Find a Security Clearance Job!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


July 8, 1999

Memorandum To: Jack F. Kemp

From: James G. Prather. Ph.D

Subject:  US National Security Impact Analysis:

Release of "Redacted" Cox Committee Report

The issue before the Cox Committee was: In light of the numerous interactions between the citizens and organizations of the People's Republic of China [PRC] and citizens and organizations of the United States "as trade and other forms of cooperation have bloomed," has the PRC acquired "information and technology, including sensitive National Security secrets" that the US Government ought not to have let them have?"

Although comprising but a small part of the Cox Committee Report, the Chapter entitled "PRC Theft of US Thermonuclear Warhead Design Information" has created something of a firestorm within Congress, the Media and the Public. The principal charge leveled in that chapter was that the People's Republic of China had "penetrated" our weapons Labs more than 20 years ago and has since stolen "classified" information on every currently deployed warhead.

Since the classified report was filed in January, the Director of Central intelligence and, independently, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board [FIAB] have reviewed all the evidence and FIAB Chairman Rudman has testified that, because of Department of Energy and Laboratory management failures, there existed an environment of "lax security" at the Labs that would have made such "thefts" relatively easy, but that there is no hard evidence that any such "thefts" did occur.

Why would it have been relatively easy for the PRC to "steal" "weapons secrets" from the US weapons Labs? Upon taking office, the Clinton Administration began to implement three important--from the standpoint of nuclear weapons proliferation--policies; [1] Shoring up the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (UN-IAEA) Nonproliferation Treaty based Regime with the Comprehensive Test Ran Treaty; [2] Establishing International Openness and transparency with respect to US nuclear weapons inventories and programs; [3] Engaging the PRC nuclear weapons establishment through our Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons establishment.

In other words, the Clinton Administration for the first time ever [1] told the world that we were never going to develop or test or build another nuclear weapon; [2] told them how many nuclear weapons we had and what they were; and [3] invited the PRC weapons scientists to come over and cheek us out.

The Cox Committee Report and the Rudman FIAB Report both made a number of recommendations, all of which were oriented towards improving physical security and reorganization of the DOE management structure. With uncharacteristic speed, both the Administration and Congress have already enacted or implemented most of those recommendations. But it seems nothing is being done to reverse the three Clinton Administration policies that brought the alleged "lax security environment" to the present state of crisis.

If the PRC has managed to "steal" "design information" on every one of our currently deployed nuclear warheads, then each of these Clinton Administration policies is partially to blame. And though the threat, past and present, of PRC "espionage" to our National Security is almost certainly considerably less than the public no doubt believes at this point, in making haste to "fix" the climate of "lax security" at the Labs, the Administration and Congress may well prevent our weapons labs from turning once again to effectively address the Number One Threat to US National Security; the potential proliferation of Russian nuclear weapons materials, nuclear weapons technologies, and nuclear technologists.

In light of your concern about the Russian politico-economic system and your interest in our programs to provide financial and technical assistance to help the Russians dispose of all their excess weapons grade plutonium, you asked me to review the Cox Report and associated testimony, analyses and articles.

As you well knew, I have had decades of experience in the "weapons business", at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory [1], Sandia National Laboratory[2], the Pentagon[3], and on Capitol Hill [4], and have in recent years been associated with Congressionally mandated programs [5] to assist the Russians prevent the proliferation of nulear materials, technologies and technolotists.

I know at first hand the weapons development process from basic research through acquisition to deployment, as well as the physical and professional environment at each step along the way. In particular, I understand the difficulties all policy making officials, especially Members of Congress and Staff, have in weighing the inevitable conflicting "technical" arguments that are made on every National Security issue, program or system.

Although I had for most of my career access to the highest levels of "classified information", none of those "clearances" are active at the moment and so far as I know, I did not have access to any "classified" information in preparing my review. But I know enough about the DOD and the DOE systems for protecting "sensitive" information, to know that the authors of the Redacted Report have also had difficulties weighing conflicting arguments about what is "sensitive" and what is not, what is "classified" and what is not.

The principal flaws of the Cox Report--which do not occur in the FIAB Report--have resulted from the Committee's inability to properly weigh these conflicting and sometimes imprecise "technical" and "legal" arguments. My analysis will be mostly an attempt to explicate what the Cox Report would have said if they had been able to properly weigh the conflicting arguments.


Damage Assessment: Impact of the "Redacted" Cox Committee Report

In their presentation to the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Nonproliferation, both Chairman Chris Cox [R-CA] and Ranking Democrat Norm Dicks [D-WA] urged that their Committee Report, "US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with People's Republic of China" (US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, Report of the Select Committee, committed to the Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union, and "declassified", in part, pursuant to House Resolution 9, as amended, 106th Congress, 1st Session, ) not be interpreted as an indictment of the People's Republic of China[PRC] -- but rather an Indictment of the United States Government for allowing the PRC to "acquire information and technology, including sensitive national security secrets."

Indeed, the evidence presented in the Chapter of the Cox Report, entitled "PRC Theft of US Thermonuclear Warhead Information," is--when properly understood--sufficient to "indict":

* the Clinton Administration for its subversion, through its policies of Openness and PRC Engagement, of our own nuclear weapons Laboratories and their "mission" oriented programs; and

* the 104th Congress for failure to provide, in a timely fashion, effective and necessary "oversight" over the Clinton administration policies.

What the evidence presented in the Redacted Report does not do is support the primary charge that US nuclear weapons Labs were "penetrated" by PRC agents more than 20 years ago and that some of those PRC "moles" are still there, actively spying for the PRC.

We now know that there are two very different views about how the "Evidence" of PRC "spying" ought to be interpreted. One view was held by some career Administration "Security" officials charged with erecting and maintaining high "fences" around our nuclear weapons research, development, testing, production, transportation and storage facilities--and apprehending any Spy attempting to "penetrate" them. A contrary view of the evidence is held by most "Experts" charged with making "Net Assessments" of the PRC's capabilities.

