AIM Report Associate Editor Notra Trulock, the former Energy Department intelligence chief who blew the whistle on Chinese espionage in the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories, has given dozens of interviews over the last several weeks warning about the systematic Chinese threat to our national security.
His new book, Code Name Kindred Spirit: Inside the Chinese Nuclear Scandal (Encounter Books), quotes Paul Redmond, former head of counterintelligence at the CIA, as saying that “millions of Americans could someday die as a result of successful Chinese nuclear espionage” against the U.S. In a reference to the American spies who stole our nuclear secrets for the Soviet Union, Redmond told Trulock, “This is as bad as the Rosenberg case.”
The Washington Times’ Bill Gertz, Matt Drudge, and Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes have all called attention to this important book. Hannity called Trulock “a national hero,” while John Gizzi of Human Events appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball show and said Trulock should have been Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” for exposing the danger we face.
But the “mainstream media,” including the Washington Post and New York Times and major networks, have ignored the book.
In a decision made by network executives, another Fox News program had scheduled Trulock to appear but he was bumped in favor of Jermaine Jackson, the brother of Michael Jackson, the entertainer who is under fire for sleeping with kids. It seems for many in the media that a national security scandal affecting our survival as a nation is less important than the latest controversy over a strange and sick individual who has made millions of dollars singing and parading on stage while rubbing his crotch.
Publishers Weekly says Trulock’s book “provides a unique look into the American intelligence community and an unsettling perspective on the lax attitude toward national security. Wen Ho Lee’s defensive memoir grabbed plenty of headlines, but Trulock’s account has a disturbing ring of truth.” Wen Ho Lee is the Chinese-American former Los Alamos scientist who pleaded guilty to one charge in the case and wrote a book about it.
While the Lee book, My Country Versus Me, got early reviews from the New York Times and Washington Post, Trulock’s book has been ignored. Lee received sympathetic coverage on such programs as the NBC Today Show. He got movie offers as well, and reportedly sold the rights to his story to a film production company for a television miniseries. His supporters call him the victim of a racist witch-hunt and have launched a campaign to have him pardoned by President Bush.
The espionage means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be able to deploy advanced nuclear weapons that would have taken it many more years, if not decades, to achieve on its own. The billions of dollars spent to develop and safeguard these weapons for the protection of the American people have been thrown away because of spies and traitors in our midst.
The PRC continues to build and deploy long-range missiles with nuclear weapons targeting the U.S. and today has approximately 20 such missiles aimed at incinerating millions of Americans in our major cities. The threat will only grow in the future.
Trulock explains that the Chinese obtained U.S. nuclear-warhead-design secrets, including sizes, shapes and dimensions, and information on how to make them work. The PRC learned how to copy the W88, our most modern warhead, and were also going after the Trident II D-5 ballistic missile, our most advanced. It was first deployed in 1990 and is scheduled to be deployed past 2020.
The U.S. may take care of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program with a military assault on the Saddam Hussein regime, but that still leaves the growing danger posed by the PRC, a major proliferator of nuclear, chemical and missile-related materials and technology. As Trulock has declared, “China has been stealing our nuclear secrets and passing them on. Would the Axis of Evil have weapons of mass destruction today were it not for China?”
Trulock documents how China, an emerging economic and military superpower, has been stealing U.S. nuclear weapons secrets for over 20 years, since the Jimmy Carter administration started the process of opening up our national weapons laboratories to foreign scientists and other visitors.
Such a policy extended to scientists from countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria, who were invited to the national labs.
Indeed, in another blockbuster revelation, Trulock discloses that the Iraqis got help to build their own nuclear bomb from the U.S. itself and this fact was documented in a government report. “I had a bootleg copy of one such report on the Iraqis’ acquisition of nuclear information from the [U.S.] nuclear labs,” he writes, “but I was never able to get it widely distributed to the Intelligence Community.” Trulock suspected that distribution of the report was blocked because it might lead to a reduction or termination of U.S. lab contacts with foreign scientists. Copies of the report were later destroyed.
U.S. assistance to Iraq is confirmed by Dr. Khidhir Hamza, who, from 1987 to 1994, served as the head of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. He is the co-author of the book “Saddam’s Bombmaker.” At a critical point in the development of the Iraqi nuclear bomb, when the regime was trying to figure out how to make a trigger, Iraqi scientists were invited to the U.S. to attend a conference on high-tech explosives sponsored by Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore laboratories. Information gathered at this conference helped the Iraqis overcome this problem.
