Where the Left Has Been on Nuclear Security

Over the last several weeks, the mainstream media have been increasing their coverage of China and the potential threat it poses to the security of the United States — with a particular attention being paid to the possibility of nuclear threats. It’s good to know that the media are reporting this increasingly important issue, but my question is: Where have they been?

Where were they, say, during the Clinton Administration when not only were our nuclear secrets being stolen, but our technology was being given away to the Communist Chinese?

The potential nuclear threats against the U.S. from China and other nations are not new, but have developed over several years. Yet somehow the liberal media continue to miss the point that under the not-so-discerning eye of the Clinton White House, and a large portion of the Democratic Party, our nuclear technology was making its way to the bad guys without much apparent hindrance.

For example, here’s a little bit of history which you might not have heard or you may well have forgotten.

In 1999, following the revelation of Chinese espionage as documented in the Cox Report, two major actions were taken. The first was the creation of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), led by former Sen. Warren Rudman (R.-N.H.), to investigate the security needs at our nuclear laboratories. The Rudman Report, “Science at its Best; Security at its Worst,” stated that the Board had found numerous problems in security and overall safety of our nuclear secrets. Upon the conclusion of the Board’s investigation, two major recommendations were made: 1) the report recommended a new, semi-autonomous agency to oversee all Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons-related matters; 2) the report recommended streamlining the “dysfunctional” DoE weapons labs’ management structure by abolishing ties between the weapons labs and all DoE regional, field, and site offices, and all contractor intermediaries.

The second major action taken by Congress was the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which was adapted to comply directly with the PFIAB’s recommendations, but it did not happen without delays from the Clinton White House and Democratic congressmen. Despite the fact that our most sensitive nuclear secrets were stolen by China, that continued espionage was still very possible, and that the need for a new security entity was something for which the President’s own advisory board specifically called, Democrats refused to support it. In May 1999, Republicans introduced an amendment to reorganize the DoE to fix its security problems. Democrats filibustered that amendment with the assistance of Madelyn Creedon. At the time, they seemed to be more concerned with deflecting blame from the Clinton team than they were with fixing the problems. They were also intent upon getting concessions on a few items in the Defense Authorization bill at the time — in other words, they attempted to barter with our nation’s security. Thankfully, in June 1999, Republicans were finally able to convince Democrats to stop making excuses and cooperate in enacting the needed structural reforms necessary to protect national nuclear secrets.

President Clinton then took until May of 2000 to submit the name of General John A. Gordon (USAF) to become Under Secretary for Nuclear Security. But the Senate did not vote to confirm him until a month later, after another breach of nuclear security was reported. On Monday, June 12, 2000, it was reported that two computer hard drives containing valuable nuclear weapons data and other highly sensitive information were missing from the Los Alamos National Laboratories and had likely been missing for several months. Press reports at the time indicated that those hard drives contained American nuclear weapons data that the Nuclear Emergency Search Team needs to disarm nuclear devices during emergencies and intelligence information on the Russian nuclear weapons program.

In early May 2000, a giant fire was moving toward the laboratories. The 26 members of the DoE team that had access to the hard drives were told to remove them so that if the laboratires were to fall victim to the fire, the information would not be lost. On May 7, employees from that team entered the secured area to remove the two hard drives, which were supposed to be stored in locked containers in a vault at the X-Division at the laboratories. The containers were found but the hard drives were gone. What the team members did after their discovery is interesting. They chose not to notify senior officials. They simply moved to another shelf where duplicates of these hard drives were available, and they took those. To make matters worse, they did not even begin an intensive search until May 24 and did not inform DoE headquarters until June 11. Why was there an additional delay between the nomination of General Gordon and the vote on his confirmation? Because Senate Democrats, to appease Energy Secretary Richardson, were still trying to change the underlying law, an effort in which Madelyn Creedon was a major player. It was not until the embarrassment of the recent security breach that they at last agreed to vote.

What is so significant about Madelyn Creedon? She was Clinton’s nominee to be the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs at the NNSA. This Deputy Administrator is responsible for managing the programs related to research and development, production, and maintenance of U.S. nuclear weapons. The office has direct authority over the Directors of the three national laboratories (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia), the head of the Nevada Test Site, and the heads of the four nuclear weapons production facilities. Though she was confirmed by the Senate on July 10, 2000, by a vote of 54-30, a majority of Republicans opposed Creedon’s nomination to head such a demanding position, citing her lack of experience and concerns about the fact that she was a major player in assisting Democratic senators in blocking the full implementation of NNSA. Republicans rightly noted that such actions would seem to be at odds with the position to which she had been nominated.

And that’s just one example of the Democrats’ lack of seriousness when it comes to our national security, particularly our nuclear security. There’s much more out there.

[This piece is adapted from a paper I wrote for the Senate Republican Policy Committee in July 2000.]


View All