The Security officials had felt for many years that they had found "holes" in their fences, or "gates" left open, and were frustrated in their attempts to get anyone at the Labs or at DOE or in Congress to "fix" the holes or close the "gates." Although most of the Security officials wouldn't know a Secret unless it was so stamped--as it is required to be--at the top and bottom of every page, and they had no evidence that any Spy had "entered" or that any Secret had "exited," when they got the opportunity to testify before the Cox Committee about their frustrations, they did.

On the other hand, the Experts do know a Secret when they see one [stamped or not] and on the two occasions described below when they have been asked to Assess the Evidence of PRC Spying, they have not been convinced that any PRC Spy has "penetrated" the Labs' "fences" or that any Lab Secrets had been spirited away to Beijing.

Unfortunately, the Cox Committee chose to accept the interpretation of the Security officials, before fully hearing the opposing Assessment of the Experts. Now, the Congress and the Clinton Administration [for its own self-serving purposes] are proceeding to act on the Security officials' interpretation. Indeed, the hue and cry in Congress and in the Administration resulting from the release of the Redacted Report--which was mostly devoted to non-nuclear issues--has been focused almost entirely on the "culture of lax security" at our weapons Labs.

Considerable damage has already been done to the reputations of our Labs and to their ability to carry out their 'Mission". In particular, the Labs Mission to assist the Russians prevent proliferation of Russian nuclear weapons, fissile materials, nuclear technologies and technologists--where there are seen by the Security officials to be the same "holes" in the "fence" and the same "gates" left open--has been seriously damaged in the rush to repair all the "holes" and close all the "gates".

But because--after the Top Secret Report was made available to the Clinton Administration for a "Classification Revue"--Chairman Cox asked for such an Assessment by the Experts, we have now got the consensus view of what US Experts conclude the PRC has actually gotten from us, legally and illegally. It is important to note that at the time the Cox Committee Report 'filed' its Report, the committee had not had the benefit of the consensus view of the US Experts.

The purpose of this analysis is to compare and contrast the Redacted Report with the consensus of the Experts in order to gain a basis for a proper interpretation of the Evidence on which the Cox Committee made its findings. Once the findings and recommendations of the Redacted Report are interpreted on the basis of the Experts' Assessment, then perhaps it will be possible to undo some of the damage that has already been done because of the misinterpretations of the Evidence.

  • The Cox Charge
  • "Engagement" and "Openness"
  • "Walk-in"
  • US-PRC Lab Relations pre-1992
  • "Spying"-Chinese Style
  • Cox Report-Damage Assessment
  • PRC Thefts
  • Cox Report-Neutron Bomb
  • Panel of Experts--Neutron Bomb
  • Cox Report--W-88
  • Panel of Experts.W-88
  • The Real Damage

The Cox Charge

A principal--certainly the most heralded--charge in the Cox Committee Report is that "The People's Republic of China's penetration of our national weapon laboratories spans at least the past several decades, and almost certainly continues today."

That charge is, as of this writing, now widely accepted as being True. The Clinton Administration and most of the technically ill-equipped media have repeated it over and over so many times that it is conceivable that they now believe it themselves. And yet, it is almost certainly not true. Certainly the evidence cited in the Redacted Report does not support such a serious and sweeping charge.

The Redacted Report purported to document several specific instances of PRC "theft" of Secrets from Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Los Alamos National  Lab. The Redacted Report charges that the PRC had "penetrated" those US weapons Labs several decades ago. It asserts that the "secrets" obtained many years ago [by what would have been called "Moles" in the Cold War] have now already been incorporated into existing PRC weapon designs. It alleges that more recent thefts would soon be incorporated in the next generation of PRC nuclear weapons, threatening our National Security. If the Committee uncovered any evidence of PRC penetration by Moles of the Labs in previous Administrations, it was not presented in the Redacted Report. In fact, the specific Evidence that is presented in the Redacted Report is actually exculpatory for the suspected Spies and/or Moles.

We don't know what evidence of Mole activity--in this and previous Administrations--the Clinton Administration "redacted" or kept "secret." But, thanks to Chairman Cox, all the evidence, including that present in the original Top Secret Cox Committee Report, plus a lot more, has been examined by an interagency panel of Experts, and on the basis of their Key Findings'--presented and discussed below--we can now assert that there is no convincing evidence available to the US experts that:

(a) the PRC ever "penetrated" any US weapons Lab;
(b) the PRC ever "stole" anything from the Labs;
(c) any US Lab scientist ever "gave" the PRC any "Classified" information;
(d) that the PRC has incorporated any "secrets" or Classified information they may have obtained by "hook or crook" from the US labs into their weapon designs or into their weapons in stockpile.

The limited amount of Evidence presented in the Redacted Report has not been properly presented to, or understood by either Members of Congress or the public. And although there are allegations in the Redacted Report that Classified information may have been obtained by the PRC during previous Administrations, the evidence that is presented with respect to those allegations is actually exculpatory.

"Engagement" and "Openness"

What the Cox Committee bipartisan Report could have said, but did not, was that the imposition by the Clinton Administration of a policy of "Openness" on the US weapons Labs may well result in serious damage in the future to our National Security. The Openness policy meant that millions of pages of "classified" documents were "declassified" and made public. No need to "spy" since the Clinton Administration has thrown open the "gates." As William Broad, science writer of the New York Times. put it:

Now that congressional committee has released its three-volume, 872-page techno-thriller on the theft of atomic secrets by Chinese spies, much of Washington is agog. But the uproar overlooks an arresting fact. For more than a half decade, the Clinton administration was shoveling atomic secrets out the door as fast as it could, literally by the ton. Millions of previously classified ideas and documents relating to nuclear arms were released to all corners, including China's bomb makers."

