Senate Task Force On China Meets For First Time
By Janet Moore/CNN
WASHINGTON (June 3) -- A Senate task force looking into the recent transfer of sensitive technology to the People's Republic of China convened for the first time Tuesday in Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's office.
The task force is coordinating various groups investigating the export of commercial U.S. satellites to China.
Earlier, Lott released a series of letters sent to various government agencies, requesting documents relating to the various probes being launched by several Senate Committees.
Five letters, dated May 22, were sent to President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Secretary of Commerce William Daley, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and John Holum, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. A sixth letter was sent June 1 to Attorney General Janet Reno.
Lott's office says White House Lawyer Charles Ruff responded to the letter addressed to the White House by noting that material made available to House investigators have also been provided to the Senate. A source in Lott's office says the Senate request is much broader and additional material is needed.
Following Tuesday's task force meeting, Lott said he is not jumping to conclusions on the matter, the goal is to find out "what happened and why" and the incident's effect on national security.
The task force will co-ordinate expected hearings on the matter in the Intelligence, Armed Service and Foreign Relations committees.
Senate Intelligence committee chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will be looking into the U.S. policy on waivers by getting an historical perspective comparing the Reagan and Bush and Clinton Administrations. Shelby expects to have a variety of witnesses testifying, including Chinese officials. A closed-door session of the intelligence panel is expected Thursday.
Congress has one more month to decide on the so called "most favored nation" trading status with China. Lott said the recent incident could have an effect on Congress' thinking on that status.