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Bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill over China spying report

Several GOP lawmakers point fingers at Berger, Reno

May 25, 1999
Web posted at: 5:58 p.m. EDT (2158 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 25) -- Characterizing a special House report released Tuesday detailing 20 years of alleged espionage by China as "first rate" and "bipartisan," Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike agreed more steps must be taken to protect U.S. nuclear technology.

Daschle
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle  

But some Republicans say the Clinton Administration did not react quickly enough when the allegations were brought to its attention. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said National Security Adviser Sandy Berger should quit, while Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby repeated his call for Attorney General Janet Reno to resign.

"I just think Sandy Berger needs to stand up and accept his responsibility" and resign said Armey. According to Cox report, the charges first reached Berger in 1996.

Criticizing Reno for rejecting a FBI request to wiretap a suspected Chinese spy working in a nuclear lab, Shelby told CNN: "Janet Reno has always said that she's accountable, and she certainly is ... I believe it's time for her to go, and now."

Shelby later said that more of the report should be declassified. "I wish ... that the administration would agree to declassify a lot more of the report. Seventy percent -- or whatever the figure is -- is not enough. Probably you could go and declassify 90, 95 percent of it without any harm at all to national security. That would be my considered judgment."

While embracing the recommendations of the Cox report, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) pointed out not all of the problems took place under President Bill Clinton's watch and that there was enough blame to go around.

Kerrey
Sen. Bob Kerrey  

"This matter goes back to 1982. The Reagan Administration did nothing. The Bush Administration did nothing. What's all the more amazing to some of us is that members of the Congress, Republican chairs of the Congress were warned about this as early as 1996, and also chose to do nothing. This administration is the first to do something," Daschle said.

And the ultimate responsibility lies with China, many lawmakers pointed out.

Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska) agreed that the report's findings were very serious, but he cautioned against overreacting.

"It's very important for Americans to put the size of this threat in perspective," Kerrey said "Just as it is a terrible mistake to underestimate a threat, and I think we underestimated a threat of espionage by the Chinese all the way through the 1980s and the 1990s, it is also a big risk for us to overestimate the threat. This is not the worst case of espionage in the 20th century."

Senate Republicans are undecided Tuesday if a special select committee will be formed to investigate how Chinese spies were able to gather the United States' most sophisticated nuclear designs and technology over several decades. Others called for congressional oversight hearings.

Senate Republican committee and subcommittee chairmen of the committees with oversight responsibility on the handling of the spy matter plan to meet weekly.

"We're dealing with national security. And we have to find out what happened and let the chips fall where they may. We have to take very, very aggressive action to solve the problems at the Department of Energy. And the initial steps which have been taken are in the right direction. But I do not believe that they have found all the holes yet to actually plug all of those holes," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania).

CNN's Janet Moore contributed to this report.

DOCUMENTS

Cox Report


RELATED STORIES

Report: Chinese spying likely 'continues to this day'
(5-25-99)

Clinton to continue engagement of China despite espionage report (5-25-99)

Reno has survived Washington so far, but China probe may be different
(5-24-99)

China rejects 'cooked-up' spying report
(5-24-99)

U.S. and China share long history of distrust
(5-24-99)

White House defends Reno, Berger in nuclear secrets case (5-24-99)

Shelby: Reno should resign over China espionage probe (5-23-99)


RELATED SITES

Department of Justice

Department of Energy

White House


VIDEO

The White House says the damage was done during Republican administrations. CNN's Wolf Blitzer explains. (5-25-99) video Real: 28K | 80K, Windows Media: 28K | 80K


MESSAGE BOARD

Nuclear secrets



MORE STORIES:

Tuesday, May 25, 1999

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