Not only did the Administration throw open the "gates" to formerly classified information; it also established a website where the curious could go to search for "Secrets" that were no longer secrets:

As part of its Openness initiative, the Department of Energy is establishing a database on the Internet [www.doe gov/opennet] that will provide finding aids to locate information about documents reviewed for declassification. Making this information available promotes government accountability and trust in the government by the public. Many documents have been declassified since 1994 by the Office of Declassification at NARA and in the DOE History Division. It is of little value for the Department to Conduct declassification reviews without informing the public of the document that have been reviewed and providing information on where to find them. Until now, the public has had access to only a very small  percentage of that total. Placing the Department of Energy's database of declassified documents on the Internet informs the public of the records that have been reviewed and provides finding aid information to help identify their content and location.

The tons of "declassified" information that was made officially available by DOE was in addition to much other unofficial information placed on the Internet that may have still been technically classified. For example, at the Enviro Web wedsite6 there is considerable information about every type of US nuclear weapon ever built. Some of this information, which may be accurate, may also still be classified. One of the rules of the Security game is that those who are "cleared" for access to classified information may not comment upon the accuracy of such information. That is someone who is "cleared," and knows the weight and yield and dimensions of the W-88--which is probably still classified-- cannot publicly comment on the accuracy of the information about the W-88 presented at the EnviroWeb site.

Have the PRC nuclear weapons designers obtained--by book or crook--"design information on the US most advanced thermonuclear weapons" as the Redacted Report charges? According to the Experts, we don't know. Because of the time required for the PRC to incorporate into their nuclear weapons designs and stockpile any information they may have obtained from us as a consequence of the Clinton Administration policies, it is too early to assess the effect of Clinton Administration policies on the PRC nuclear weapons program.

In any case, the damage done to US National Security is not to be measured in terms of what the PRC may have gained. The principal damage done to US National Security by these Clinton Administration policies must be measured in terms of the loss in our ability of effectively counter the international proliferation of nuclear weapons, whether from Russia, the PRC or even the US. The promulgation of Openness-the devaluation of nuclear weapons and nuclear'secrets'-was coupled with the Clinton Administration encouragement that the US Weapons Labs establish with their PRC counterparts"scientific"exchanges and cooperative programs that were[superficially]similar to the Congressionally authorized Num-Lugar-Domenici[NLD] programs with Russian institutes.(  The programs were named after their Senate sponsors. Sen. Sam Nunn[D GA]. Sen. Kichard Lugar [R IN] and Sen Pete Domenicl [R NM]. The programs are described  at:

The NLD lab-institute cooperative programs have as their Congressionally mandated"mission"the prevention of the proliferation of Russian nuclear weapon's materials, technologies and technologists. The stared objective of the superficially similar-but unauthorized-Clinton Administration PRC programs was to "open a window"into the closed PRC weapons community, to "engage"them, to establish a "dialogue". To Some Lab scientists-especially the "ethnic Chinese"-that probably sounded a lot like being asked to get what we could from them, and the Cox Committee now define as "espionage" then the Clinton Administration asked US Lab scientists to "Spy."

Perhaps the most charitable interpretation of the Clinton Administration's is that the previously apolitical weapons Lab Directors and scientists at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore-none of them Federal Government employees ---were being asked by high ranking Clinton Administration officials to become important players on the Clinton Administration's economic and foreign policy "Teams" Perhaps the least charitable interpretation is that the Clinton Administration was twisting the "Mission" of the US Labs and nuclear weapons scientists.Making them instruments for attaining global nuclear disarmament, having already twisted the arms of the Lab Directors until they agreed to "certify" that the US nuclear stockpile could be maintained without benefit of full-scale nuclear testing.

The Times' William Broad recently described the rationale for the Clinton Administration's "Openness" policy.

Back in 1993, when the terrors of the Cold War were still fresh, the administration decided that the best way to keep the nuclear arms race from heating up again was to get the world's nations to sign a test-ban treaty. The idea was that even if a country knew how to make a bomb it couldn't perfect new ones and build up advanced forces without physically testing new designs. So development of new weapons would be frozen, ending the vicious spiral of nuclear move and countermove. Releasing many of America's nuclear secrets was seen as an essential part of this strategy.,since it would signal a new global order in which nuclear know-how was suddenly and irreparably devalued and real security would lie in the collective knowledge that nobody was able to push weaponry beyond the known boundaries.

Each of these Clinton policies were begun in 1993, but the totally predictable consequences did not become obvious for several years, and although many of the consequences were known to members of the Cox Committee, because of Members' desire to issue a " bipartisan" report, the "blame" for what the Cox Committee concluded were incidents of "spying" or of "penetration" was not placed where it belonged-squarely on the Clinton Administration's "Openness" policy at the Labs. But although the Cox Committee held its "fire" during the five months it took the Clinton Administration to "redact" their Report, the subsequent efforts of DOE Secretary Richardson and NSC Staff Director Berger to shift the blame for the PRC "spy scandal to the Reagan-Bush Administrations propelled some Members of the Cox Commission to go public with what they had known all along. One of them,Rep. Curt Weldon [R PA], chairman since 1995 of the R & D Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, after commenting at length about the deleterious effect of the "Openness" policy instituted at DOE by Secretary Hazel O'Leary on the Labs, said:

I want to call particular attention to my colleagues and to the American people this two-page spread that was in the July 31st. 1995 issue of US News and World Report entitled "Shockwave" documenting the annihilation and destruction that would be caused by a nuclear attack or a nuclear bomb going off. In this document is an illustration of the W-87 warhead. In 1995, this was classified. This administration, in 1995, leaked this document to US News and World Report giving the entire populace of the world, through US News and World Report, access to the design of the W-87 Nuclear warhead.( Information Relative to the Cox Report  (House of Representatives. June 8, 1999), Congressional Record,  [Page:113837]. remarks of Curt Weldon [R-PA])

Representative Weldon went on to say that he had evidence that Secretary hazel O'Leary, herself, had been discovered in an internal DOE investigation in 1995 to have "leaked" the W-87 warhead document to the media. This was astonishing. A member of the Cox Committee charged on the House Floor what he bad known all along, but had withheld his fire-that DOE secretary O'Leary, not a PRC "mole" at lot Alamos, as reported in Various media"leaks" of the Cox Report, had deliberately given the whole world, including the PRC, W-87 "design information." And what may be even more astonishing, is that a cut-away diagram of the W-87-which may well be the same one secretary O'Leary gave the world in 1995--appears on page 78 of the Redacted Report!


