Memo To: Joseph Lelyveld, NYT Executive Editor
Re: Those Bad Chinese Spies
In my memo to you yesterday, I made the polemical argument that Timesman Jeff Gerth had been snookered by the anti-China coalition that operates inside the Beltway. Gerth has been a great investigative reporter in his years at the Times, but he is no match for Richard Perle, a Master of Deceit, who is ex officio chairman of the anti-China coalition. China may, of course, have "pried" nuclear secrets out of our National Laboratories, but there thusfar is no evidence that Gerth has presented that they have, at least anytime since the end of our Cold War with Beijing. Nor is there any "evidence" that they paid for secrets they did not get with an alleged $300,000 that a Chinese businessman got from the head of military intelligence in Beijing, with no receipt! The story would be laughable, if it were not doing exactly what the Perle Gang intends -- total disruption of our relations with China in order to prevent Beijing from becoming strong enough to be an adversary anytime in the next century. The Times has been manipulated and still does not realize how it has happened. The following is a report I got from a very old friend who is a nuclear scientist with ties to the national labs, at which he once labored as a Ph.D. physicist. The friend, who prefers to remain anonymous for the moment, has been following this story from the beginning. I've received several dozen reports from him in the last two months and forwarded most to a few Senate Republicans who have remained suspicious of the stories. Their problem is that they know as little about nuclear science as does your Jeff Gerth. The report is in the form of an answer to a question I put to my old friend, the Ph.D. physicist.
Q. I see even Tony Snow saying flatly that China has gotten secrets from us. Have you seen anything so far to persuade you that YOU KNOW they have gotten stuff from us? Everything I have received from you thus far indicates we do not know what went out the door. The big espionage crisis that has been driven by Jeff Gerth of the NYT now has come down to the labs being too porous, not that anything really valuable has gotten through the pores. My assumption is that if China wanted secrets from us, they would have to take the initiative and find a willing American to pass stuff on. It does not seem unreasonable to me that the Lab-to-Lab exchanges with Beijing were designed to get useful information from them, just as we have been doing with the Russians. Has there been, though, anything you can see that has given them the kind of information which reduces our national security?
A. Since all I know about what the PRC may have gotten from Chinese-American U.S. citizens -- duly cleared by the FBI -- working at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) and Los Alamos NL (LANL) -- is what I read in the news columns of The Washington Post, The New York Times and the LA Times, and since the people writing those media reports are so confused about what they are writing, it is impossible for me to even guess what the PRC might have gotten. The only thing I can say for sure is that the media reports of what they got cannot possibly be right . And in publishing as fact, "insider" information leaked to them that cannot possibly be true, they have in this way done a lot of damage to U.S. National Security, to the reputation and effectiveness of LLNL and LANL, to the reputation of the Directors and scientists at those Labs, and above all, to the Chinese-American community.
The importance of whatever it is the PRC may have gotten from the Labs, aided and abetted by the Clinton Administration policy of "make nice with the PRC Weapons Labs," is completely overshadowed by the damage done to U.S. National security by the savaging -- as a direct result of the hysterical reports of what the PRC may have gotten from the Labs -- of the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici U.S.-Russian cooperative nuclear proliferation prevention programs.
In the first place, I doubt very much that modern day "secrets," especially technology-related "secrets," are the sort of thing that can be stolen by a "spy". The spy-thief has to know too much in order to know what to steal and the person for which the secret is stolen has to know almost as much about the programs that led to the discovery of the "secret" to make any use of the stolen secret. If the PRC was in fact trying to pry secrets from the U.S., the best hope would be to somehow cause to be established a climate within the U.S. wherein Chinese-Americans could convince themselves that what they were doing with respect to the PRC was what their U.S. countrymen wanted them to do. Now the vultures of the Clinton Administration "Engagement" policy between the U.S. Weapons Labs and their PRC counterparts are coming home to roost. The tragedy -- brought on by media misinformation -- is that they are not roosting at the White House, where they belong, but at the Weapons Labs.
