The end of treason

Sam Smith, 2003 – Treason, in one of its typical forms, consists of trading the national interest of one’s country to another for profit. In the past decade or so this form of disloyalty has been codified, advocated, and revered not only by our own leaders in the government, media, and business, but by their peers in what is still quaintly known as the “free world.” You can find it in its most precise form in various trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT, in its mathematical form in the listing of foreign contributions to our political campaigns, and its rhetorical form in the statements of many of our most favored political commentators.

Beyond doubt, the new trade agreements have done more damage to our national, state and local sovereignty than any foreign enemy or all the spies of American history combined. The last three presidents have helped give the Chinese more secrets than they could ever have hoped to acquire through archaic techniques of personal espionage. And in the end, we have learned not to worry because it has all occurred for trade not treason, corporate not individual profit, and public policy rather than private perversion.

Consider, for example, some words Vaclav Havel wrote in that intellectual Leisure World for lemming liberals, the New York Review of Books:

“In the next century I believe that most states will begin to change from cult-like entities charged with emotion into far simpler and more civilized entities, into less powerful and more rational administrative units that will represent only one of the many complex and multileveled ways in which our planetary society is organized.”

“The practical responsibilities of the state — its legal powers — can only devolve in two directions, downward or upward; downward, to the non-governmental organizations and structures of civil society; or upward, to regional, transnational and global organizations.”

Thus in a few paragraphs, Havel scraps democracy at every level of society leaving us to be run, presumably, by business improvement districts and NATO. It is a profoundly anti-democratic and anti-patriotic view, because at none of Havel’s levels is the consent of the governed considered.

He is not alone. Here was Strobe Talbott writing in the July 20, 1992 issue of Time: “Within the next hundred years . . . nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority . . . All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary.”

Nothing has been more central to the character of American politics over the past few decades than a cynical, corrupt, unconstitutional and, yes, commercial betrayal of the national interest. The continuing symbiosis of drug lords, politicians, and law enforcement has betrayed our land and our constitution. The Iran-Contra affair involved not just bad politics but the betrayal of America for profit. The cover-up of the BCCI scandal by the first Bush administration was a betrayal of America to protect, in no small part, foreign profits.

Perhaps China represents the best case in point since the Chinese know as much about espionage as anyone. As journalist Robert Parry has noted, “Little-noticed evidence from the Iran-contra files reveals that it was the Reagan-Bush administration that opened the door to sharing sensitive national security secrets with communist China in the 1980s. This clandestine relationship evolved from China’s agreement to supply sophisticated weapons to the Nicaraguan contras beginning in 1984, a deal with the White House that entrusted China with one of the government’s most sensitive intelligence secrets, the existence of Oliver North’s contra supply network. In the years after that secretly brokered deal, the Republican administration permitted trips in which US nuclear scientists. . . visited China in scientific exchange programs. Those visits corresponded with China’s rapid development of sophisticated nuclear weapons, culminating in the apparent compromise of sensitive US nuclear secrets by 1988. Seven years later, in 1995, a purported Chinese defector walked into US government offices in Taiwan and turned over a document. Dated 1988, the document contained detailed information about US-designed nuclear warheads. The document showed that Chinese intelligence possessed the secrets of the W-88 miniaturized nuclear bomb by the last year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. China’s first test of a light warhead similar to the W-88 was conducted in 1992, the last year of George H.W. Bush’s presidency.”

The Chinese connection exploded with the arrival of the Clinton administration. A younger crowd of American politicians had skipped the part about patriotism, about the pledge of allegiance, about loyalty not only to country but to much of anything other than themselves. The Clinton policy towards China was merely an extension of these values: what’s in for us and how soon? The notion of national security was almost alien to them; besides they had the new paradigm of globalization to keep them warm. Here are just a few of the things that happened along the way:

– Named Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown treated his post as just another place to wheel and deal. He was irrepressible, on one occasion okaying the sale of new American engines for China to put in its cruise missiles. The engines had been built as military equipment but Brown reclassified them as civilian.

– Neither was Brown above doing a little business on the side. The Saudis wanted some American planes; Brown told them: you want the planes you also want a phone contract with ATT. Cost of the planes and hardware: $6 billion. Cost of the phone contract: $4 billion. Part of the deal, it turned out, was an ATT side agreement with a firm called First International. The owner: Ron Brown

– According to the New York Times, Clinton removed $2 billion in trade with China from national security scrutiny. Among the results: 77 supercomputers – capable of 13 billion calculations per second – that could scramble and unscramble secret data and design nuclear weapons. These were purchased by the Chinese without a peep stateside. At least some of them would be used by the Chinese military.

– With the transfer of the Panama Canal, four of Panama’s ports ended up being controlled by a company partially owned by Hutchinson-Whampoa Ltd., which in turn was owned by Li Ka-Shing, a billionaire so close to the Chinese power structure that he was offered the governorship of Hong Kong. Another owner of the Panamanian ports was China Resources Enterprise, called an “agent of espionage” by Senator Fred Thompson. CRE was also a partner of the Lippo Group, owned by the Riady family that played a central if mysterious role in the rise of William Clinton. According to congressional testimony by ex-JCS chief Admiral Thomas Moorer, Hutchinson-Whampoa won the right to pilot all ships thought the Panama Canal, including US naval vessels.