Much is made in the Redacted Report, and in the media of the "official" PRC document classified "Secret" that is supposed to contain "design information on the W-88" and the W-87 as well as five or six other US nuclear weapons. This document was "planted" with the CIA in Taiwan in 1995 by a "Walk-in," which the CIA later learned was controlled by PRC "intelligence services."(Cox Report, p.83)

The planted PRC document was "assessed" in 1995 by a multi-disciplinary group of Experts [including US nuclear weapons scientists] and that assessment was later made available to the Cox Committee in 1998. The assessment has never been made public--nor has the "planted" document--but there have been media reports that there were significant differences of opinion between the Experts and the Security officials [DOE and FBI] as to (1) the validity of the PRC Secret document and (2) the interpretation of the contents, Unfortunately, the Cox Committee accepted the opinion of the gumshoes looking for a hole in the fence rather that Experts' net assessment.

US-PRC Lab Relations pre-1992

The"redacted" Cox Report mentions (p.82)"US and PRC lab-to-lab exchanges were ended in the late 1980s, but were resumed in 1993." That statement is highly, and perhaps deliberately, misleading. It suggests that there were "Lab-to-Lab" programs with the PRC during the Reagan Administration and that the Clinton Administration merely revived them. In the first place, the term "Lab-to-Lab" was coined for, and should be applied uniquely to, the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici (NLD) programs wherein US Weapons Lab scientists were authorized and funded to assist their "opposite numbers" of the Russian MINATOM Institutes in preventing the proliferation of Soviet fissile materials, nuclear weapons technologies and technologies.

There were, in the decades prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, numerous cooperative research programs between scientists at various US government and academic Labs with their opposite numbers in the Soviet Union, as well as a few in the PRC, but every one of those programs were absolutely non-weapon related. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the very real possibility of 30,000 "loose nukes," a program like NLD Lab-Institute cooperative proliferation prevention programs would have been Unthinkable, by responsible officials in either the US or in the Soviet Union, Absolutely Unthinkable.

It ought to have been Unthinkable to the Clinton Administration to institute such a program in 1993 with the PRC. The necessary and sufficient conditions for NLD in Russia were the (a) chaotic political system, (b) collapsing economy, (c) as many as 100,000 unemployed nuclear weapons technologists, hundreds of tons of excess nuclear weapons materials, and about 30,000 fairly "loose nukes." None of these conditions prevailed in the PRC in 1993 and there could be almost no reason to Engage them in NLD like activities.

Congress clearly understood this all along. One or both of the "classified" assessments by the Experts and the Security officials of the PRC Secret 1995 document was apparently provided in 1996 to certain Congressional Committees-including Chairman Weldon's HNSC Subcommittee-and may have been the cause of a 1996 Congressional prohibition in the FY 1997 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which was repeated in the FY 1998 and FY 1999 NDAA:"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 People's Republic of China."  (Title XXXI, Section 3137(a). National Defense Authorization Act for FY 97)

The NLD Lab-Institute programs were specifically exempted from the above prohibition. But Congress apparently felt the need to find out what had been going on between the US weapons Labs and the PRC weapons labs, and to determine how much damage might already have been done by the Administration's PRC "Engagement" and "Openness" policles. Hence, section 3137 of the FY 97 NDAA:

(1) The Secrecary of Energy shall prepare, in consultation with the Scerecary of Defense,a report containing a description of all discussions and activities between the United States and the People's Republic of China regarding nuclcar weapons matters that have occurred before the dat of the enactment of this Act and that are planned to occue   after such dare For each such discussion or activity, the report shall include--

(A).the authority under which the discussion or acrivity took or will take place;
(B). the subject of the discussion of activlry:
(C).participants or likely participants;
(D).the source and amount of funds used or to be used to pay for the discussion or activity;
(E).a description of the actions taken or to be taken to ensure that no dlassified information or unclassified conrrolled information was or will be revealed, and a determination of whether classified information or unclassified controlled intormation was revealed in previous discussions.

(2).The report shall be submitted to the Committee on Armed Services of the Scoare and the Committee on National Security of the House of Representutives not later than January 15. 1997.

In making the required Report tyo the House Armed Setvices Commtittee and Senate Armed Services Committee, the Administration had had more than a year since receiving the Experes assessment of the PRC Secret document to evaluate their Openness and Engagement policies in light of that assessment. Tepresentatives for the Secretaries of Defense and Energy essentially denied to Congress that there were, or ever had been, any US-PRC 'cooperative'programs involving muclear weapons "stockpile stewardship safety and use control"for Congress to "prohibit." DOEdid admit that the US had proposed-as a part of the Clintonb Administration's Engagement initiative with the PRC -a "cooperative"program similar to the NLD Lab-Instituce Materials Protection, Control and Accountability [MPC&A] program, but that the PRC Labs replied that they were not interested in particlpating!

"Spying"-Chinese Style

The Clinton Administration "buzzword" for their across-the-board policy with the PRC was "Constructive Engagement", which in the case of the Clinton Administrations PRC Lab-to-Lab program was essentially a euphemism for "Spring", But a principal conclusion of the Redacted Report is that it was the PRC's Academy of Engineering Physics[CAEP]-the PRC equivalent of the US DOE and the Russian MINATOM-that took advantage of the Clinton Administration's "Constructive Engagement" program to "spy"on us.

