Will a Second Clinton Administration Repeat the National Security Scandals of the 1990s?

Analysis: Bill Clinton promised 'two for the price of one' in '92

November 7, 2016

A day before the 2016 presidential election, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton leads slightly in national polls in a tightening race for president, highlighting the prospect a second Clinton administration will be inaugurated in January.

Clinton supporters have sought to deflect criticism of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, by arguing he is not running for president.

But Bill Clinton said of his wife during the 1992 campaign for the White House that he was offering "two for the price of one." The same maxim likely applies to Hillary Clinton who would return a former president to the White House with the title of First Gentleman.

A review of the Clinton administration's eight years may shed light on what can be expected under America's first female president.

Aside from the sex scandal that arose over Bill Clinton's lying about an affair with a White House intern, the Clinton administration produced a string of damaging national security scandals including the transfer of missile and warhead technology to China, North Korea, and Iran gaining strategic nuclear technology for future weapons, and security failures that helped Beijing obtain secrets through espionage on every deployed U.S. nuclear warhead.

Hillary Clinton has already had her own brush with a security scandal. In October, FBI Director James Comey announced the FBI was reopening its investigation into her use of a private email server that was used for transmitting highly classified information while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. The FBI concluded in July that hostile foreign actors likely accessed the email server although evidence of compromise was inconclusive.

Comey wrote to congressional leaders on Sunday to state that after reviewing the new emails, "we have not changed our conclusions" announced in July.

As president, Clinton can be expected to adopt many of the same national security policies that produced a string of damaging failures for the United States, many of them still impacting the country's security today.

The Clinton administration, foreshadowing Hillary Clinton's pay-for-play influence peddling while secretary of state, aggressively pursued foreign money in what became a major scandal.

Electronic communications intercepts in 1996 revealed that China's government was engaged in a major influence operation that included funneling funds to the reelection campaign of Bill Clinton.

Investigators uncovered a broad ranging influence effort involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of Chinese government money that was funneled into Democratic Party coffers for the Clinton reelection bid in 1996. In one case, Democratic Party fundraiser Johnny Chung was paid $300,000 by PLA Gen. Ji Shengde.

"Johnny Chung testified under oath that the Clintons took hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chinese military intelligence," said Bill Triplett, a former professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who extensively studied the Clinton administration. "That has never been refuted."

Sen. Fred Thompson, who headed a Senate investigation into the Chinese influence operation, told me in 1999 the Chinese government was "clearly involving themselves in our processes over here, putting money into [Clinton's] campaign."

Senate Democrats undermined the Thompson committee investigation by limiting the time the committee conducted the probe and then working through staff members to obstruct the Republican-led inquiry.

"I've never understood how the president, in light of what we know about these Chinese activities, could so aggressively embrace [the Communist Chinese], place in jeopardy Taiwan, overlook and ignore their proliferation activities, [and] jump through hoops to avoid calling them to task," said Thompson, who died in 2015.

The Chinese funding of the Democratic Party's reelection bid for Bill Clinton was not an isolated incident.

The list of Clinton administration failures during the 1990s is long. The incidents were outlined in my 1999 book, Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security, and a year later in The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America. The list of failures and the resulting damage was extensive and included the following:

