If Only The Chinese Wore Trench Coats...
Tom Brokaw interviewed President Clinton for last night's NBC Nightly News. Unlike Dan Rather's syrupy 60 Minutes II Q&A on March 31, he actually asked a question about Chinese espionage: "Your critics say the Clinton doctrine is we bomb the small countries, Iraq and Kosovo, but when the big countries begin to give us trouble we turn the other way. China and nuclear secrets is the most recent example of that. Isn't that a bigger risk really to the long term history of the United States than Kosovo?" The networks haven't given China a tiny fraction of the news from Kosovo, despite major new print revelations. For example:
April 28: The New York Times reported "A scientist suspected of spying for China improperly transferred huge amounts of secret data from a computer system at a government laboratory, compromising virtually every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal, government and lab officials say." Network coverage? ABC's World News Tonight aired a full story. CBS Evening News mentioned it before its own exclusive report on nuclear lab security. CNN's The World Today aired two reports. But NBC aired nothing.
April 29: In response to the Times, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson gave an interview to The Washington Post admitting "a serious security breach that is unconscionable." The front-page Post article reported that Richardson signaled the possibility that Lee "may have made available to China far more sensitive information than previously imagined," including during the Clinton years. Network coverage? Nothing.
April 30: The Washington Post front page reported that Congress "erupted" with criticism against the FBI and the Justice Department. "After grilling FBI Director Louis J. Freeh for nearly three hours in a closed-door hearing, members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from both parties appeared equally outraged at what they depicted as lax handling of past and present investigations into suspected leaks of classified data. Their concern was aroused in particular by Freeh's testimony that the suspect, Wen Ho Lee, had been cited for suspicious actions going back almost 20 years." Network coverage? Only CNN aired a story on the hearing.
May 2: The New York Times added new details about when the Clinton team learned about espionage: "A secret report to top Clinton administration officials last November warned that China posed an 'acute intelligence threat' to the government's nuclear weapons laboratories and that computer systems at the labs were being constantly penetrated by outsiders." Network coverage? Only ABC noted it, for 40 seconds.
May 5: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard from nuclear lab directors and probed delays in warrants for Wen Ho Lee. Officials admitted Lee's security file was lost at one point. Network coverage? Only ABC aired a story. Bob Woodruff simply relayed the Justice Department's claim that it twice turned down warrant requests "because the evidence against Lee was insufficient." - Tim Graham