Was Wen Ho Lee Shot by Anatoli Golytsin in a Budget Battle?

September 16, 2000

Comment: #385

Discussion Thread:   #s 381, 383


[1] ANTHONY LEWIS, "It Did Happen Here," New York Times [Op-Ed], September 16, 2000. Excerpts attached.

Anthony Lewis, a liberal columnist for the New York Times, has written a disturbing essay on the Wen Ho Lee debacle [see Ref 1 below]. Lewis paints a horrifying picture about how security concerns amplified by pusillanimity and opportunism (and perhaps racism) can run amok to foment a form of Groupthink that exhibits a pattern of behavior and decadence that is totally at odds with our most deeply professed political ideals.

How seriously can we take Lewis's argument?

As Lewis points out, a key building block in the castle of hysteria surrounding the Wen Ho Lee affair is the now almost forgotten Cox Report. He points out vaguely that a number of commentators and experts exposed the thinness of this report. The best, in my opinion, was a prescient essay written more than a year ago by Lars Nelson in the 15 July 1999 issue of the New York Review of Books. Nelson tied the unfolding Wen Ho Lee affair directly to the context of the Cox Report and then proceeded to effectively demolish the intellectual foundations of that report.

What I find especially troubling is how the Wen Ho Lee case continued and even increased in intensity, before eventually collapsing into chaos, notwithstanding Nelson's superb demolition job. The result is a sorry portrait of the dismal state of American politics. Lewis provides a good summary of the forces that may have been at work, but he seems to have missed something.

Not knowing what that was, I asked a good friend of mine, a conservative (in the best constitutional sense of the term) on the Congressional staff in the House of Representatives, for his explanation of why someone as smart as Lars Nelson can see it coming, but be ignored. What follows are his words—your might find them surprising—I found them fascinating.

Opinion and analysis by Congressional Staffer XXX


Anatoly Golytsin is one of the most influential, if under-appreciated, influences on the American political system of the last 40 years.

Golytsin first became known to the US government as a walk-in KGB defector in Helsinki in 1961. Taken back to Washington, he took a heavy toll of CIA debriefers and stenographers with his apparently photographic recall of KGB moles, agents of influence, false defectors, and baroque KGB disinformation operations. His recall was so extensive he was "diagnosed by a psychiatrist and separately by a clinical psychologist as a paranoid," according to John Hart, a CIA officer who reviewed the agency's operations at the time.

Yet he strangely appealed to James Jesus Angleton, CIA chief of counterintelligence, and a man who knew something about paranoia.

Angleton took the Soviet defector under his wing, making Golytsin he personal swami. With the heresy-sniffing Golytsin in tow, Angleton conducted numerous, futile mole-hunts, whose chief result was to paralyze the agency. In the end, Golytsin's theories of an all-encompassing, omniscient, omnipotent Soviet conspiracy became so labyrinthine it would have taken a veritable Daedalus to navigate them. His books, such as New Lies for Old, have the immediately familiar psychological flavor of the countless UFO and paranormal sites that hog Internet bandwidth.

But if you think Golytsin's intellectual legacy is buried with the innumerable squalid controversies that marked the Cold War, like INF, the bomber gap, the missile gap, and Sputnik, you'd be wrong.

Check out the op-ed page of The Washington Times, favorite haunt of Frank Gaffney, the Beltway Clausewitz [Gaffney most recent press splash is his grossly biased advocacy of the "4% Solution" for future defense budgets—see Comment #s 381 & 383]. Or peruse the effusions of the ghoulishly misnamed Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, whose star player, the relentlessly belligerent Robert Kagan, wants to vaporize every part of the world map not labeled "The United States," NATOnia," or "Israel." Or thumb through the Weekly Standard, a product of plutocrat Rupert Murdock, which is so obscenely tasteless as to make his Fox Network seem like a lesser sin; Murdock's hireling editor of the Weekly Standard, the perennially adolescent Billy Kristol, plays Lou Costello to Kagan's Bud Abbott. Or try the outpourings of the Beltway think tank which has insultingly misappropriated the name of Alexis de Tocqueville; its resident nag on defense spending is Loren Thompson, the aerial strike package of the Beltway warmongers, as it were.

What does this dreary band of Chicken Littles have in common? They need the Cold War, and it's back.

Russia's weakness may only be a ruse, cunningly demonstrated by their recent successes in Chechnya, nuclear submarine technology, and firefighting. But the real threat is China. For some reason best known to themselves, the Chinese want to nuke their major sources of hard currency, us. Serbia, with a GDP less than Fairfax County's, is a threat to world peace. Iraq, ditto. India or Pakistan, take your pick, either will do quite nicely. Threats all around, just as Golytsin prophesied. But, to paraphrase Churchill, all, all can be redeemed, if we only spend more money on contractors, er, I mean, defense.

In truth these defense "intellectuals" bear about as much resemblance to real thinkers as Velveeta does to Gruyere. What are they? — carnival barkers, shills, whose raucous cries bring the rubes into the circus tent, where the real professionals in the military - industrial complex proceed to fleece them. For the service chiefs, the CEO's, the real inner nomenklatura of the defense establishment, know there's no real military threat named Russia or China, much less Iraq or Serbia. And if national defense had anything to do with defending the nation, why the thunderous silence about our Southwestern border?

Defense in the New Millennium is about retired generals taking board memberships, which brings contracts, which generates PAC money, which ensures appropriations, which mints new generals. And thus does the Great Wheel of Being turn and perpetually renew itself, like the endless recurrence of Hindu cosmology.

Where do the Beltway's defense intellectuals fit in? Like Golytsin's, their paranoia is apparently genuine. So much the better. It adds a note of verisimilitude when the real defense professionals need to deceive a reluctant public into supporting another increase in the defense budget, like their recent calls for a budget equal to 4% of GDP.

Anatoly, where ever you are, don't worry. Your spiritual progeny are busy. Just ask Wen Ho Lee.

End staffer's analysis and opinion

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference #1

It Did Happen Here
New York Times [Op-Ed]
September 16, 2000



A House committee under Representative Christopher Cox, Republican of California, issued a 900-page report saying that China had been stealing our nuclear weapons secrets. Experts pointed out that the report was long on conjecture and short on evidence. But the committee's Democrats, evidently panicked, joined it without dissent.


Then a villain was found - someone to blame: Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In March 1999 he was fired. In December the U.S. Attorney's office in Albuquerque, N.M., had a grand jury indict him on 59 counts of mishandling nuclear secrets - with a potential penalty of life in prison.


The great secrets to which Mr. Lee had access - and of which he had wrongly made computer tapes - turned out to be not so secret. Many had been available in thousands of sources.

But no one in the government backed off. Prosecutors continued to insist that Mr. Lee was a terrible danger to the nation.

It was Judge Parker who pierced the stubborn denial of reality. When he made clear that he had had enough, prosecutors signed a plea agreement that let Mr. Lee go with the 278 days he had served in prison. It amounted, Judge Parker said, to a concession "that it was not necessary to confine you last December or at any time before your trial."


The lead prosecutor in the case, George Stamboulidis, unregenerate after Mr. Lee's release, suggested that Judge Parker did not understand the national security issues. To the contrary, this country's security rests in good part on having judges with the character and courage, like Judge Parker, to do their duty despite prosecutorial alarms and excursions.