- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 11, 2006


By Bill Gertz

Crown, $26.95, 304 pages, illus.


In a sense, Bill Gertz is sui generis among Washington reporters who write about national security affairs. For one thing, he does not rely upon for-background-only whispers from anonymous sources. Most of what he writes, as Washington Times readers have come to appreciate, is supported by documentary proof. Further, Mr. Gertz eschews becoming buddy-buddy with his sources on the social circuit in Georgetown and elsewhere. Instead, he is more apt to kick the stuffing out of persons about whom he writes.

Mr. Gertz also has the knack of mustering cold, driving rage about the situations he covers — a rage that fortunately he saves for books such as “Enemies,” rather than venting in his objective newspaper reporting. His disgust is well summarized in the subtitle. And even someone who is reflexively friendly towards intelligence and law enforcement agencies must feel appalled at Mr. Gertz’s account of sweeping incompetence by the men and women who are paid good salaries to protect important secrets.

(A disclaimer: Although I have done book reviews for The Times for more than a decade, to my knowledge I have never laid eyes on Mr. Gertz or spoken to him.)

One of the more disgusting stories, among many, Mr. Gertz tells is the first full account of two agents in the FBI’s San Francisco field office who had “illicit, long-term sexual affairs” with a Chinese Communist agent, Katrina Leung. Code-named “Parlor Maid,” she also worked for the bureau as a supposed double agent.

One of her “lovers” (in context, perhaps a bad choice of words) was William Cleveland, a supervisory agent who ran FBI counterintelligence on the West Coast. The pattern lasted for years: Mr. Cleveland would first debrief Parlor Maid, then take her to bed, at hotels here and there. And Mr. Cleveland suspected, accurately, that the agent directly controlling her, J. J. Smith, also enjoyed her sexual favors.

So Mr. Cleveland had reason to be shocked when he read an intercept by the National Security Agency that clearly fingered Parlor Maid as a communist agent. He confronted her, she confessed — yet he continued to run her as an FBI informer (with sex on the side) because he felt he could control her.

He even took her to Quantico, Va., and introduced her at an FBI conference as a prized agent. As Mr. Gertz maintains, one reason he kept her around — and in her bed from time to time — was that he was terrified that the sexual relationship would be exposed. The bureau, understandably, has a firm rule against agents becoming sexually involved with informants.

One apparent consequence of her spying, as Mr. Gertz notes, is that NSA electronic operations against China “began drying up at an alarming rate” — at least nine of them going completely silent. She gave her Chinese handlers a raft of other sensitive information as well.

Mr. Gertz ably details the intricate counterintelligence work that led to exposure of the case — but even more damning is his description of how senior officials fell over themselves in containing a scandal that have tarnished the bureau. “Cleveland escaped any penalty whatsoever,” Mr. Gertz writes. Smith, who continued having sex with Leung “until their arrests in 2003,” got away with a “slap of the wrist.”

To me, the most disgusting page in the entire book is in the appendix, in which Mr. Gertz reprints an e-mail that Smith sent to friends. There are whining remarks about the mean investigators and prosecutors handling his case.

But incredibly, Smith devotes many words to worries about losing his FBI pension and medical benefits, valued at $80,000 annually. As part of his plea deal, he was permitted to walk away with the pension. (Our tax dollars at work? Should we also reimburse hotel bills for his sexual trysts?) And the case against Leung was dismissed because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Mr. Gertz describes similar bungling in case after case. The problems are certainly not unknown to anyone who follows national security matters. As Mr. Gertz writes in his concluding chapter, these “problems have been identified in tens of special commissions and reports, most following damaging spy cases or intelligence failures.” He further maintains, accurately, that “the fifteen US government agencies responsible for intelligence activities have been severely restricted in trying to stop the danger posed by foreign spies and terrorists.”

I’ve read many of these “commission reports;” they now gather dust in my basement, just as they do all over town. Yet memory says that never in those thousands of dry pages does one find the suggestion: “Punish the erring party, and in a way that hurts, and more importantly, SENDS A MESSAGE to others.”

Permit a personal example from my short stint with the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, at such a low level that I was not issued even a cloak, much less a dagger.

In August 1956, an evening or so before entering the so-called “special agent sequence” at the Army Intelligence School, a chum and I had beers with a fellow who had graduated with the preceding class. Over the hubbub of voices at the Holabird Inn, he offered a warning: “Sometime during your course, things are going to be arranged so that someone screws up with a security violation. And he is going to pay.” He would not tell us more.

Segue forward several weeks. Our class spent study evenings in a file room where we drew upon papers classified CONFIDENTIAL. This was low-grade material, to be sure, but we had to sign for it, and make sure it got back in place.

One morning an orderly appeared at our first class and handed a note to the instructor, who said, “Private ____, go with this man. Take your books and other things with you.” (I remember his name; why use it after 50 years?) We briefly wondered what was going on. The fellow did not return to class, nor was he in the barracks that evening. His bunk had been stripped.

The next morning, as we stood in formation, a downcast ____ walked out of the orderly room, wearing fatigues, his duffel bag over his shoulder. A pickup drove into the company street, and the sergeant’s uplifted thumb ordered ____ into the back.He rode away in a cold rain, and he did not look happy.

A sad sight, to see a man cashiered back into infantry, rather than continuing in what the military considered to be a rather cushy assignment. But no doubt about it: The example taught all of us a lesson.

But to what avail is a private punished, when a director of central intelligence, one John Deutch, puts TOP SECRET material on a laptop computer which he uses at home — and escapes with a tut-tut reprimand? Until meaningful punishments are meted to persons who commit — or tolerate — security breaches, Mr. Gertz is going to have material for a continuing series of books such as “Enemies.” Not a pleasant read, to be sure, but a valuable one.

Joseph C. Goulden is writing a book on Cold War intelligence. His e-mail is [email protected]

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