from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
May 29, 2001


The continuing suppression of a book about the Chinese nuclear weapons program written by retired Los Alamos scientist Danny Stillman is examined in an Associated Press story today by Richard Benke. See:

Rep. Curt Weldon cited the unpublished Stillman manuscript once again last week in support of his claim that the Chinese nuclear weapons program advanced due to the Clinton Administration's relaxation of export controls on supercomputers in 1996.

"If China had not acquired those high performance computers, they would not be where they are in developing their nuclear technology, in miniaturizing their nuclear capabilities," according to Weldon. See:

But Harold Agnew, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, told the Associated Press that China "absolutely" could have miniaturized its nuclear weapons without the use of supercomputers. After all, he said, "we did."

Rep. Weldon has previously made unfounded accusations on a number of occasions. In 1999, he falsely alleged that former Energy Secretary "Hazel O'Leary leaked the plans for the W-87 nuclear warhead." Though proven false, Rep. Weldon repeated this charge several times and never retracted it.


Rep. Christopher Cox wrote to the Department of Energy last week to protest the treatment of Rep. David Wu, a member of Congress of Chinese descent who was detained by DOE security guards upon entering DOE headquarters for a meeting and asked if he was American.

The letter might have been unexpected because Rep. Cox chaired the 1999 Committee on Chinese espionage that has been viewed by many critics as exaggerating the threat posed by China. The report of the Cox Committee, perhaps more than any other single factor, led to a tightening of security measures throughout the Department of Energy complex, from restrictions on foreign visitors to increased polygraph testing to the general climate of suspicion towards Asian Americans such as Congressman Wu.

But in a remarkably discerning observation on security policy of the kind rarely heard from congressional Republicans or from Cox himself, Rep. Cox wrote that "The petty bureaucratic imposition of senseless and often offensive 'security' measures in circumstances such as these actually undermines support for genuine national security protections."

The text of Rep. Cox's May 25 letter, first reported by Vernon Loeb in the Washington Post today, is available here:

Last year, Reps. Cox and Wu jointly sponsored legislation to raise caps on visas for skilled technology workers.


The New York Times investigative journalist Jeff Gerth is the subject of a long and interesting profile by fellow investigative journalist and author Ted Gup in the current Columbia Journalism Review.

Mr. Gerth played a leading role in the development of controversial news stories such as the Whitewater scandal that turned out not to be much of a scandal and (with James Risen) the Wen Ho Lee espionage case that turned out not to be much of an espionage case.

On Wen Ho Lee, Gerth and his Times colleagues continue to put up a brave face, maintaining that they merely "reported" what officials said, and did so accurately. The Times has never explicitly acknowledged that it was in effect a protagonist in the case, advancing a particular version of events and a particular set of official interests.

Gup posed this question to Times managing editor Bill Keller: "If I were a best friend or a trusted Times colleague, would you give me a different assessment of the Wen Ho Lee story?" Keller replied significantly: "You are not a close friend or trusted colleague."

See "Eye of the Storm" by Ted Gup in the May/June Columbia Journalism Review:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy.

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