system, an effort by some people to give the Chinese secrets in violation of American law."

 

Kenneth Bacon, described by the AP as "the Pentagon's chief spokesman," gave assurances last week that the reason Tarbell's office supported Clinton's satellite export approval was the assurance it provided that "sensitive missile technology" would not wind up in the hands of the Chinese. "There were adequate safeguards in the license," Bacon was quoted as saying. Yeah, sure. Say, isn't Bacon the Pentagon spokesman who told us that it was really okey-dokey for his subordinate to release selected excerpts from Linda Tripp's security questionnaire, because the information is exculpatory? (Never mind that federal law prohibits the release of such information, if Bacon says it's all right, why that should be good enough, right?)

 

As to it's being "exculpatory," well, Jane Mayer (a smear artist for the New Yorker who at one time had worked with Mr. Bacon at the Wall Street Journal) asked for the information so that she could use it to hang a federal rap on Tripp, alleging that she had concealed her arrest record (on a quashed charge) when she applied for a security clearance. Mayer was promptly backed in this allegation by Secretary of Defense Cohen, who apparently has nothing better to do these days than backstop White House smear campaigns. That doesn't sound "exculpatory" to me, but then what was I expecting of Mr. Bacon, reason, good sense, the truth?

 

Last Thursday the Washington Times reported that Bacon had admitted under oath "that he leaked Linda R. Tripp's personnel file to a reporter even though he knew he might be breaking the law." Bacon had been deposed by Judicial Watch the previous Friday at which time he admitted that he had "orchestrated the release" of information from Ms. Tripp's security questionnaire, knowing that he was "probably" violating the Privacy Act in doing this. So much for lies, damned lies and Pentagon press releases.

 

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Clinton's Merchant of Death

As of 1994, it was illegal to export satellites to China. This policy was changed due largely to the efforts of Bernard Schwartz, the chairman of chairman of Loral Aerospace. In a recent article for World Net Daily, Charles Smith, who has done extensive research on this story, points out that Mr. Schwartz has made donations to the Democratic National Committee that total in excess of one million dollars since 1993. The ban on sending satellites to China, based on human rights considerations, as well as nuclear proliferation violations by the Chinese, meant that Schwartz's company would have to launch its satellites on expensive American boosters, such as the McDonnell Douglas Delta, built by American aerospace workers who, unlike their Chinese counterparts, are accustomed to work for a living wage.

 

Loral therefore importuned the U.S. Government "to aid (the) satellite industry" by removing restrictions on the transfer of satellite technology "where unnecessary" so as to "permit occasional Russian or Chinese launch." Schwartz received guidance from then-Commerce Secretary Ron Brown on how to evade the restrictions on exporting satellite technology to China. Instead of applying to the State Department for an export license, Loral could apply to the kinder, gentler Commerce Department. For as Smith points out, although the U.S. applied sanctions to China for exporting missile technology to Pakistan in 1993, it was decided early the following year that these sanctions applied only to satellites licensed by the State Department, applications to export communications satellites licensed by the Commerce Department could be approved.

 

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Mr. Schwartz made a Trip to China with the Full Approval of President Clinton

On a "Presidential Business Development Mission." Schwartz had his staff at Loral prepare a sales guide for the trip to give Secretary Brown an overview of Loral's product line. I quote from Smith's article: "Some of the items Loral suggested for sale include 'Airborne Reconnaissance Cameras, Weapon Delivery, Target Acquisition, Missile Guidance, Shipboard Target Acquisition, Radar Warning, Missile Warning, RF Jamming, IR Jamming. . . .' Loral's list for proposed sale to Red China also included some of the most deadly missiles in the U.S. inventory. The AIM-9 Sidewinder, the massive missile artillery weapon MLRS, the Army's newest U.S. anti-missile ERINT, the anti-aircraft missile Chaparral, and even an advanced, unmanned air vehicle called Predator."

