- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

The Temple matters because Al Gore was flying solo on this one. It was his own long-time fund-raiser, not President Clinton's, meeting him at the top of the stairs. A whispered, "Clinton made me do it" to old friends on Capitol Hill won't cut it this time and a newly discovered Louis Freeh document raises clearly puts him in political peril.When it comes to the Temple, Mr. Gore is in deep trouble. Despite all the evidence, he has to convince the FBI and the head of Justice's Campaign Task Force that he, alone, did not know the Temple event was a fund-raiser. Everyone around him knew it was a fund-raiser. His scheduler knew it was a fund-raiser, his press lady knew it was a fund-raiser, but he did not, or so he told the Feds.

If the vice president cannot convince the investigators he knew nothing of what went on around him at the Temple, he has an immediate criminal exposure. Based on her activities at the Temple, Maria Hsia, Mr. Gore's fund-raiser, was convicted on five counts of violating the federal election laws. If ordered to jail for the maximum, she would be away for 25 years. Depending on what Mr. Gore knew or approved, he could be charged as an accomplice, or even a principal in an extreme case. No doubt this is remote, but not impossible under the circumstances.

However, we believe Mr. Gore has a wider and deeper exposure from the Temple than Maria Hsia's payoffs to the Buddhist nuns. We now know that in December 1998, FBI Director Louis Freeh advised Attorney General Janet Reno to seek an independent counsel for a "core group" of "covered persons" (bureaucratese for Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore) under the federal conspiracy laws (Title 18 U.S. Code, section 371). Mr. Freeh argued to Miss Reno that this "conspiracy" derived from a "pattern of conduct" that included a "conspiracy by the People's Republic of China to bribe high-ranking U.S. political figures."

Mr. Gore's problem is that the Temple is Ground Zero for the Freeh memo. Sitting to Mr. Gore's immediate left at the Temple lunch was Ted Sioeng, identified in inquiries conducted under Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican by the CIA as a Chinese agent. The vice president cannot allow the investigators to follow the Ted Sioeng thread. Mr. Sioeng has fled to China leaving an ugly political trail to the back alleys of the Far East. First, Mr. Sioeng was and may still be a business partner of Thung Bunma, Cambodia's most notorious drug trafficker. A competent investigator would start shaking the tree at the U.S. State Department to find out how Mr. Thung repeatedly received visas for extended visits to the United States, long after official Washington knew exactly what he does for a living. Who did he meet in Washington? A question worth asking.

Mr. Sioeng also leads to Macao criminal syndicate figure Ng Lapsing. Mr. Sioeng and Mr. Ng are partners in a Macao company that brings Thai girls to Macao for prostitution. We can't prove these particular girls are underaged and forced into female slavery but that's the general pattern in this business. Between them, Mr. Sioeng and Mr. Ng poured something approaching $2 million in illegal campaign contributions into the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1996. Some of this money, including the cash, has to be considered proceeds from their prostitution ring. Are there connections among Mr. Ng and Mr. Sioeng's line of business, their illegal contributions, and the Clinton-Gore administration's strange support for legalized prostitution at U.N. women's conferences? Maybe "yes," maybe "no," but another question worth asking.

Mr. Ng is a long-time business associate of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, thought to be at the center of any attempt to bribe high-ranking U.S. officials. Mr. Ng's real estate ventures include a reported tie-up with Communist China's KGB.

To an investigator, the Ng thread inevitably leads to another business partner, Charlie Trie, now charged in Taiwan with attempted extortion. Mr. Trie's FBI interviews turned up his handwritten note with unexplained references to "Hughes," "Boeing" and "bribery." More possible lines of questions Mr. Gore wouldn't want answered.

Hovering in the background at the Temple was John Huang, James Riady's self-described man in the U.S. government. Mr. Huang and Mr. Riady lead to the million dollars in illegal campaign funds they contributed to the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992. According to the CIA, James Riady has a long-term business relationship with Communist Chinese intelligence. Yet another line of difficult questions.

Maria Hsia, herself, was identified as a "knowing" Chinese agent by the CIA to Mr. Thompson. Considering her work helping Chinese enter the United States and Mr. Gore's role in the passage of immigration legislation in the early 1990's, we can understand Mr. Gore's testy response when the investigators questioned him on that in April. One more line of dangerous questions.

Bottom Line: In light of Mr. Freeh's December 1998 assertions and the reference to "bribery" as one of the named offenses cited by the Constitution for impeachment, Mr. Gore has to stop the investigators from turning over rocks at the Temple. Exposure here could be politically fatal.

Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett II are the co-authors of "Year of the Rat," Regnery, 1998.

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