– President Clinton signed national security waivers to allow four US commercial satellites to be launched in China, despite evidence that China was exporting nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan and Iran, among other nations. One of these satellites belonged to Loral. Nine days later a Chinese Long March rocket carrying a $200 million satellite belonging to Loral failed in mid-flight. A subsequent law suit charged that the circuit board from the highly classified encryption device in the satellite was found to be missing when the Chinese returned debris from the explosion to US authorities, even though a control box containing the circuit board was recovered intact. After the crash, NSA reportedly changed the encoded algorithms used by US satellites because of the apparent release of highly classified information.

– President Clinton approved a waiver allowing the launch of another satellite on board a Chinese rocket, despite a recommendation by the Department of Justice that the waiver would have a significant adverse impact on any prosecution arising from its pending investigation of Loral.

– The NY Times reported in 1998 that the Defense Technology Security Administration said Loral’s unauthorized release of sensitive technology to the Chinese gave rise to at least three “major” violations of US national security, three medium violations and twelve “minor” infractions.

– Throughout these dealings, the CEO of Loral, Bernard Schwartz, contributed at least $1.5 million to the Democrats, making him the single largest contributor to these groups during the period in question.

– Softwar newsletter reported that that some of the radios and cell phones being used by Chinese police in their campaign against dissidents were those sold the Chinese by Motorola after Clinton overrode human rights objections by the State Department.

– In the end, the brunt of the evidence was that the Chinese had obtained more American military secrets over the past two decades than all the previous spies in American history put together. They had basic information on all nuclear weapons systems, they got our most advanced supercomputers, they gained extraordinarily important information about satellite systems. Some of this knowledge they used for themselves; some they retrofitted and repackaged and sold to other countries like Iraq, where it was used against our own fighter planes. While the problem occurred under both Republican and Democratic administrations, it got completely out of hand under Clinton. Some of the information was stolen, some was given to China in the classic manner of spies, but a stunning proportion was obtained either as a direct result of political and economic decisions by the Clinton administration or as a result of what can best be described as premeditated indifference.

– Three major players in the China scandal – John Huang, Charlie Trie and Johnny Chung – were all allowed by the Justice Department to cop pleas.

– Carol Cameron of Fox News reported that cover stories provided by Chinese operatives to hide China’s illegal campaign contributions may have come from or been approved by President Jiang Zemin. Johnny Chung told Congress he was under orders from the Chinese to keep the whole thing quiet. His orders, he said, came from a suspected Chinese intelligence operative named Robert Luu, who worked for a Los Angeles law firm. In a phone conversation tapped by the FBI, Chung was told by Luu to say the campaign money came from the so-called princelings: Chinese leaders’ grown sons, who live, study and often live lavishly in the West.

A transcript of the wiretap, obtained by Fox News, contains the following:

LUU: “Shove the blame on the shoulders of the princelings.”

CHUNG: “So blame it on the princelings. Do not implicate the Chinese government.”

LUU: “Yes. Chairman Jiang agreed to handle it like this; the president over here also agreed.”

– Newsweek quoted intelligence officials as saying that the Chinese “penetration is total. They are deep into the (US nuclear weapons) labs’ black programs.”

– In an AP story ignored by major media, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey accused the Clinton administration of pursuing a policy of appeasement toward China and likened it to the way Britain and France dealt with Nazi Germany on Czechoslovakia before World War II.

– The Wall Street Journal wrote: “Top business executives are issuing a blunt warning to federal lawmakers: Vote against the trade deal with China, and we will hold it against you when writing campaign checks.

– Operating with an interim top secret clearance (but without FBI investigation or foreign security check) Commerce official Huang requested several top secret files on China just before a meeting with the Chinese ambassador. Huang and the Riadys then held a meeting with Clinton. Not long after, Huang went to work as a Democratic fund-raiser, but remained on Commerce’s payroll as a $10,000 a month consultant. Huang raised $5 million for the campaign. About a third of that was returned as having come from illegal sources. Among the problem contributions: $250,000 to the DNC from five Chinese businessmen in order to have a brief meeting with Clinton at a fund-raiser.

– Macao businessman Ng Lap Seng, closely linked to a couple of major Chinese-owned enterprises, was regularly bringing in large sums of money to the US, according to customs records. On one occasion, he arrived with $175,000 and then two days later met with Charlie Trie and Mark Middleton at the White House. That evening Ng sat at Clinton’s table at a DNC fund-raiser.

This is just a sample, not of treason, but of politics as it has been practiced. It is all bizarre, incestuous, of little known purpose, and, in the best postmodern manner, flexible. Just as American politicians and lawyers have redefined bribery so that the official bribee can escape punishment for the same crime for which the citizen briber goes to prison, so the rules of loyalty to one’s country now vary immensely not according to the nature of one’s action but according to one’s position.

Don’t look for it written down anywhere. Except for the basic rule, laid down in 1613 by John Harington: “Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

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