  • By loosening U.S. export controls on high-technology American goods, the Clinton administration assisted the transfer of strategic missile technology to China. Two U.S. companies, Loral Space & Communications Ltd, and Hughes Electronics took part in an investigation of a Chinese rocket launch failure and as a result transferred extremely valuable technology to China that resulted in improving the reliability of Chinese nuclear missiles aimed at American cities.
  • Some of the technology transfers to China took place after Loral's chairman, Bernard Schwartz, provided an estimated $1.3 million to President Clinton between 1992 and 1998. Schwartz, who describes himself as a "progressive public policy advocate," has continued to fund Hillary Clinton's campaigns.
  • The high-tech company Motorola sold a multiple satellite launcher to China under Clinton administration policies that gave the Chinese the same technology used in launching multiple warheads on missile stages. China over the past few years has begun replacing its single warhead missiles with new multiple warhead systems.
  • Under a misguided policy of international exchanges between U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and Chinese laboratories, China obtained design information on the W-88 nuclear warhead, along with other U.S. nuclear warheads. In August 2006, the U.S. government declassified its assessment stating, "the People's Republic of China obtained some Restricted Data information on the W88 warhead and perhaps the complete W88 design."
  • The Clinton administration sought to restrict the development of U.S. missile defenses during negotiations with the Russians in a bid to preserve the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that Clinton regarded as the cornerstone of strategic stability. In the talks, the Clinton administration sought to lock in speed limits on U.S. missile interceptors. The U.S. military rejected the limits as undermining the ability of the American missile defenses.
  • On North Korea, the Clinton administration, with great fanfare, concluded the Agreed Framework agreement with the rogue regime in 1994. "Our diplomacy backed with force persuaded North Korea to freeze its nuclear program," Bill Clinton declared in 1996. The agreement would turn out to be a ruse by Pyongyang, which then proceeded in secret to build a nuclear arsenal and today possesses an estimated 20 nuclear weapons and an array of medium- and long-range missiles.
  • Under Clinton administration policies toward China, Beijing's nuclear proliferation resulted in Beijing's supplying Pakistan with complete nuclear warhead design and development information, despite alarms set off by U.S. intelligence agencies about the secret cooperation. The failure to halt the nuclear cooperation would be made worse by the Pakistani supplier network led by A.Q. Khan that transferred stolen American nuclear warhead secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.
  • The Clinton administration failed to prevent Russia from supplying strategic nuclear technology to Iran, despite detailed Israeli intelligence reports showing the covert nuclear cooperation. The Clinton administration did nothing to dissuade the cooperation and the result is Iran is less than a decade from being capable of building nuclear weapons.
  • On international terrorism, the Clinton administration was offered cooperation from the government of Sudan regarding al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, then residing in Sudan, but the cooperation was rejected, losing an important opportunity to stop al Qaeda before it conducted the deadly 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • President Clinton ordered military strikes on Iraq in December 1998—hours before the House of Representatives was to begin impeachment proceedings against the president for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Pentagon and military leaders privately voiced disgust over what they saw as the blatant use of U.S. military power for personal political gain by the president.
  • On arms control, President Bill Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, prevented the development of missile defenses based on the liberal notion that arms control processes and policies would be undermined by Pentagon efforts to build effective defenses against the growing threat of short- and long-range missiles.
  • In January 1995, a Norwegian scientific rocket launch was mistaken by the Russian military as a U.S. submarine-launched missile heading for Moscow. Russian President Boris Yeltsin set in motion an alert for Russian nuclear forces that nearly brought the United States and Russia to a nuclear war. The Clinton administration attempted to keep the incident secret as it conflicted with its narrative of seeking to portray post-Soviet Russia as a new potential ally. During the 1990s, Russia began building up its nuclear forces and the Clinton administration provide $1 billion in aid to help dismantle their nuclear arms—essentially funding the early stages of Moscow's strategic modernization.
  • Bill Clinton ordered the "detargeting" of U.S. nuclear missiles on Russia at the same time the CIA determined that Moscow had not done the same with its missiles.
  • Clinton administration Energy Department official Rose Gottemoeller endorsed a radical National Science Foundation Study calling for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Gottemoeller went on to become the undersecretary of state for arms control under Hillary Clinton and continued to advocate extremist disarmament policies. She was recently appointed NATO deputy secretary general at a time when Russian nuclear threats are increasing.

One important example of how the Clinton administration adopted policies of cover up and appeasement regarding foreign threats followed a April 4, 1997, incident involving a Russian spy ship that fired a laser that damaged the eyes of Navy Lt. Jack Daly, a Navy intelligence officer, and a Canadian military pilot during a surveillance mission aboard a helicopter along the Strait of Juan de Fuca separating the United States and Canada in the Pacific Northwest.

To prevent upsetting U.S.-Russia relations, the State Department and Pentagon covered up the incident and allowed the suspect Russian spy vessel, the Kapitan Man, to leave U.S. waters. Moscow paid no penalty for the laser attack on a U.S. service member.

"Despite being injured in the line of duty, I was betrayed and sacrificed by the Clinton administration for a political agenda, one that believes our once most-feared foe, has, overnight, become a friend we can trust," Daly said of the Clinton administration's mishandling of the laser incident.

Daly noted the cover up was sending a clear message to Moscow: "You can get away with an intentional hostile act within U.S. borders and not only will your crime go unpunished, your illegal acts will be denied and your get-away assisted by the U.S. government."

Edward Timperlake, a former Pentagon official and House staff member who took part in the impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton and other Bill Clinton-era scandals, said the Clinton administration was characterized by "historic greed that triggered a catastrophic loss, across the board, of our state-of-the art defense technology."

"Bill and Hillary's avarice not only enabled the unprecedented PLA rapid military modernization but there is a continuing double bounce out of China to Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea," Timperlake said.

"The consequences of their blind corruption are truly frightening, from reliable PLA strategic ICBMs with many accurate warheads, to world class advances in super-computers, to advances in stealth and radar systems."

"Tragically, now more than ever American and allied military forces are in mortal jeopardy," he added.