Trulock comments, “I wonder how many Americans know that the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was helped with expertise and information learned at conferences sponsored by two premier U.S. nuclear weapons labs.”
One part of the story is an old one. The Clinton administration pursued a pro-China policy that resulted in playing down the China threat, including its espionage program against America. This was motivated, at least in part, by PRC financial donations to the Democratic Party. Trulock documents how Clinton officials “didn’t lift a finger” to look into the espionage problem and stop it. “I was ordered to cover this up, to bury it,” he says. He went outside the Department of Energy (DOE) to the White House and still couldn’t get any help. Eventually, there was a “brief flurry” on Capitol Hill, when Republicans looked into the scandal, but that quickly died away. Trulock was demonized as a racist and his mental stability was questioned. “I became the villain.”
But another part of the story concerns how the Bush administration continues this policy.
Many Americans were astounded when Chinese General Xiong Guangkai-the man who threatened to level Los Angeles using nuclear weapons-arrived in Washington D.C. in 2000 to meet with then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen. He is described in the book, Red Dragon Rising, as the chief spymaster of China who “inherited and then perfected the most successful espionage operation against America in our nation’s history.” He returned to Washington last December for additional discussions with Pentagon officials under President Bush.
Trulock notes that Bob Woodward’s book, Bush At War, reports that Bush was told by CIA director George Tenet about three major threats his administration would face after he assumed office-Osama bin Laden, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the rise of China. Trulock comments, “He couldn’t avoid dealing with bin Laden after 9/11. And he now has to confront weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. But China has dropped off the face of the earth.”
There is no evidence of any PRC financial link to the Bush administration. But Trulock believes the administration has been blinded to the China threat by the corporate push to open markets in the PRC and a diplomatic desire not to embarrass the dictatorship.
In an ominous development under Bush, Steve Dillard has become director of counterintelligence at DOE. “Talk about the fox in the henhouse,” says Trulock. Dillard, who ran the FBI counterintelligence investigation of Wen Ho Lee in 1996-97, was “lying to Congress” about its progress and bungled the probe.
While Lee was publicized as the prime suspect in the theft of our nuclear secrets on behalf of the PRC, Trulock says the FBI ignored ten other suspects at the labs and failed to investigate defense department contractors with access to U.S. nuclear weapons information who may also have compromised or released it.
Hence, the espionage may be ongoing and the cover-up may be continuing.
But in regard to Lee, Trulock notes that the U.S. had a strong case but failed to make it. While the Rosenbergs were executed for espionage, Lee, who had been charged with 59 felony counts under the Atomic Energy Act and the Foreign Espionage Act and held in solitary confinement for nine months, agreed to a plea bargain on September 13, 2000. It gave him free-dom for pleading guilty to one felony, improperly downloading classified material onto an unclassified computer.
Trulock is convinced that the case against Wen Ho Lee was deliberately sabotaged by someone high in the government. He explains, “They could have pursued espionage charges against him, but the government opted for the much lesser charge-mishandling classified information-that didn’t involve any embarrassment for the PRC.”
Another espionage case involved Peter Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Taiwan who worked at both Los Alamos and Livermore labs during the 1980s and provided China with classified secrets about the U.S. nuclear-warhead program. He was also caught giving the Chinese details about the U.S. anti-submarine warfare program. Jonathan Shapiro, the assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, wanted to prosecute Lee for espionage. But the Department of Justice declined because it would offend Beijing. Instead, he was prosecuted on a charge of mishandling classified data. He got a year in a halfway house. The indictment on this charge was delayed until after a Clinton meeting with PRC President Jiang Zemin in late October 1997, so as not to embarrass the PRC leader.
In the campaign to destroy Trulock and divert attention away from his revelations, the Clinton administration relied on a network of sympathetic reporters led by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. Trulock says that when the scandal broke, he was warned by a Post official to beware of Pincus, a known “friend of Bill” who was close to the Clintons. Pincus and Vernon Loeb of the Post wrote a story falsely claiming that Trulock was guilty of “singling out Wen Ho Lee.” They also sought to minimize the damage caused by the theft of U.S. nuclear secrets.
After another Pincus-Loeb story raised the issue of the Lees’ ethnicity being a factor in their selection as suspects, Senators Fred Thompson and Joseph Lieberman, the ranking members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to the paper declaring this to be false and an invention by the reporters. The Senators said there was “no basis” to suggest that race was a factor, and that it became an issue later in the investigation when FBI experts noted that Beijing targets Chinese-American scientists for recruitment.
