By Gerald and Natalie Sirkin*
Prolific and invaluable investigative reporter Bill Gertz of The Washington Times has just published another blockbuster. Enemies, How America ’s Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets—and How We Let It Happen (N.Y.: Crown Forum, pp. 290, $26.95) exposes the shocking incompetence of the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency, and our other intelligence organizations.
The facts are virtually unknown to the American public. We doubt that many have heard of Katrina Leung or her FBI code name, “Parlor Maid.” Yet Leung is rated as one of the most damaging spies ever to penetrate the U.S. Government.
Leung came to the U.S. from China with her parents in 1971 when she was 15. In college she joined the student movement that supported Communist China. Soon she was working with the Chinese intelligence service. Leung was recruited by FBI Agent J. J. Smith, though he knew of her record in the student movement. Soon Smith began a sexual affair with her, in violation of the rules. Smith’s supervisor stumbled on their affair but did nothing about it.
Leung began passing classified material to the Chinese including information she stole from Smith’s brief case. She revealed the names of U.S. agents in China , who were then executed. She revealed U.S. electronic spying operations, which China then shut down. She planted disinformation particularly on how harmless China is, which has influenced American policy of every president from Ronald Reagan.
After nearly ten years of spying for China , Leung was exposed to the FBI by an intercepted phone call to the Chinese intelligence service. However, her handler, J. J. Smith, kept her in the FBI so as to not expose their affair. He was abetted by his supervisor, Bill Cleveland, who was also having an affair with her.
Ten years later, evidence again put the spotlight on Leung. The FBI investigated but turned the investigation over to a close friend of Bill Cleveland, intelligence officer David Szady. He continued the cover-up. Eventually Leung, Smith, and Cleveland left the FBI, with gentle slaps on their wrists.
This messy display of bungling and corruption was repeated many times. Middle Easterners in flight training were not investigated because of politically incorrect ethnic profiling.
From the 1980s till 2005, a Chinese electrical engineer working in American naval weapons firms gave China information about U.S. technology and weapons.
In 1999, a Chinese defector revealed that three CIA operators were spying for China . Another case, Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear weapons researcher in the Los Alamos National Laboratory, presents an example of a spy’s making fools of U.S. agencies.
Lee is known to have taken tapes containing complete information about U.S. nuclear weapons and research. The tapes were never recovered. Lee charged that he was a victim of racism. The FBI botched the investigation and Lee escaped punishment. He sued the Government and six news organizations, winning $1.6 million.
An analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Belen Montes, for 16 years spied for Cuba . Her information led to the deaths of American agents and Nicaraguan anti-Communist rebels. Fidel Castro traded her information to the Soviet Union and China for financial aid. Montes was only one of a long string of Cuban spies who penetrated the U.S. Government.
The answer to the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to protect themselves from penetration is an aggressive counterintelligence service, writes Gertz. Leading countries all have strong counterintelligence services, all except the U.S. which has practically none.
The slim chance of developing effective American counterintelligence is demonstrated by the FBI’s three-year harassment of veteran CIA counterspy Brian Kelley. The FBI had ample evidence that a mole was working in U.S. intelligence. But when the mole hunt intensified, investigators assumed that no FBI man would betray the organization. It had to be someone outside the FBI. They fastened on CIA Agent Kelley.
The investigators hounded Kelley’s family and imposed 24-hour surveillance on him. They interpreted every piece of evidence of his innocence including polygraph tests as evidence of his cleverness. Finally, a Soviet KGB defector offered to sell the FBI for $7 million, a telephone recording of an American mole speaking to the KGB.
The FBI, convinced they had Kelley, eagerly paid. When they gathered to hear the recording, they were stunned to hear the voice not of Kelley but of FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen. He had been giving the Soviets valuable information for years. The FBI had had clear signs of Hanssen’s treachery like large amounts of unexplained money he was spending and tips from Hanssen’s own brother-in-law who worked for the FBI. But the FBI never investigated.
A similar pattern appears in the case of Aldrich Ames, CIA Agent in charge of counterintelligence operations against the Soviet Union . From the time when he volunteered his services to the KGB in 1985 till his arrest in 1994, he handed a large volume of information to the Soviets. The damage he did led to the deaths of dozens of American agents working in the Soviet Union .
The CIA had reason to investigate Ames . He was an alcoholic. Soviet intelligence was quickly catching American agents recruited in the Soviet Union . Ames was spending heavily. But he was not investigated till1993, when the FBI took over the case.
A new counterintelligence agency, independent of the old intelligence agencies and their bungling cultures, might shut down the outward flow of American information. Meanwhile, the fruits of our weapons research will continue to strengthen our enemies.
* Published in Citizen News, 10-4-06, Sherman and New Fairfield , Connecticut