- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

“The September 11 attacks are rightly regarded as a reflection of staggering U.S. intelligence failures in the years leading up to the terrorist strikes,” Bill Gertz, defense and national security reporter for The Washington Times, observes in his latest book, “Enemies: How America’s Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets — And How We Let It Happen.” Perhaps even more disturbing is the principal conclusion: “What’s most frightening about America’s counterintelligence failures is that they have become even more pronounced in the years after [emphasis in original] 9/11. In the five years since September 11,” Mr. Gertz says, “government agencies have actually made counterintelligence less of a priority, when it should be at the core of our efforts to protect U.S. national security.”

Indeed: “By the spring of 2006, the FBI did not have under way a single active investigation of al Qaeda or another extremist terrorist group anywhere in the United States.” Moreover, five years after the attacks of September 11, Mr. Gertz reveals that “U.S. intelligence agencies still have been unable to plant agents in or recruit them from inside the Islamist extremist organizations.”

Mr. Gertz describes counterintelligence as “the practice of identifying and exploiting the activities of foreign spies”; “the vital technique that represents the best way to discover our adversaries’ true intentions and, if necessary, to thwart dangerous plans before they are executed”; and “the art and science of identifying and thwarting enemy spies.”

Good counterintelligence involves more than investigating suspected spies within the United States, which must be regarded as an indispensable national-security function. That’s because “foreign agents have penetrated every U.S. national security agency except the Coast Guard” over the past several decades, including the CIA (Aldrich Ames, for Russia), the FBI (Robert Hanssen, for Russia), the State Department (Felix Bloch, for Russia), the Defense Department (Jonathan Pollard, for Israel), the National Security Agency and the Energy Department. Good counterintelligence also “requires actively targeting and ultimately infiltrating foreign intelligence services and international terrorist groups,” Mr. Gertz persuasively argues.

Mr. Gertz cites the ancient writings of Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, whose timeless book, “The Art of War,” has been essential reading for warriors and spies around the world for millennia. The acme of skill, Sun Tzu argued, is defeating one’s enemy without firing a shot, because battle exacts such huge costs in terms of both people and money. (Recently, the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq exceeded the number who died on September 11; meanwhile, the 2007 defense appropriations bill passed in Congress last week brings the total costs for war in Iraq and Afghanistan above half a trillion dollars.) Arguing that “[k]nowledge of the enemy’s dispositions can only be obtained from other men,” Sun Tzu explained that spies were essential.

As the Gertz book meticulously demonstrates throughout his book, China has been extremely successful implementing that strategy — at potentially incalculable costs to the United States and its interests. Regrettably, because “the U.S. government has disregarded our counterintelligence capabilities and done little to repair the long-neglected and deeply fragmented counterintelligence apparatus,” America has inadvertently contributed to the intelligence and counterintelligence achievements of China, Mr. Gertz explains. He provides the shocking details of the case involving Los Angeles businesswoman Katrina Leung (code-named “Parlor Maid”) who turned out to be a Chinese triple agent sexually involved with two of the FBI’s most senior counterintelligence officers who thought they had turned her into a double agent working for the United States. Mr. Gertz documents how Mrs. Leung “enabled Beijing to obtain the crown jewels of U.S. intelligence operations against Communist China” by exquisitely executing China’s strategy of deception and disinformation in its short-term campaign to downplay its ambitions in order to deflect attention from China’s long-term strategy of maximizing its military power.

In the “Red Flower” case involving a Los Angeles spy ring concentrating on naval weapons systems, Mr. Gertz shows how China executed its “Assassin’s Mace” strategy, in which an adversary seeks “select weaponry and technology to enable a smaller, weaker military power to defeat a larger, stronger one.” Beyond facilitating China’s ongoing, long-term development of a “blue-water” navy by obtaining data on U.S. submarines and the Navy’s Aegis battle-management system, the “Red Flower” spies also managed to acquire “a listing of the electronic vulnerabilities of U.S. warships” and “the details on the extent of electronic ‘hardening’ of U.S. weapons systems against attack.”

“Shockingly,” Mr. Gertz reports, “U.S. officials still have done almost nothing to correct the ineptness and poor leadership that have brought us two decades of spy scandals.” It is a stark warning that our national security defenses will remain vulnerable until the White House and Congress grant higher status to counterintelligence efforts.

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