The Cox report describes in several places the PRC-style of "spying." but Phillip B. Moore. the FBI's chief analyst for Chinese intelligence for more than 20 years probably describes it more succinctly;

China's approach is to create situations in which it is possible for individuals to make their intelligence contributions. The Chinese seek to develo0 significant relationships with as many people as possible, in particular those of ethnic Chinese ancestry, whose thinking and value systems China's intelligence officers understand best. This they do on a very large scale. and are quite content to let their efforts directed toward a given individual continue for many years.

Normally, the natural"consumers"of intelligence-scientists, engineers, st6uderts, etc.-are the ones who actually collect the date, not professional Chinese intelligence officers. The physical transfer of information typically takes place in China, and as a byproduct of a legitimate trip there by someone from the United States. The usual collection mechanism is simple elicitation. The visitor may be asked to give a talk to his colleagues in China, who then pepper him with questions that might induce at least a small security breach on his part.

So the Clinton Administration set out in 1993 to "constructively engage"the PRC weapons scientists through a US-PRC version of "lab-to-lab"programs, using US scientists who were in many cases of 'Ethnic Chinese ancestry'. But here is the way the Redacted Report "defines"PRC "Espionage".

Espionage played a central part in the PRC's acquisition of classified US thermonuclear warhead design secrets. In several cases, the PRC identified lab employees, invited them to the PRC, and approached  them for help, sometimes playing upon ethnic ties to recruit individuals.... PRC scientists have used their extensive laboratory-to-laboratory interactions with the United States to gain information from US scientists on common problems, solutions to nuclear weapons physics, and solutions to engineering problems... The China Academy of Engineering Physics has pursued a very close relationship with US national weapons laboratories, sending scientists as well as well as senior management to Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore. Members of the CAEP senior management have made at least two trips during the mid-to-late 1990s to US national weapons laboratories to acquire information and collect intelligence.... Specific examples of the loss of classified US information in this manner are detailed in the select Committee's classified Final Report. The Clinton Administration has determined that these examples cannot be publicly discussed.

If what the Clinton Administration did was not "Spying," then what the PRC did--in learning as much about our nuclear weapons as they could, taking advantage of the Clinton Administration's Openness and Engagement polices-was not "Spying"either. Apparently, the Cox Committee feels that the PRC got more out or the Clinton Administration than the Clinton Administration got out of the Engagement and )openness with the PRC. There is no way to tell, because the Clinton Administration will not allow the public to know what evidence it has for what the PRC obtained.

The NSC Staffer designated by the President's National Security Advisor to be "point man" on the developing PRC "spying" scandal, argued then and now, as does DOE Secretary Richardson, that the PRC "forum" has been, and should be permitted to remain, a key element of the Clinton Administration's "Engagement" policy with the PRC. Secretary Richardson extensively lobbied Congress, made numerous TV appearances, concentrating on the necessity of continuing to allow "scientific exchange" between the PRC and US nuclear weapons labs, with the result that the Administration marshaled enough votes in the House to defeat an amendment to the FY 2000 NDAA offered by Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KA) which would have prohibited such interchange programs with the PRC.

Cox Report -- Damage Assessment

In submitting the Top Secret Committee Report to the Administration on January 3, 1999 for "classification review," Chairman Cox also asked that the Administration assemble an interagency group of "intelligence" experts and nuclear weapons designers to conduct a "damage assessment," to review what the US Government knew or supposed it knew about the PRC's nuclear weapons programs and to attempt to identify whether the information set out in the Top Secret Reports, which was alleged by the Committee to have been obtained by the PRC by "hook or crook" from the US, had resulted in observable advances in PRC nuclear weapons development.

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet convened such an inter-agency group( affairs/press release /ps042199.html) and when the group had finished its "net assessment," Tenet asked a Panel of Experts to review the group 's "net assessment " and its Top Secret "Findings." (Chaired by Admiral David Jeremiah,panel members were Brent Skowcroft,.Johnny Foster,Richard Kerr,Roland Herbs and Howard Schue),  The  Panel of Experts concurred in the Top Secret Findings and worked with the interagency group to develop a set of unclassified "Key Findings" that were made public on April 21, 1999. The "redacted" Cox Committee Report was finally made public in May, 1999.(See Appendix B or http// release/0421kt.html)

The "Key Findings" of the Panel of Experts assume particular importance when it is realized that no "panel of experts" ever examined the Cox Committee Report before it was issued. Therefore, it would be prudent--in making law and policy--to rely on conclusions reached in the "redacted" Cox Committee Report only when confirmed by the unclassified "Key Findings" of the Panel of Experts, which did have access to all the information available to the Cox Committee.

PRC Thefts

Virtually every bit of Evidence of PRC Spying that may have occurred during the Clinton Administration has been "redacted" from the Cox Committee Report. The Clinton Administration rationale is that the "investigations are on-going" and that the Evidence itself, is "classified." In fact, essentially the only Evidence of PRC Spying that the Clinton Administration has allowed to be made public are two instances where "ethnic Chinese" US citizens, while employed at Los Alamos, are suspected of having divulged "classified" information to PRC scientists during visits to the PRC during the Reagan Administration. These two Thefts--the W-88 and the "neutron bomb"--are described in some detail in the Redacted Report.

One incident wherein we have both the Redacted Report assessment and the Panel of Experts assessment is the "neutron bomb" and there are important differences between the "language" in the Cox Committee Report in the Key Findings of the Panel of Experts. Because there are two principal categories of "classified" information--DOD "defense information" and DOE "restricted data"--and different laws cover the handling and misuse of the two different categories of "classified" information, it is important to be quite precise in the "language" that is used in the charge.