The New York Times broke the espionage story, using Trulock as one of its sources, on March 6, 1999. But when lawyers for Wen Ho Lee, in the summer of 2000, confronted the paper about its coverage and threatened to cut its reporters off from information about the case, Trulock says the Times put reporter Bill Broad on the story in place of Jeff Gerth and James Risen. Broad recast the story into one that depicted Lee as a victim.
Trulock did not set out to become a whistleblower. His 30 years in intelligence were a record of success spent away from the limelight. He had voted for Clinton for president twice. In this context, the book represents the first inside account of what really happened in the Clinton administration by someone who was not a “Friend of Bill.”
He became a whistleblower only because a series of Clinton officials tried to keep the lid on a scandal that he knew affected the national security, even the survival, of the United States. It was in 1997 that Trulock took the evidence of espionage to Ken Baker, acting director at the DOE Office of Nonproliferation and National Security, whose response was, “The horse has left the barn, so lets just forget about it.” Gary Samore, senior director for nonproliferation on Clinton’s National Security Council, didn’t object to additional security at the labs but emphasized that U.S.-Chinese scientific exchanges-where some of the espionage took place-would continue because that was administration policy.
When he was asked by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California to testify on Capitol Hill about the espionage scandal, Trulock was gagged by DOE and his testimony was edited to prevent full disclosure of the damage that was done.
In 1998, when DOE was asked for documents by the Cox Committee investigating Chinese espionage, White House chief of staff John Podesta ordered DOE Secretary Bill Richardson to stall the request and “run out the clock.” The Republicans thwarted this by extending the life of the committee.
In the end, all Democrat and Republican members of this committee joined chairman Rep. Christopher Cox of California in confirming Chinese espionage and the theft of our nuclear secrets.
Speaking at an AIM luncheon in Washington, Trulock reflected on what has happened to him. “The price is very high,” he said, “because there is no safety net for whistleblowers.” Conservative groups such as the Free Congress Foundation, Judicial Watch and AIM came to his assistance, but many did not. Members of Congress such as Senator John Warner of Virginia abandoned him after promising never to do so.
Trulock’s book exposes the lack of integrity and courage of many officials that he encountered in the Clinton era, including those who are supposed to protect us from wrongdoing by our enemies and those they subvert. It shows the importance of providing protection and encouragement for those like Trulock who bravely risk their careers by telling the truth and exposing dishonesty, corruption, incompetence and even espionage. Such public servants deserve praise and rewards, not punishment.
Trulock was not only labeled a racist and forced out of government service and then out of a private job into bankruptcy, he was investigated and his townhouse was raided and searched by FBI agents who took his computer and personal records. They claimed to be investigating him for the improper release of classified information, but it was obvious retaliation for daring to criticize the FBI’s performance in the Lee case.
With the assistance of Larry Klayman’s Judicial Watch, he has fought back. He sued Wen Ho Lee, Bob Vrooman (director of the Los Alamos Operational Security Office from 1987 to 1998) and Charles Washington (former Acting Director of Counterintelligence at DOE) for defamation for claiming Trulock was a racist who had singled out Lee for investigation because he was ethnic Chinese.
It was this litigation that led to the release of a Justice Department report, completed in May 2000 by a team headed by senior prosecutor Randy Bellows, which was heavily censored but confirmed Trulock’s account of the FBI’s bungling of the case and found the charges of racism to be “without merit.”
Bellows, who prosecuted FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen as a Russian spy, found that there was sufficient probable cause to believe that Lee was an agent of China conducting intelligence activities on its behalf, and that his wife was aiding and abetting him.
“Lee repeatedly lied to the FBI and to his superiors at Los Alamos about his interactions with PRC nuclear scientists,” Trulock says. “He repeatedly lied about what he was doing with his construction of a portable nuclear library of secrets on every one of our warheads.”
It took about a year to go through various intelligence agencies for approval of the book itself. The CIA even tried to keep portions of the published Cox report on nuclear espionage from being cited in the book. The Department of Energy at one point refused to discuss its objections on the pretext that Trulock didn’t have a security clearance. Eventually, Trulock and his publisher, Encounter Books, had to get legal counsel and threaten a lawsuit to get the matters resolved.
But Trulock still waits for vindication from the Department of Justice. Attorney General John Ashcroft has refused to close the dubious case against him and help restore his reputation.
Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Charles McGrath, editor of the New York Times Book Review and Maria Arana, editor of the Washington Post Book World. Also, for those interested, you can buy the book Code Name Kindred Spirit from AIM’s online bookstore. Click here.