- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

China nuke experiment
U.S. intelligence officials said China conducted some type of nuclear weapons-related experiment recently. The test was carried out at the remote Lop Nur nuclear testing facility in western Xinjiang province.
Another test is expected soon, we are told.
Intelligence agencies remain in the dark about what kind of test took place because the blast gave off no seismic readings. Also, U.S. "sniffer" aircraft capable of detecting venting of radioactive material from the site came up empty. The key indicator of the test was an increase in vehicle activity.
Officials said the test may have been a "subcritical" nuclear test a blast that simulates a nuclear explosion but falls short of reaching an actual nuclear chain reaction. China is developing a small nuclear warhead that U.S. intelligence agencies believe is based on stolen U.S. warhead design information.
Preparations for the test were first reported May 11 by The Washington Times.
Intelligence officials said China recently purchased special nuclear containment vessels from Russia that were used by Moscow to mask its underground nuclear tests.

Hanssen damage
FBI Special Agent Robert P. Hanssen, who is expected to plead guilty today to espionage charges, compromised scores of the FBI's most secret operations, according to intelligence sources.
The veteran counterspy was "read into" more than 100 of the FBI's Special Access Programs — secret intelligence operations involving double agents and other counterintelligence activities. Based on a "worst case" analysis, intelligence officials say all the programs are considered compromised.
The loss represents what one official called a "devastating" intelligence failure that could take decades for the FBI to fix.
Once the plea agreement with Mr. Hanssen is concluded, debriefings will begin, possibly as soon as next week. Counterintelligence officers from numerous spy agencies want a crack at Mr. Hanssen to find out exactly what was compromised.
The counterspies are especially eager to find out from Mr. Hanssen about his spying activities during the late 1990s, when Russian intelligence files indicate the FBI agent had little contact with his handlers in Moscow.

Army women
Suspicions by some on Capitol Hill that the Army has "mission creep" on the issue of women in combat is fueled by the service's transformation plans.
Eighteen percent of jobs in the Interim Brigade Combat Team — a key component of a lighter, more agile Army — are open to women, according to documents compiled by the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). The Army already has assigned women to the brigade's Reconnaissance Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron.
The Pentagon bans women from direct land combat. But the Army has identified a number of brigade jobs that, critics say, are bringing female soldiers closer to combat roles.
DACOWITS is a civilian panel of roughly 35 members, most of whom are women. It has been pressing the Pentagon to open more roles to women, including in artillery and special operations aviation.
Twenty-seven members of the House Armed Services Committee recently sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asking him to explore whether the Army is slowly bending the ban on women in combat. The Army denies that it is. It says the brigade job descriptions were already open to women when the transformation began.
Said the congressmen's letter, "In particular, please provide information about the assignment of female soldiers to the Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron at Fort Lewis, Wash. Who is responsible for allowing these assignments, which may be inconsistent with current [Pentagon] policy?"
Fort Lewis is home to the interim brigade, which includes the surveillance squadron.
The Army told us this week that women assigned to the squadron are confined to roles previously approved for them: intelligence analysis, and reconnaissance of areas exposed to nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
However, a retired Army general commented, "I believe this organization will put women at the heart of ground combat."

Hamel off hold
Air Force brass are claiming a major lobbying victory in winning the release of a Senate "hold" imposed by Sen. Robert C. Smith on the promotion of Brig. Gen. Michael Hamel to two-star rank. Gen. Hamel's promotion was approved June 29.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan called on Mr. Smith, New Hampshire Republican and key supporter of military space efforts, to urge Senate approval of the nomination. Also pushing the promotion was Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart, commander in chief of the U.S. Space Command and a leading contender to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Gen. Hamel came under fire from Pentagon critics for his role in blocking several defense-related space initiatives while working as a military aide to Vice President Al Gore.
The critics also said Gen. Hamel used his Air Force office to fund a project by George Washington University professor John M. Logsdon a critic of increasing the use of space for military purposes.

Intercepts
The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Pacific Command's Hawaii-based think tank, is under fire from Congress for blocking the visit of a Taiwan expert to one of its conferences.
The center's Web site says one of its main goals is to "enhance cooperation and build relationships" among U.S. and Asia-Pacific nations.
Congressional aides are angered at the center's anti-Taiwan bias and are planning to "defund" it in a budget amendment. They point to the center's Web page (www.apcss.org/countries.html) listing the flags of 44 nations of the region, including North Korea, but not for Taiwan.
President Bush said recently that the United States would do "whatever it took" to help defend Taiwan against a mainland attack from China.

Hold calls
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a Senate Armed Services Committee member, is contemplating putting a "hold" on the nomination of Stephen Cambone. Mr. Cambone, a confidant of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, is to be deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
In exercising a senator's prerogative to "hold" a nominee, Mr. Inhofe would send a message to the White House on how unhappy he is with President Bush's decision to evict the Navy from the Vieques Island training range by 2003.
Two other Pentagon nominees already face possible "holds" from committee Democrats, who dislike their hawkish views on North Korea and missile defense.
They are Douglas J. Feith, nominated to be undersecretary of defense for policy, and J.D. Crouch II, picked to be assistant defense secretary for international security policy.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, has not decided how he will vote on the nominations, a spokeswoman said.

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