As an example of misleading "insider fact" by the media, consider the "reporting" about the "theft" of the "neutron bomb." There are at least two very different weapon concepts that have been under development at the U.S. Weapons Labs that could come under the heading "neutron bomb." (There are also at least two different weapon concepts that could come under the heading "enhanced radiation device") None of the media reports I have seen of the gaggle of things they are calling the "neutron bomb" resemble even slightly any of those concepts semi-properly labeled the "neutron bomb." The media types are hopelessly confused about what a "neutron bomb" is. How could they possibly accurately report on its 'theft' if they don't know what it is? (In fact, they are so confused they sometimes use "neutron bomb" and "enhanced radiation device" interchangeably.)
In earlier media reports this year, it was stated to be uncontested fact that a Chinese-American physicist (Peter Lee) at LLNL was fired in 1981 for having admitted giving (in the late 70s) the PRC the "secret" of the LLNL "neutron bomb." We were told that we discovered this treachery (by a U.S. citizen duly "cleared" by the FBI) when the PRC successfully tested their version of the neutron bomb in 1981. Now, this Sunday, the media-types tell us that PRC did not test the LLNL "neutron bomb" until 1988 and the test was unsuccessful. The media-types also now allege that the PRC then tried to penetrate LANL (not LLNL) in 1995 to find out more about the still-not-yet-successfully-tested U.S. version of the "neutron bomb."
Now, in Gerth's latest piece, although he still doesn't seem to "get it," one can divine that the LLNL technology U.S. citizen Peter Lee apparently admitted giving to the PRC back in the late 70s, had to do with the LLNL Laser-Fusion project, and had nothing to do with the LLNL "neutron bomb." With the real LLNL "neutron bomb" there was at least the hope that, if it could be made to work in the "Lab," it might be something that could be "weaponized" (for example, as a warhead having 10-100 tons of heavy explosive -- HE -- equivalent). But what Peter Lee actually seems to have been working on at LLNL was the development of high-powered lasers to be used to compress a DT pellet in DOE's major project to control fusion, first in the Lab, and then in some sort of a commercial power plant.
There was no possibility that this immense laser-fusion project at LLNL could ever be "weaponized." The only reason that DOE-LLNL controlled laser-fusion project operations were ever "secret" in the first place was because the same sort of "hydro-codes" used in thermonuclear weapon development (the kind of "Lagrangian" codes that William Safire got hopelessly confused about and that LANL Chinese-American Wen Ho Lee was initially alleged to have given the PRC), were also used to predict the implosive effects of the multiple-beam high powered laser pulses on the DT pellets!!
So, although the laser-fusion project was "secret" in the late 70s when LLNL Lee gave the PRC details about what he was doing as a developer of high-powered lasers, what he was doing at LLNL was not secret and I gather he was fired for divulging "trade secrets" not "classified" information. (TRW, where the LLNL Lee later worked, according to Gerth et al.,) -- and was presumably cleared by the FBI to work there after being fired from LLNL -- is also in the business of developing high-powered pulsed lasers, but for Star Wars, not "controlled fusion." The U.S. Navy Technology that Peter Lee is now alleged by Gerth to have given the PRC while at TRW is obviously not radar, since Lee is a laser expert, but is probably blue-green LIDAR which penetrates the ocean to some considerable depth and has been previously used for communicating with underwater submarines.)
Although the initial claims by the media that a LLNL scientist gave the PRC the "secret" of the "neutron bomb" way back in the Reagan Years have turned out to be absolutely false, those claims are still flying about and appeared in Tony Snow's latest column. (Pray God they do not appear in the Cox Committee Report; they will taint it.) Meanwhile, the reputation of LLNL and its scientists and engineers is in the toilet and recriminations and reprisals fill the air.
