The NYTimes, Suckered Again
Jude Wanniski
May 11, 1999


Memo To: Joseph Lelyveld, NYT executive editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Those Chinese Spies

I think you have to step in at this point, Joe, and rescue your newspaper from the China "spy" story. From the first moment I laid eyes on Jeff Gerth's page-one story, I knew you had been flim-flammed by Richard Perle, the Chief Strategist for the Anti-China coalition. He may not have been the fellow who put the story into Gerth's ear directly, but its origin surely was from Perle. I know his work, as we were allies all during the Cold War. It was his job, dating back to his job with Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson, to dream up lies that could be told in order to help win the Cold War. He is a Master of Deceit. Until the late Albert Wohlstetter died a few years ago, he still was Albert's protégé, as was Paul Wolfowitz. Now that Albert is gone, Richard is the chief strategist for the right-wing of the Political Establishment. Actually, he is probably the most dangerous man in the world at the moment, as he is also directing the campaign against Yugoslavia on behalf of his plans to make NATO the military arm of the new American Imperium. I bet you didn't know that. You're not supposed to, except that I am being a meanie and blowing Richard's cover.

The reason he had the China story fed to your man Gerth, of course, was that it could not come from Richard's pals at my old newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, or it would have appeared as so much right-wing baloney directed at the President. Once Gerth bit and you put the story on Page One, your editorial page of course had to offer support, and Howell Raines, your editor, fell into line. The original intent was meant to embarrass the pro-China folks inside the administration on the eve of the visit of Zhu Rongji, but Perle's flim-flams have a way of flowering beyond original intent. This one, in combination with the chess game he is playing in the Balkans, could of course flower into World War III. Like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, Perle does not know how to stop the deluge once it occurs, and the Sorcerer, Professor Wohlstetter, is no longer among us.

Gerth is a babe in the woods in this matter, I'm afraid. The Los Alamos scientist he fingered to get this story going, Mr. Lee, is not even a nuclear scientist. He is a computer scientist. He wouldn't know what to steal. The nuclear scientists I know have been laughing all the way at the silly mistakes Gerth has been making. For example, not knowing the difference between (a) a LLNL-type "zero-fission fusion" weapon and (b) a LANL-type "enhanced radiation" weapon. Perle of course knows nothing of nuclear science, so he generally screws up his story in this realm. He is also Bill Safire's main man, which is why Safire's columns about the China spies are always replete with error. Safire doesn't even know the difference between analog and digital. You should know (and tell Howell Raines) that nobody around the President understands any of this. Bill Richardson, the former congressman and friend-of-Bill's who is now the hapless Energy Secretary, on Meet the Press ADMITTED that secrets have been given out on Clinton's watch, EVEN THOUGH HE HAS NO EVIDENCE THAT ANY HAVE BEEN. Richardson spent his brief tenure at the United Nations telling lies about Iraq on behalf of the President and now has to make up lies about Chinese espionage agents when he can't figure out what to say to Tim Russert at NBC. Poor guy. He should resign and run for Congress again, where the lies have less immediate impact. There is no evidence that any secrets have gone out, Joe. Gerth is now backing up his non-story, for which no doubt he will win another Pulitzer Prize, by citing "secrets" that were transmitted to Beijing not in the good old-fashioned way, surreptitiously, but at a lecture in a Beijing lecture hall. The front page of the Times should not be cause for hilarity, Joe, so you should stop Gerth before he strikes again. My nuclear scientist friends tell me that the topic of the lecture was harmless, but that Perle has blown it up to mammoth proportions, by saying what the Chinese learned could enable them to track down our nuclear submarines. I'm at least happy to see that William Broad, one of your science writers, taking care to note "the implications of the disclosure are unclear, because the size of the breach is unknown publicly and because the secret method is reportedly difficult to put into practice, even after years of study." The headline of course makes it appear that all is lost: "U.S. Loses Control on Submarine-Exposing Radar Techniques." My, my.

I just read Max Frankel's marvelous new book, about his Life at the Times. He remembers that when he and Scotty Reston used to get calls from the White House asking them not to print stuff, they always got the country into trouble when they agreed to do so. In this case, you should think twice before you print any more baloney fed to you by Perle and his flim-flammers. This is all the result of Clinton's "triangulation," by the way. Dick Morris taught him to be just a little less ferocious than the Gingrich/Dole Republicans, and his approval rating would be high. This is how Perle has trapped the NYTimes. He is the chief foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush, who over the weekend said he would, if President, prosecute the war against Yugoslavia "ferociously." That is Perle's way of permitting the President to prosecute the war "almost ferociously." There is of course public opposition to the war, as evidenced by the House of Representatives voting against the campaign two weeks ago. The flim-flam man gets around that by spreading the story that conservative Republicans, as opposed to Perle's warriors, are out to make this "Clinton's War," and are happy to deny him the ability to send in 50,000 ground troops for that reason.

If the national interest is to be served, the Times must at least assign a reporter to clean up after Jeff Gerth. I've always admired Gerth's doggedness, but he is out of his league when dealing with these characters. Is there anyone at the Times who knows a nuclear scientist? If so, he or she may be your man, or woman. And tell Jeff Gerth to watch out for Perles of wisdom, which should only be cast before swine.

P.S. In addition to George W. Bush, Safire and the WSJ editpage, among those who do not make a move without Perle, are George Will, Maggie Thatcher, Bill Kristol, Jesse Helms, and a gaggle of other tough cookies in high places. Among the Republicans, Dan Quayle and Jack Kemp have not been snookered. Quayle has opposed NATO'S bombing campaign from the beginning, but the readers of the Times don't know that. They should.