- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000

What is it about this White House that makes it impossible for Clinton administration members and staffers to act responsibly when it comes to national security? Are they daft? Is it something in the water? Or is it the pervasive lack of respect for the military and intelligence cultures of Washington that is at the core? We have certainly seen that phenomenon documented often enough during the Clinton terms.

This phenomenon now turns out to extend all the way to the top of the intelligence community, to former Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch, who this week apologized to Congress for mishandling top-secret documents on his home computers. Though all this was purely unintentional, of course, Mr. Deutch acknowledged that "the director of central intelligence is not above the rules," and told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "I very much regret my actions." It is gratifying to know that there is at least one member of the Clinton administration who does not believe he is above the law.

First there was the matter of the White House staffers whose FBI security clearance could not be processed because of past drug use. All this was credibly documented by former FBI Agent Gary Aldrich in his book, "Unlimited Access." Then there was Filegate, which was never actually resolved. It was a deeply serious breach of security and privacy, involving the FBI background files of over 900 former Republican White House employees, whose files were discovered in the White House basement under the protection of two Democratic operatives.

Nor should we forget Chinagate. Here we had Democratic fund-raiser John Huang pouring money from the Indonesian Lippo Group into the pockets of the Democratic National Committee. In return, he was awarded with a post in the Commerce Department with access to classified information. Meanwhile, Charlie Trie was bearing gifts from the Chinese government and getting Chinese arms merchants a seat at the White House coffee table. Add to that the seepage of nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory to the Chinese government, as documented by the Cox report. And there was the decision to allow the Commerce Department (rather than the Pentagon) to certify the launching of U.S. satellites on Chinese rockets by Loral Space & Communications and Hughes Electronics.

Mr. Deutch's actions themselves are staggering. According to a report by the CIA inspector general, Mr. Deutch copied and stored 17,000 pages of highly classified documents on his home computer after he left the agency in 1996. Not only that, but high-risk Internet sites had been accessed from these computers, which could compromise the security of the files stored there. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is carrying on its own investigation as to whether Mr. Deutch compromised ultra-sensitive Pentagon programs by placing details about them in his home computers.

What is almost as troubling is that it took Mr. Deutch's successor at the CIA, George Tenet, 18 months before he notified the congressional oversight committees of Mr. Deutch's appalling lapse. Even at this late hour of the Clinton presidency, it remains up to Congress to drag the truth out into the sunlight. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby has promised to do just that. Goodness knows what else he will find this time.

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