Cox Report -- Neutron Bomb

According to the Cox Report (as "redacted" by the Clinton Administration), the principal "evidence" for one of the PRC "spying" incidents involving Moles that had "penetrated" Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos Labs, is that: Peter Lee, a Taiwan-born, US naturalized citizen--while employed at Los Alamos, visited the PRC in 1985 (during the Reagan Administration) to make a presentation and freely admitted in 1995 that he described in that presentation in some detail his work on an inertial confinement fusion (ICF) project at Lawrence Livermore during the period 1973-1984.(Cox Report.p.89)

This Peter Lee admission is evidently the basis for the allegation in the Redacted Report that the PRC had stolen (a) the "secret" of the "neutron bomb" and/or (b) the "secret" of a revolutionary "miniature" hydrogen bomb. Here is what the Redacted Report (p89) has to say in support of those charges: "Specifically, Lee explained to PRC weapons scientists how deuterium and tritium can be loaded into a spherical capsule called a target and surrounded by a hohtraum and then heated by means of laser bombardment. The heat causes the compression of these elements, creating a nuclear fusion micro-explosion."

But a proper technical understanding of ICF and Peter Lee's job would lead one to suspect that Peter Lee had merely described to his PRC hosts in some detail his work as a contract employee on an inertial confinement fusion (ICF) laser project at Lawrence Livermore Lab, a predecessor of the NOVA facility.(NOVA See http//Lasers These extremely large, extremely expensive facilities have usually been justified primarily as a potential inexhaustible source of "clean" fusion energy. Because they are so expensive, and because there has not since the 1970s seemed to be a pressing need for "fusion" energy, the ICF facilities have sometimes been justified to Congress as having some National Defense function. This was especially true during the Reagan defense buildup of the early 1980s.

It is possible that LLNL weapons designers could have found some of the experimental results obtained from some experiments they may have conducted at the ICF facility (even when Peter Lee worked there) useful in thermonuclear "fusion" weapon design. That would certainly be the case now that the US has foresworn any further full-scale nuclear testing.

But Peter Lee -- the TRW employee -- almost certainly had nothing to do with Lawrence Livermore weapons design, even if some National Defense experiments were conducted at the ICF facility where he was hired to work. And in the pre-O'Leary era, Petet Lee probably had a color coded security badge that would not have even allowed him access to the areas of Lawrence Livermore where such design work took place. The Cox report notes (p 89): "Lee was formally charged with one count of 'gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,' in violation of Section 793 of Title 18 of the US Code, and one count of providing false statements to a US government agency, in violation of Section 1001, Title 18. On December 8, 1997, Lee pled guilty to willfully passing classified US defense information to PRC scientists during his 1985 visit to the PRC. Lee also pled guilty to falsifying reports of contact with PRC nationals in 1997."

USC Section 793 is cited which has to do with "gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,"(US Code title 18,Section 793 - defines "defense information") [Section 798 on the other hand, has to do with "classified information" (US Code title 50,Section 4382. The term "classified information" means any information that has been determined pursuant to Executive Order No.12356 of April 2,1982 or successor orders,or the atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 USC.2011 et seq.),to require protection against unauthorized disclosure and that is so designed.) which includes both "defense information" and "restricted data." ] In the early 1980s, during the Reagan Defense Buildup, information about high-power lasers, which Peter Lee worked on at Lawrence Livermore, may well have been "defense information," a DOD category. But information about "neutron bombs" -- specifically the W-70 (Mod 3), according to the Redacted Report--is "restricted data" as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended, (USC Title 42,Sec 2014 (Y) The term "Restricted Data" means all data concerning (1)design,manufacture,or utilization of atomic weapons; (2) the production of special nuclear material; or (3) the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy, but shall not include data declassified or removed from the Restricted Data category pursuant to section 2162 of this title) a DOE category of "classified" information. What Peter Lee has apparently pled guilty to, is what he freely admitted that he did -- that he told his Chinese hosts all about his work on high-power lasers.

The Cox committee (P.86) and others ( have identified the W-70 as both "enhanced radiation warhead" and the "neutron bomb." In my lexicon, those are not the same things at all. An "enhanced radiation" warhead is just what it says, a nuclear weapon where the design has been "tweaked" so that a larger fraction of the energy release from fission/fusion comes out of the bomb case as radiation. And, although scientists at Livermore and elsewhere were hard at work at it, so far as I know we have never developed a true "neutron bomb", that is, a "zero-fission fusion" weapon. If Livermore scientists had been able to "light" a DT pellet in the Lab -- producing more explosive energy than was pumped into it by Peter Lee's Lasers -- then they would have had a very,  very low yield "zero-fission fusion" neutron "cherry-bomb." If Peter Lee had given that "cherry bomb secret" to the PRC, then the PRC bomb designer would only have had the problem of fitting the entire NOVA facility and some significant fraction of PG&E's electrical generating capacity for Northern California into a missile warhead. In other words, the entire scenario is implausible.

The Clinton Administration officials who were examining the Cox Committee "evidence" as it was being submitted to them for review in 1998 ought to have pointed out to the Committee how ridiculous those charges about the W-70 and the "miniaturized thermonuclear bomb " were. In any case, as the PRC weapons designers surely knew, the way to "light" a DT "pellet" is with a nuclear explosion, not with an ICF laser facility. And in 1985, neither the US or the PRC had signed the CTBT so there was nothing to prevent them from "banging away"  till they were able to "light" a DT "pellet" if that's what they had their hearts set on. One can perhaps be forgiven for wondering if whoever allowed the Cox Committee to include that "neutron bomb" charge in their Redacted Report and later leaked the ridiculous story about teeny-tiny hydrogen bombs, did so because the alleged spying incident happened on Reagan's, not Clinton's watch." The "secret " of the "neutron bomb," and/or the "secret " of the "miniaturized thermonuclear warhead," is what Peter Lee is supposed to have divulged to the PRC.

