- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009



“Efforts by the People’s Republic of China and other countries to gain foreign policy influence by illegally contributing foreign money to U.S. political campaigns and to the Democratic National Committee through domestic conduits.” That was the subject of a 1997 Warning Memo from FBI Director Louis Freeh to Attorney General Janet Reno.

Old news to some, perhaps, but arguably relevant as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins to consider the nomination of Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, to be secretary of state. For example, even now long-range Chinese rockets fired by Hamas target Israeli civilians and may threaten the nuclear facilities in southern Israel. Since the State Department is the chief enforcer of American anti-proliferation laws, the Chinese Communist Party and its security services will want a State Department inclined to be accommodating and not confrontational on issues such as arms smuggling.

Foreign intelligence services are in the influence business. They seek to create conditions that will shape events to their favor. An asset may serve as a source, passing secrets, or as an agent of influence. The latter may be witting, or not. The asset may be willing (money, ideology) or coerced. The realm of coercion ranges from direct blackmail to more subtle personal leverage, of which the Chinese appear to be the masters. A U.S. secretary of state personally motivated to accept their suggestions would be a stunning accomplishment.

A senator concerned about Beijing’s influence scheme would begin with John Huang.

Looking at a broadcast video, it is painfully obvious that Nolanda Hill, an associate of Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary, did not want to answer the question. But ABC’s chief investigative reporter Brian Ross politely and patiently took her through the June 1997 interview. Reluctantly, she told Mr. Ross that then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, not Bill Clinton, had made “the call” from “the White House” that put John Huang into a midlevel position, with a “Top Secret” security clearance, at the Commerce Department. As part of his later plea agreement, John Huang told the FBI that during the 1992 campaign he had illegally distributed more than $1 million in cash to get-out-the-vote organizations associated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party.

In his 2005 memoirs, FBI Director Louis Freeh writes that by the 1996 Clinton re-election cycle, “soft money” in “staggering quantities, and from alarming sources, including the People’s Republic of China” was pouring into “Clinton-Gore coffers.” Mr. Freeh notes that FBI field agents had discovered “a troubling pattern of very aggressive fund raising that included shadowy figures such as John Huang,” who had moved from the Commerce Department to be a major fund-raiser at the Democratic National Committee.

Given his discovery that this tidal wave of illegal foreign money was part of “an aggressive campaign fund-raising operation developed and executed by a core group of individuals from the Democratic National Committee and the White House,” Mr. Freeh brought his concerns to President Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno and her deputy, Jamie Gorelick, asking them to appoint an independent counsel. The built-in conflicts of the Justice Department investigating the White House and the DNC were obvious, at least to Mr. Freeh, but Miss Reno and Miss Gorelick flatly turned down his request. Instead, Miss Gorelick demanded that the FBI share everything it knew about the situation, something Mr. Freeh found “completely inappropriate, way out of line.”

Instead of telling all to Jamie Gorelick, Mr. Freeh sent two of his top agents to brief President Clinton’s National Security Council. Mr. Freeh writes that the FBI told the NSC directly and specifically that China’s Ministry of State Security, Beijing’s chief spy agency, “had formulated a plan to influence U. S. elections.” For almost the next four years Mr. Clinton didn’t speak to Mr. Freeh, probably an unprecedented lack of communication between an American president and his FBI director.

In short, the attempt by Beijing’s security services to gain “foreign policy influence” over the Clinton administration is confirmed by the director of the FBI. Something in excess of 100 people caught up in the illegal campaign contributions to Mr. Clinton, Al Gore or the DNC were convicted or fled the county and a preponderance of them had Beijing connections. At least one person, Johnny Chung, is known to have been in direct, face-to-face contact with the head of Chinese military intelligence over an illegal $200,000 contribution. And, the most cursory internet search will reveal numerous contacts between Beijing’s agents and Mrs. Clinton - pictures, meetings and, if Alma Brown is right, a job for John Huang.

The Senate investigation headed by former Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, found Mr. Chung had visited the White House 49 times and “so close was the nexus between Chung’s donations and his visits, in fact, that White House officials actually collected money from him in the First Lady’s Office.”

William C. Triplett II is the former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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