 

I'm old enough to remember a time when Americans reproached their government for allowing scrap metal to be sold to the Japanese on the eve of World War II. The presumption was that this material was used to build bombs and weapons that later killed American troops. We've come a long way... According to Smith, a Government Accounting Office report published on May 7 of this year makes clear who authorized U.S. military exports to China. He quotes from the report: "According to State (Department) officials, since 1990, 11 presidential waivers have been issued removing export restrictions on 21 satellite projects. Presidential waivers were also granted to permit the export of encryption equipment controlled on the Munitions List."

 

With regard to the encryption equipment, the May 20 Strategic Investment newsletter reports that Clinton has authorized the export of encryption technology to China that is designed for military use, even though it is the official position of the Clinton administration that the widespread use of encryption software would endanger U.S. security. An American company that attempted to sell such software in this country would be liable to criminal prosecution. Encryption equipment is also used in communications satellites to make their operation secure from outside interference, in fact, such equipment was included in the payload that was launched unsuccessfully on a Long March booster in February 1996.

 

Loral had given public assurances that the encryption equipment was contained in a black box on board the satellite, which was carefully monitored to ensure that the Chinese did not have access to it. At mid week, the Drudge Report carried a story based on an account given by a Loral employee that reveals the encryption package was missing when the satellite debris were recovered after the mishap. The Loral source said that he had spoken to one of the engineers at their satellite manufacturing facility about a year after the failed launch. This man is a retired military officer with extensive experience in military "black" programs. His assumption was that the Chinese kept the integrated circuit board used for encryption with the intent of reverse engineering its function for the purpose of espionage.

 

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Col. Liu of the Chinese PLA Funneled an Illegal $100,000 Campaign Contribution

To the Democrats by way of fund- raiser Johnny Chung, who is presently singing like a canary. And who is Col. Liu? Why she just happens to be the daughter of the Chinese General Liu who, in addition to being China's senior military officer is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, the innermost circle of leadership in the country. But perhaps more significantly, as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, Gen. Liu ran the effort to modernize the PLA through the acquisition of Western technology. Thus, he was also in charge of the missile deals.

 

And then we have Mr. Bernard Schwartz, the well-heeled chairman of Loral Space and Communications Co. who by merest coincidence happened to contribute a million bucks to the Democratic Party in recent years. His company is pushing a product line that makes Darth Vader seem a tree-hugging pacifist by comparison, in fact, it would seem that he and Gen. Liu were made for each other. But never mind, there couldn't be a causal connection here, that might lead people to think bad thoughts about Mr. Clinton. No doubt all of this is just another of those imponderably improbable chains of "coincidence" that only seem to occur in Clinton administration cover stories. I mentioned earlier three aspects of this scandal that would no doubt blow the minds of a people less sanguine than Americans appear to be at present.

 

There is a fourth consideration as well, the demolition of the long-standing U.S. policy of promoting nuclear non-proliferation, which liberals are supposed to care deeply about. I notice that recently liberals have had some harsh things to say about India for their recent nuclear testing. They might just as well save their breath. Forget all that airy-fairy twaddle about Gandhi and non-violence, India is a big, tough country in a "bad neighborhood" that really couldn't care less about trendy ivy league cliches regarding non-proliferation. What they see is the "leader of the free world" transferring military technology to the largest country left in the non-free world, which in turn sells it to Pakistan, the main enemy of India, the largest democracy in the world. How should we expect them to react?

 

Unlike ourselves, the Indians at least have retained some vestige of their inborn survival instinct. We allow our most critical defense secrets to be sold to a potential adversary for a pittance by profiteers and corrupt politicians and then shrug it off as though this were of no consequence. Perhaps we depend too heavily on the assumption expressed a century ago by Otto von Bismarck: "God looks after idiots, small children and the United States of America."

 

[Edward Zehr can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Published in the May 25, 1998 issue of The Washington Weekly
Copyright 1998 The Washington Weekly (http://www.federal.com)

 

references:     Chuck Baldwin          Global Times

 

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