- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 2, 2000

Question from Republicans: When will Al Gore, who Bill Clinton called "the most influential vice president in history," reveal to the public what his role was in the security failures of the Clinton-Gore administration?

Jim Nicholson, Republican chairman: What this administration has done and failed to do in the area of national security can only be called dangerously irresponsible.

We have all heard about the latest episode of missing computer hard drives at the Los Alamos labs that contained critical nuclear secrets, the instructions on how to defuse American and Russian nuclear devices. In the wrong hands, those hard drives would allow rogue dictators or terrorists to build bombs we would be powerless to stop.

Unfortunately, these are not the first security failures in key government agencies under the Clinton-Gore administration.

A suspected Communist Chinese spy was allowed to remain in place at Los Alamos for a year and a half after the FBI informed top administration officials that he was suspected of espionage.

The State Department was bugged by Russian spies, who placed a small transmitter in the wall of a conference room close to the secretary's suite and then loitered on the street outside for months, listening to secret conversations.

A former director of Central Intelligence was found to be keeping highly classified documents on a laptop computer he kept at home on a computer he shared with others and often used to log on to the Internet to troll the Web.

The administration switched responsibility for deciding what classified technology could be shared with trade partners from the State Department to the Commerce Department over the objections of State, Defense, Justice and the entire U.S. intelligence community and, as a direct result, the Communist Chinese now have missile targeting technology that will help make the nuclear missiles they've aimed at us that much more deadly.

Ranking Democrat Ike Skelton, at the end of a recent hearing on the pilfering of nuclear secrets at Los Alamos, said to administration officials, "You people are nothing but Keystone Cops."

It's a sad, troubling, and dangerous record. When will Al Gore tell us what his role was in these failures? What, if anything, did he do to try to prevent these destructive lapses in security?

Joe Andrew, Democratic national chairman: Most Americans agree that national security should not be a partisan issue. Jim apparently disagrees.

I agree that any potential security breaches are a serious issue. The way to solve them, however, is not to make reckless, baseless election-year accusations.

National security requires a bipartisan approach. Where was the Republicans' outrage during the Reagan-Bush-Quayle years, when spies like Aldrich Ames and the Walker family walked off with some of our most important secrets and crippled our intelligence gathering operation for years? This Democratic administration took strong and decisive action when charges of international espionage were brought to light.

This petty, partisan attempt to blame Democrats for everything under the sun is no different from the irresponsible accusations that Gingrich-DeLay-Starr-Specter Republicans have perfected over the last seven years. In fact, the Republican Congress has just created an "advisory committee" on the administration's security record that is primarily made up of advisers to George W. Bush.

Not to mention, it is hard to take Republican outrage seriously when top Republican senators like Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican debase these important issues by using them as fodder for partisan campaign fund-raising letters.

Perhaps, what is really at issue, is what the New York Times pointed out this week: Republicans are embarrassed by their "do nothing" reputation in Congress. So, Republicans resort to witch hunts complete with extreme, overblown rhetoric and alarmist language to deflect attention away from the fact they have not acted on Americans' priorities, like passing a real Patients' Bill of Rights, giving seniors an affordable prescription drug plan, strengthening gun safety laws and improving public schools so all children get a first-class education.

Republicans have focused almost exclusively on partisan investigations and accusations for the last several election cycles and voters have noticed. They have voted against Republicans in 1996 and in 1998. The Republicans will lose again if they continue to ignore national priorities in favor of partisan politics.

Jim Nicholson is chairman of the Republican National Committee. Joe Andrew is national chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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