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Analysts missed Chinese buildup

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

A highly classified intelligence report produced for the new director of national intelligence concludes that U.S. spy agencies failed to recognize several key military developments in China in the past decade, The Washington Times has learned.

The report was created by several current and former intelligence officials and concludes that U.S. agencies missed more than a dozen Chinese military developments, according to officials familiar with the report.

The report blames excessive secrecy on China's part for the failures, but critics say intelligence specialists are to blame for playing down or dismissing evidence of growing Chinese military capabilities.

The report comes as the Bush administration appears to have become more critical of China's military buildup.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in Singapore over the weekend that China has hidden its defense spending and is expanding its missile forces despite facing no threats. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also expressed worries this week about China's expanding military capabilities.

Among the failures highlighted in the study are:

• China's development of a new long-range cruise missile.

• The deployment of a new warship equipped with a stolen Chinese version of the U.S. Aegis battle management technology.

• Deployment of a new attack submarine known as the Yuan class that was missed by U.S. intelligence until photos of the submarine appeared on the Internet.

• Development of precision-guided munitions, including new air-to-ground missiles and new, more accurate warheads.

• China's development of surface-to-surface missiles for targeting U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups.

• The importation of advanced weaponry, including Russian submarines, warships and fighter-bombers.

According to officials familiar with the intelligence report, the word "surprise" is used more than a dozen times to describe U.S. failures to anticipate or discover Chinese arms development.

Many of the missed military developments will be contained in the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on the Chinese military, which was due out March 1 but delayed by interagency disputes over its contents.

Critics of the study say the report unfairly blames intelligence collectors for not gathering solid information on the Chinese military and for failing to plant agents in the communist government.

Instead, these officials said, the report looks like a bid to exonerate analysts within the close-knit fraternity of government China specialists, who for the past 10 years dismissed or played down intelligence showing that Beijing was engaged in a major military buildup.

"This report conceals the efforts of dissenting analysts [in the intelligence community] who argued that China was a threat," one official said, adding that covering up the failure of intelligence analysts on China would prevent a major reorganization of the system.

A former U.S. official said the report should help expose a "self-selected group" of specialists who fooled the U.S. government on China for 10 years.

"This group's desire to have good relations with China has prevented them from highlighting how little they know and suppressing occasional evidence that China views the United States as its main enemy."

The report has been sent to Thomas Fingar, a longtime intelligence analyst on China who was recently appointed by John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, as his office's top intelligence analyst.

Mr. Negroponte has ordered a series of top-to-bottom reviews of U.S. intelligence capabilities in the aftermath of the critical report by the presidential commission headed by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Sen. Charles Robb, Virginia Democrat.

According to the officials, the study was produced by a team of analysts for the intelligence contractor Centra Technologies.

Spokesmen for the CIA and Mr. Negroponte declined to comment.

Its main author is Robert Suettinger, a National Security Council staff member for China during the Clinton administration and the U.S. intelligence community's top China analyst until 1998. Mr. Suettinger is traveling outside the country and could not be reached for comment, a spokesman said.

John Culver, a longtime CIA analyst on Asia, was the co-author.

Among those who took part in the study were former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Lonnie Henley, who critics say was among those who in the past had dismissed concerns about China's military in the past 10 years.

Also participating in the study was John F. Corbett, a former Army intelligence analyst and attache who was a China policy-maker at the Pentagon during the Clinton administration.