- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

A former lobbyist for a Hong Kong company with close ties to the Chinese government will have access to the most sensitive U.S. intelligence secrets as the new national security aide to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
But despite growing concern in Republican ranks, Mr. Hastert is standing by his decision to name Nancy P. Dorn as his top national security assistant.
Congressional aides involved in national security issues told The Washington Times they are worried that Mrs. Dorn will have access to U.S. intelligence that includes details of operations against China.
Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, is an ex-officio member of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the "gang of eight" congressional leaders who usually are briefed on the most sensitive intelligence and military matters.
As the key adviser to the speaker, Mrs. Dorn would be the staffer privy to these highly classified briefings.
Mrs. Dorn until recently was a lobbyist representing Hutchison Port Holdings, a company owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Kashing. Mr. Li has been described in U.S. intelligence reports as having close ties to the Chinese government.
John Feehery, a spokesman for Mr. Hastert, said the speaker has no intention of giving up his support for Mrs. Dorn, despite opposition from several other Republican lawmakers.
"Obviously the speaker supports her," Mr. Feehery said. "She has the kind of experience he wants in an adviser."
However, asked about Mrs. Dorn's work for a company with close ties to the Chinese government, Mr. Feehery said: "That's a matter of concern, no doubt about it."
Mr. Feehery noted that Mrs. Dorn served in both the Reagan and Bush administrations and has "strong anti-communist credentials."
He also said she did not work directly on the Hutchison Port Holdings account for the lobbying firm of Hooper, Owen and Winburn.
But Mrs. Dorn contradicted that statement in a separate interview, saying she lobbied against Panama legislation on behalf of Hutchison Port Holdings. "I did some minor work in the way of monitoring legislation," she said.
Mrs. Dorn also represented the government of Pakistan, the embassy of Azerbaijan and the AFL-CIO.
Hutchison Port Holdings is a subsidiary of Mr. Li's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. that leased two port facilities on the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the Panama Canal under suspicious circumstances.
The Chinese presence near the canal has raised questions about threats to U.S. national security in war time from possible disruptions of canal operations in any conflict involving China.
A declassified Army intelligence report stated that Chinese influence over the canal is a "potential threat" and that the ports could be used as "a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the West to the PRC."
A second Army intelligence report stated that "Li Ka-shing … is planning to take control of Panama Canal operations when the U.S. transfers it to Panama in December '99."
"Li is directly connected to Beijing and is willing to use his business influence to further the aims of Chinese government," the report stated.
A Customs Service intelligence report from May stated that Mr. Li has ties to the Chinese government. It also said China Resources, a company that is a shareholder in Hutchison, has been identified by Senate investigators as a cover for Chinese intelligence activities.
Mrs. Dorn rejected the concerns about her past lobbying.
"I was not a mouthpiece for Li Kashing," she said. "I've had the highest clearances in the U.S. government; I am a patriotic U.S. citizen and I've taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. I have done that and I will do that now."
House and Senate aides said they were concerned that Mr. Hastert would choose a lobbyist with ties to the Chinese government for his top national security aide.
China has become a key national security issue for House and Senate national security committees. Several hearings in recent days have questioned whether China is emerging as the new strategic threat to the United States.
"It's the Intelligence Committee and the operational side of things that is a concern," said one congressional specialist in national security.
"What this appointment says is that you can represent Li Kashing, and two non-democratic Moslem governments and your career prospers," the aide said. "This is the revolving door at its worst."
A second aide said Mr. Hastert made the wrong choice in selecting Mrs. Dorn because Hutchison began its lobbying campaign specifically to counter testimony from former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on danger to the Panama Canal posed by the Chinese company.
"It's despicable," this aide said. "Weinberger is one of the few former high-level officials who has not sold out to foreign money."
This aide questioned whether Mr. Hastert could not find a better national security adviser. "Is this the best he can do?"
Insight magazine, a sister publication of The Washington Times, first reported the Dorn appointment.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who reportedly is highly concerned about Mrs. Dorn's new position, declined to comment Thursday when asked about a meeting he had with Mr. Hastert on Wednesday to discuss the matter.
Hutchison hired Mrs. Dorn's lobbying firm in October, one month after Mr. Rohrabacher, California Republican, introduced a House resolution calling for a review of the bidding process that led to Hutchison's port leases for Balboa and Cristobol, Panama.
An anonymous Hutchison official told the South China Morning Post in October that the company was hiring a lobbying firm to target Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mr. Weinberger and Mr. Rohrabacher.
Mrs. Dorn said Mr. Rohrabacher's resolution was a target of her lobbying efforts.
Mr. Lott sent a letter to the Pentagon about the Chinese presence in Panama that raised concerns about a possible takeover of the strategic waterway.
Mrs. Dorn said she sent a letter to the House ethics committee notifying the panel that she has severed all ties to the lobbying firm of Hooper, Owen and Winburn.
"It is my intention to work for the speaker as long as he and I both see it as beneficial," she said.
Mrs. Dorn said she did not delve into Hutchison's undercover activities and called her lobby "very minor work" that included introducing Hutchison officials to "people in Washington."
"I don't see how that amounts to a treasonous act," she said.
Because of the activities, "if anything I will be bending over backward in making sure I'm above reproach in China security matters," she said.
Mrs. Dorn was appointed to the Interamerican Foundation, a quasi-official organization devoted to Latin America, and underwent a background check for the post. However, she said she did not know whether she was given a security clearance for that job.

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