W-88 "size and shape"
Gerth et al claim that a PRC defector gave (1995?) the FBI a PRC weapons manual which included the "secret" of the "size and shape" of the W-88. (Tony Snow, et al., claim that some LANL scientist gave the PRC the "blueprint" for the W-88 !) But what might be "secret" about the size and shape of the W-88? The W-88 has been designed by LANL to fit within one of the MIRVed reentry vehicle (RV) developed by the Navy for its Trident-II missiles. As "seen on TV" and in various movies, the size and shape of that RV is well known, and it is shaped like a very large but very pointy "nutty-buddy" ice cream cone.
It follows that the size and shape of the W-88 also has to be somewhat cone-like, with the front end much smaller in diameter than the rear. And although that is the optimum shape for the RV, it is not the optimum shape for the W-88 and so various trade-offs and compromises must have been made in the warhead design to fit it in the RV. But that has been the case for all warheads designed by LANL-LLNL for Polaris-Poseidon-Trident missile RVs, except that the RVs were not always so pointy. So the only "secret" is that LANL has somehow managed to design a very pointy warhead that must work, or it wouldn't be deployed on all those Trident subs. But my guess is that it wouldn't do you much good to have even a blueprint of the W-88 -- whose design suffers from having to fit within that RV -- if you didn't need a warhead to fit inside a very pointy RV. That is, the technology behind the Trident-RV development would be more valuable to the PRC than the W-88 blueprint.
W-88-like Reaction History
Gerth, et al., have reported that Los Alamos physicists somehow monitored a PRC test conducted circa 1995 and were stunned to note the similarity in the Reaction History of the PRC device to that of the W-88. They further claim that the W-88 is a revolutionary design, a "miniaturized" warhead, and that its Reaction History is, therefore, unique. Thus, the claim has been made that someone at LANL has "sold the farm" to the PRC, sold them the culmination -- the crown jewel -- of 50 years of R&D. For the reason given above, namely that the W-88 had to be designed to fit in the Trident-II RVs, it clearly is not the best LANL could do when it comes to designing nuclear weapons not subject to that "nutty-buddy" constraint.
I therefore presume (but do not know) that the W-88 is an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, design and that it's Reaction History is not all that unique. If it had been revolutionary, as the media types claim, then every weapon systems Program Manager in the Pentagon would have been demanding that the revolutionary LANL technology be applied to His weapons system. But nobody else needs or wants a nuclear weapon whose design has been compromised by the requirement that it fit within a very pointy RV, except those nations not already having MIRV capability, but seeking to obtain it. The PRC, for example. But first, the PRC has got to get the MIRV technology before the W-88 "blueprint" -- even if they had it -- will do them any good. If I really believed that the PRC has had the "W-88" since 1995 -- as the Clinton Administration apparently does -- then instead of beating LANL about the head and shoulders and locking all the barn doors in sight, I would concentrate on stopping the PRC from getting MIRV technology (if the Clinton Administration hasn't already inadvertently given it to them in their various satellite launching capers).
LANL "Legacy Files"
Before and after LANL Computer Scientist Wen Ho Lee was "fired" by DOE Secretary Richardson, he was accused by the media types of a lot of very different and probably traitorous activities. They seem to be as confused about the use of computer codes in the design of nuclear weapons as they have been about the "neutron bomb" and "enhanced radiation device" and "Lagragnian Codes" and "radar" and "LIDAR" and on and on. The latest media charge I have seen was that Wen Ho Lee participated in a 1992 meeting to resolve a "design flaw" in the LANL version of the "neutron bomb." (It doesn't seem to bother them when they learn that the "neutron bomb" they continue to report that LLNL scientist Lee gave the PRC back in the late 70s still had an important design flaw in 1992).
The next-to-latest and most popular media claim is that Wen Ho Lee downloaded all the LANL "Legacy Files" -- which as best I can tell from their reports, are all the predictions of the performance of the device, together with the actual measured performance, as well as attempts to reconcile the two if they differ substantially, of every full-scale test ever conducted of LANL designed nuclear weapons -- and is suspected of having given all of that to the PRC. If that is what the "Legacy Files" are, then that charge -- unlike all the others -- is very troubling to me.
