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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

U.S. authorities received tip of possible stolen neutron bomb secrets

Pierre Thomas/CNN

April 8, 1999
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT)

WASHINGTON (April 8) -- U.S. authorities received a tip from a spy in 1996 that the Chinese government may have stolen secrets from the Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory, government sources tell CNN.

The sources say if the tip was accurate, the information could have improved China's neutron bomb capability.

The spy was told some Chinese officials allegedly claimed they were able to steal secrets in 1995. The spy was considered reliable, and taken together with earlier allegations of a neutron bomb technology theft from Livermore in 1988, the Department of Energy, the CIA and the FBI immediately began an intensive investigation to determine if security was breached.

But more than two years later, government sources tell CNN, the agencies have uncovered no evidence China actually improved its neutron bomb capability, and the FBI has been unable to develop any suspects.

"We can't rule out it happened, we can't rule out it did not happen," a senior law enforcement official tells CNN.

Sources also say one reason intelligence and law enforcement officials may not be able to develop a case is that security at the nuclear laboratories has been so weak.

Thousands of overseas scientists, including many from China, have visited the labs, even though a number of congressional and internal reports have raised concerns about security. Document control and computer security have been among the concerns raised.

While it is unclear whether espionage actually took place, government sources say, the broader, and perhaps more important issue, is why the White House did not take immediate steps to improve security at the labs.

The National Security Council staff, including NSC adviser Sandy Berger, was briefed at least twice about potential Chinese espionage at the labs, beginning in 1996 and still, the White House did not begin significant security changes until 1998.


GOP senator accuses Clinton administration of 'cover-up' in spy case (3-17-99)

CIA appoints admiral to review alleged nuclear weapon spying (3-15-99)

China: U.S. spying allegations are 'fallacy' (3-15-99)

Clinton denies dragging feet on China spy probe (3-12-99)

Clinton's security adviser takes heat for China nuclear scandal (3-10-99)

CIA measures damage following leaked nuclear secrets (3-9-99)

China spy suspect fired by Energy Department (3-8-99)


Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. Web site

U.S. Embassy in China Web site


Thursday, April 8, 1999

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