As in the case of Wen Ho Lee, it appears that the Security [DOE & FBI] officials have attempted to define the Crime to fit their Suspect. The LLNL scientists at the ICF facility where Peter Lee worked were surely attempting to achieve "zero-fission fusion," but not to make a weapon. [In any case, accusing Peter Lee of stealing the "secret" of the neutron bomb at the ICF facility where he worked is a bit like accusing the grounds keeper at Wimbledon of "stealing " the "secret" of Pete Sornpras' serve.

Panel of Experts -- Neutron Bomb

The Panel of Experts, who had access to all the "evidence"cited by the Cox committee, fails to support either the general or specific allegations [p87] in the Cox Report of the  "theft of classified US design information for the W-70 thermonuclear warhead"----which the Cox Report characterizes as the "neutron bomb." The Panel of Experts has only this to say: "China also obtained information on a variety of US weapon design concepts and weaponization features, including those of the neutron bomb.

The panel of Experts says nothing about (a) "theft"; says nothing about the information being (b) "classified"; and says nothing about (c) "design information" for any specific weapon.

To a nuclear weapon designer, there is a vast difference between having obtained "design information" [Cox] about a specific weapon and "design concepts"   [Experts]. "Design information" implies "reality," something that has already been done. "Design concepts" implies  "fantasy," something that has yet to be made real.

Cox Report -- W-88

According to the Redacted Report, another Taiwan-born, US naturalized citizen, while employed in "X" division at Los Alamos where the W-88 was designed, visited the PRC in 1988 to give a lecture. He is "suspected" of having given the PRC "classified information on the W-88 warhead and other matters" because some information about the W-88 was included in the PRC Secret document "planted" in 1995, but which purported to have been prepared in 1988.

Wen Ho Lee is not mentioned by name in the Cox Report but his name was leaked months ago by the Administration, which had his personal computer searched, subjected him to "lie-detector" tests, suspended him and then fired him, all between the time the Top Secret Report was submitted to the Clinton Administration for Classification Revue and when the Redacted Report was released to the public. Hence, despite what information may have been unearthed since, the allegations contained in the Cox Committee Report had to have been based upon the suspicions of the Security [DOE and FBI] officials about the closeness in timing between the trip to PRC by Wen Ho Lee and the "date" on the document "planted" with the CIA by the PRC Walk-in.

The initial DOE attempts to wire-tap Wen Ho Lee in 1997 after the Security officials became "suspicious" of him--which were rejected by the Justice Department for lack of "probable cause" -- were not mentioned in the Redacted Report. The disclosure by Chairman Cox in presenting the Redacted Report to Congress of that refusal by Janet Reno was immediately interpreted by virtually one and all to mean that the Attorney General had turned a blind eye to overwhelming evidence of a crime -- as she has frequently been accused of doing in the past. It did not seem to occur to any committee Member that the FBI really had no "probable cause' at that time, no justification for believing that a crime may have been committed. It follows that the Cox Committee had no "probable cause" to accuse the "unidentified Los Alamos suspect" of any crime either.

As to the reports leaked by the Clinton Administration of the "evidence" they found when they searched Wen Ho Lee's computer at his office in a secure area at Los Alamos, that search happened after the Cox Report was 'filed ' and so could not have been included. We don't know if the Panel of Experts had access to what was found there. We know from media reports that, although Wen Ho Lee had been associated with the W-88 design, by 1994 he had been reassigned to work on an 'archiving' project, apparently the Weapons Archiving and Retrieval Project [WARP] or something related to it.

WARP was undertaken because the Clinton Administration signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT], and even though the CTBT has never been ratified by the US Senate, the administration unilaterally decided to forego future full scale testing of nuclear weapons for any purpose. Whereupon, Congress required that the President certify annually that the US had no need to test nuclear weapons for any purpose.

The basis for this 'certification' was to be a "Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship" program, which involved total reliance on computer and laboratory simulations of nuclear and thermonuclear 'explosions'. At Livermore that meant using the National Ignition Facility [NIF], a successor to ICF facility that Peter Lee worked on, to simulate thermonuclear implosions and on 'negative alpha' hydro experiments. At Los Alamos it meant gathering together in one database -- on a secure local area network [LAN] server in a common format intelligible to future weapons designers -- all the predictions and test results of all Los Alamos and Livermore important nuclear tests of the past. Wen Ho Lee was apparently involved in this project at Los Alamos and had improperly transferred in 1994 and 1995 many of those files to his office computer, which was not a part of the secure LAN, There is apparently no 'benign' explanation for why he did this, but there is apparently no evidence that he did anything more. He has, of course, 'mishandled classified information', and for that his clearance could be removed -- as it was -- and he could no longer be employed at Los Alamos, since his employment there was contingent upon his being "Q-cleared".

But note again that Congress prohibited in the FY 97 NDAA(after Wen Ho Lee had reportedly already downloaded nearly all the 'legacy' files ) any cooperative nuclear weapons-related programs with the PRC including "stockpile stewardship." Congress must have had some reason for suspecting that the Clinton Administration was engaged in, or was proposing to engage in, some sort of cooperative 'stockpile stewardship' program with the PRC. That is, of course, what Wen Ho Lee was probably doing; preparing to participate in some kind of 'Lab-to-Lab' cooperative stockpile stewardship program with the PRC. It remains to be seen what if anything he had already done by the time Congress prohibited it in FY 97.

Panel of Experts -- W-88

With respect to this second widely reported general and specific allegation (p90) in the Cox Report of the "theft of design information for the W-88" warhead, the Panel of Experts [which had access to all the information the Cox Committee had] had only this to say: "China obtained at least basic design information on several modern US nuclear reentry vehicles, including the Trident II (W-88).(Key Findings, Appendix B)

The Panel of Experts (a) says nothing about the W-88 warhead, (b) makes no claim of "theft," and (c) its finding relates only to "reentry vehicles."