Attempts by weapon designers to reconcile predicted performance with measured performance could result in both modifications to the codes used to design weapons as well as modifications to the actual weapon design itself. Now that we have foolishly signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- which the Senate and the Duma have not ratified and probably won't ratify -- the "Legacy Files" will be essentially the only Reality Check LANL has. LANL will no longer be able to compare predicted performance with measured performance on full-scale tests because there won't be any such tests. But the PRC has also signed the CTBT and, if they were rendered intelligible, the LANL "Legacy Files" would be almost as useful to the PRC as to LANL. So it is conceivable -- barely conceivable -- that is what Wen Ho Lee was doing, making intelligible for the PRC weapons designers the LANL "Legacy Files."
Why would a loyal American -- which is what Wen Ho Lee claims he is -- who is supposed to be faithfully laboring in the vineyards of the U.S. "Stockpile Stewardship Program -- do such a thing? Why would he give such "secrets" to the PRC? I don't pretend to understand the mentality of "Overseas Chinese," but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Chinese in Beijing, do. They have (apparently) purchased or caused to be established an environment at the U.S. Weapons Labs and elsewhere wherein Chinese Americans are made to feel that the Clinton Administration wants them to help their PRC brethren. Congress has become very alarmed about the establishment of this environment by the Clinton Administration and issued a prohibition against its continuance at the DOE Labs in the FY 97 and again in the FY 98 and again in the FY 99 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). The prohibition in FY 97 -- written in the spring of 1996, about a year after Wen Ho Lee had been cut off by LANL from downloading any more Legacy Files -- reads as follows;
SEC. 3137. PROHIBITION ON FUNDING NUCLEAR WEAPONS ACTIVITIES WITH
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA.
No funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise available to the Department of Energy for fiscal year 1997 may be obligated or expended for any activity associated with the conduct of cooperative programs relating to nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology, including stockpile stewardship, safety, and use control, with the Peoples Republic of China.
All the media reports of Overseas Chinese Spies giving the PRC the "secret" to the "neutron bomb" were so far off the mark that it is no wonder that people like me have had so much trouble figuring out what actually did happen. As I told you in the beginning, I doubted very much that anyone had given away the "secret" of the LLNL "neutron bomb", because as far as I knew, no one had ever been able to get it to work, even in the Lab. We will probably now get similar "clarification" by Gerth (who is still very, very confused about a: the "neutron bomb" vis a vis laser-fusion vis a vis "enhanced radiation devices," and b: LIDAR vis a vis radar) in the near future of the W-88 brouhaha.
In the meantime, the Blame-Game Spinners in the Clinton Administration have turned with a vengeance on the U.S. Labs which they had encouraged in earlier years to "replicate," with the PRC, the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici U.S.-Russian cooperative nuclear weapons proliferation prevention programs. So when the Clinton Administration PRC programs were first prohibited by Congress in 1996, and then went in the toilet last fall, they effectively took the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici U.S.-Russian programs with them. At first blush it looks like the Blame-Game Spinners will get away with ignoring or delaying action on many of the charges made in the media, since most of those charges will probably turn out to be severe misconceptions of what really happened. It is only a surmise, but if there is anything I would be suspicious of, it is that the PRC may be seeking MIRV technology. Even if it turns out that LANL's Wen Ho Lee did have a legitimate reason for downloading all those Legacy Files (ceasing in 1995 when the LANL physically fire-walled LAN was upgraded so as to effectively prevent him from downloading any more) and doing whatever computer analysis of them he has been doing, then the implication would seem to be that the PRC didn't test their version of the W-88 in 1995, doesn't have the "W-88 secret" as yet, but could still be desirous of having a nuclear warhead that will fit into a MIRV.
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