To a nuclear weapon designer, there is a vast difference between "design information for the W-88" [Cox] and "basic design information" on the Trident II "reentry vehicle" [Experts]. All that the PRC weapon designer has learned about the W-88 from getting basic design information on the Trident II reentry vehicle is that the W-88, which fits inside the reentry vehicle, must somehow fit inside it. Admittedly, it was not easy for Los Alamos to build a warhead that would fit inside the sharply conical Trident II reentry vehicle. But if the PRC bomb designer doesn't have a requirement to design a warhead that will fit inside a Trident II reentry vehicle, then the information -- even if obtained -- or how Los Alamos designers did it would be a solution to a problem he doesn't have. And so far as the Experts can tell, the PRC has no intention of developing their own version of the Trident II missile, reentry vehicle or warhead. (The low "half-angle" conical reentry vehicles for the W-88 and W-87 imply a requirement for high ballistic accuracy in their use, that is as "silo-busters" of the "hardened" Soviet ICBM sites. According to the US Intelligence Community there is no indication that the PRC intends to replicate the Soviet ICBM system. Rather, they apparently intend to make their relatively small number of ICBMs mobile to thwart a "first strike." For their retaliatory strike ICBMs, the PRC would be far more interested in getting large SZMT "city-busters," where high ballistic accuracy is not needed. Hence, even if the PRC had somehow obtained W-88 or W-87 "design information," it seems unlikely that they would have proceeded to develop and test such a device, as FBI and DOE Security officials have contended. After all, the W-88 and W-87 are optimized to fit in those low "half-angle" conical reentry vehicles, and there would be no reason for the PRC to have to make chose design compromises. Besides, the "evidence" -- apparently seismic signals from PRC underground tests -- that the PRC has tested a W-88-like device is -- to put it charitably -- "subject to interpretation," and in my opinion, most implausible.

The Real Damage

The acknowledged Number One Post-Cold-War Threat to US National Security (Appendix H) has been since 1992 the proliferation of Russian nuclear weapons, fissile materials, weapons technologies and technologists. The Nunn-Lugar-Domenici US-Russia Lab-Institute and related programs [such as the program to dispose of the tons of Plutonium being recovered from dismantled "Soviet" nuclear weapons have been our best vehicle for meeting-in cooperation with the Russians-that threat of "loose nukes." (Statement by Senator Nunn on how the "loose nukes" problem is now worse than it was in 1992. <>)

Perhaps because the Clinton Administration had placed all its nuclear proliferation prevention "eggs" in the Comprehensive Test Ban "basket." (Testimony of ACDA Director John Holum; Senate Committee on Governmental affairs [3/18/98] Holum testified in support of ratification that CTBT was both a Nonproliferation Treaty and an Arms Control Treaty. He also claimed that the Clinton Administration's oft repeated commitment to achieve a CTBT in 1996 was instrumental in achieving the indefinite and unconditional extension of the NPT in 1995. Holum warned about the consequences to NPT and whole Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime if the Senate delayed ratification of CTBT. He noted that in order to assuage the concerns of Congress, US adherence to the CTBT would be conditional on [among other things] our maintaining a science based stockpile Stewardship program.) it did not fully appreciate the importance of vigorously pursuing the NLD approach to preventing the proliferation of Russian "loose nukes." Now, as the Clinton Administration frantically tries to shift to previous Administrations the blame for what the Cox Report charges are "thefts" by the PRC of nuclear weapons "secrets," Secretary Richardson imposes draconian "security" measures on the "lax security culture" the Administration claims it "inherited" from the Reagan-Bush Administrations. The Administration either doesn't realize or doesn't care that those draconian measures are going to further devastate our own nuclear weapons infrastructure while killing the one set of programs-the "Nunn-Lugar-Domenici" programs-which had any chance of preventing the proliferation of Russian "loose nukes."

The first step in recovering from the Clinton Administration's PRC spying debacle, will be to have that debacle and the Clinton Administration Openness and Engagement polices fully aired in Congress. Blame should be assigned, not for the damage that may have been done by PRC intelligence gathering, but for the very real damage that has been done to our ability to meet the Number One Threat to our National Security. It may not be possible for the United States to again become a leader in Real World nuclear proliferation prevention, but we have to try.

After all, as the Cox Report notes-what the PRC is suspected of having "stolen" from us, it could have got from the Russians, without "stealing." If now, as a result of the actions taken in haste because of the Cox Report, we are unable to continue effectively our NLD Lab-Institute programs with the Russians, if we are unable to effectively assist the Russians dispose of their excess weapons plutonium, then-for a price-the PRC may well supplant us. What might the "price" of the PRC be for helping Russia with the financing of their Plutonium disposition facilities? For starters, the Russians do have about 30,000 warheads they don't know what to do with. And some of those warheads would be of considerably more use to the PRC than the W-70 [Mod 3] Lance Missile Warhead [which I believe is no longer of any use to us either, and has been "retired" from our stockpile.]

So, the way things are going, with the Cox Report being used as the Administration is using it, maybe the United States, Russia and the People's Republic of China are now on the road to solving all our respective problems. If the Russians can get the "foreign aid" to dispose of their excess Plutonium from the PRC, then Congress won't have to supply it. And if the PRC can get what they want from the Russians, then the PRC won't need to spy on us. Now all we have to worry about is how many of the 30,000 Russian warheads will the PRC get in exchange for helping the Russians prevent the proliferation of all that excess weapons Plutonium.

The irony in all this is, that if the PRC has been able to obtain US unclear weapons "secrets"-and there is little evidence in the "redacted" Cox Committee Report that it has-it was able to obtain them all as a direct result of the Clinton Administration's non-proliferation policies of:

  • Unilateral implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty-which the Senate has refused to ratify-that has prevented the Labs from testing new weapons;
  • Openness and transparency with respect to US nuclear weapons inventories and programs-which devalued our existing stockpile; and
  • Engagement of the PRC nuclear weapons establishment by the DOE nuclear weapons establishment-which subverted the NLD Lab-Institute' programs.

Join the mailing list