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assessing the damage

Information provided by Katrina Leung made its way to the desks of four U.S. presidents. But since the Parlor Maid investigation began, the FBI has been forced to reexamine each piece of intelligence provided by Leung -- and every investigation that J.J. Smith and Bill Cleveland worked on -- to evaluate if any of its Chinese counterintelligence cases had been compromised. Here, former FBI Special Agents Edward Appel, Jack Keller and T. Van Magers, author Dan Stober, and J.J. Smith's defense attorney, Brian Sun, assess the extent to which the Parlor Maid debacle may have affected U.S. national security.

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edward appel
FBI Special Agent, 1973-1997

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In the case of [Katrina] Leung, what's the risk? What's the damage that could have been done?

Well, very grave damage could have been done -- partly because of her ability to manipulate, partly because of her ability to elicit information and the possibility that, as charged, she's actually copied very highly sensitive documents and actually turned them over to the other side.

That could result in compromise of sources and methods. It could even result in death or execution. And it certainly could result in compromise of U.S. government interests and intelligence interests with regard to China. So this could be extremely damaging. …

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Dan Stober
Author, A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the Politics of Nuclear Espionage

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Everybody says after the Katrina Leung revelation … it calls into question every one of our Chinese espionage cases. We've got to go back and look at them and see if they were compromised. [Were they] from your point of view, from what you know about these cases?

Well, you have to [go back]. That's the way it works. [Bill] Cleveland is deeply involved with Gwo-Bao Min, he's deeply involved in Wen Ho Lee, he is involved in the Peter Lee case. When Peter Lee's arrested, Cleveland is at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and is helping the FBI agents try to learn what he did at Lawrence Livermore. So he's there. Gwo-Bao Min doesn't confess, Wen Ho Lee doesn't get fired, Peter Lee is arrested in some fairly minor things. You have to go back and the connection would be, if Cleveland is talking to Katrina about these things, that she's telling the Chinese. The Chinese theoretically could be telling their sources at the labs, "Look out, look out."

… Is [Bill Cleveland] actually giving her things on purpose?

Well, nobody that I know thinks there's any chance that Bill Cleveland is a traitor to his country. However, he's working with an informant he trusts and he's talking shop, there's pillow talk. And she knew that he was going to China. She shouldn't have known that, but they were probably asking for advice. What do we do? Who should we talk to? Where do we go? Help us out here. And in those sorts of conversations, things get shared. They always get shared. So you do have to go back and see what's what. You know, there's a scientist in Los Alamos who worked with Cleveland and thinks one of his meetings with an informant was bugged. And now he's wondering because Bill Cleveland was involved, "Did Cleveland tell somebody I was meeting in this hotel room? Is that why my hotel room is bugged?" So people all over have to go back and rethink these things. …

[Can you connect] the moments that Cleveland and Parlor Maid come together with key moments in the trajectory of the larger espionage, the Chinese espionage or counterintelligence story?

Well, they start their affair in 1988 which by coincidence is the year that Wen Ho Lee is approached in the hotel room in Beijing with the secrets of the W88. They end their affair in 1993, when Cleveland leaves the FBI and goes to Lawrence Livermore. They pick it up again in '95, which is during the campaign finance scandal, and which if you were the Chinese government would love to know what the FBI was up to and what angles they were pursuing. And then it ends, and then it picks up again in '97 about the time when everyone is really focusing on the loss of the W88. Whether that means anything, we don't know. But if I was a Chinese intelligence service, I'd certainly want to know what the FBI was up to and experiencing.

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jack keller
FBI Special Agent, 1969-1997

What do you figure, Jack, is the damage that Katrina Leung might have done to national security and then indirectly, of course, J. J. and Bill Cleveland did to our national security?

... When they confronted her and interviewed her at her residence, she gave up a classified document that she had in her safe, at least one document. And that's just not something I would expect an espionage agent or an informant, for that matter, to give up anything that could be used against him or her. Just very amateurish on her part if she, in fact, was an intelligence agent.

But as to what she gave up in the way of value, we're talking years and reams of information. As to the value, I think it's more of a question about what the stuff that we got from her? I don't see that there was a lot of documentation going her way in that J. J. and his supervisors would have screened the kind of information that's going to be given to her. And as we talked about later, he's not charged with espionage so he wasn't picking out the juiciest stuff and the most valuable stuff to give to her to sell to the Chinese. So it's whatever she could pick up in the way of general information that he shared with her...

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t. van magers
FBI Special Agent, 1969-2002

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One of the things we always read in the paper is that all of the cases for 30 years, your life's work, now under evaluation because of Parlor Maid. Has everything been compromised? What's your assessment of that?

Two things. One, the bureau has to make that assumption, just as we did after the Hanssen case, just as the agency did after Adams, or just as we did after Adams. When you have someone who may have had access and may have provided information, you try to develop a list of things to which the person would have had access, and to see if anything happened in the case that would indicate it was compromised. You might be unwilling to send persons back in harm's way. In other words, you don't want to send assets back who might be arrested, unless they're under a diplomatic passport, or something like that.

You probably don't want to send Chinese permanent resident aliens who have been cooperating with us if you think they've compromised with that, because they're not U.S. citizens and don't have rights to protection in China that a U.S. citizen would. We'd be foolish not to make every effort to find out if we can determine if there has been any compromise.

On the other hand do I think there has been? You know what? I don't know what the information is to say that. I don't know what the bureau has. If we have information that indicates that she hemorrhaged all the stuff she was supposed to have had and a whole bunch more, then yeah, we've got stuff to worry about. You'd have to determine what Los Angeles knew specifically, and what in general might have been learned in seminars.

But to get all of that information, you have to assume that there was someone who was a willing participant along the way. And I certainly don't know whether J.J. was. I hope he wasn't.

It's one of those things that even if nothing was actually compromised, the fear of the compromise has set the program back.

Absolutely. And the fact that you have to be careful about certain sources -- for example, if you think they might have been compromised -- about sending them to China, about dealing with the Chinese.

So it's a setback?

Absolutely. There is no way a case like this could not be. It's part of that sowing the fields with salt thing. You've made it difficult to grow a crop in the future.

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brian sun
Defense lawyer for J.J. Smith

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I think it's important for people to know that although there may have been some early fears that sensitive secrets were somehow imparted to the Chinese government in this case, that [it's] quite to the contrary. There's no evidence of that. I think the charges reflect that Mr. Smith is charged with gross negligence, being how he handled information around Ms. Leung, who he viewed as a very trustworthy, reliable asset. So the battle that's going to be fought in the courts in this case is really over how he handled information around her. I don't think there's any real concrete evidence that's been brought out that suggests that anything of a super secret nature was somehow imparted to her that was passed on in some way. That's just not present in this case. Perhaps the media coverage in this case has suggested to the contrary, but it's important to note that the actual evidence of this case does not support the notion that there was any super secret information that was imparted to the Chinese government.

So then why [have I] had FBI agents tell me there's a possibility that every operation, every asset involved in China could all have been blown simply because Leung was trusted so much?

You know, I can't comment on the particulars of what was going on in Ms. Leung's case. I think it is important to know that Ms. Leung's track record for the FBI was excellent throughout the years, up through and including the recent charges. And that was the perspective of my client. I think that was the view of the FBI. And, you know, to suggest through innuendo and speculation that somehow she was privy to super secret information, or that she passed it on in some nefarious way, is in fact just that -- rank speculation.

What you have here is the overlay of the fact that she was a "double agent." The question is, if you believe some, she may have been a double agent for the Chinese. Or was she, in fact, as we viewed her, a double agent for us? So the nature of the work that she did involved her having to give information to the Chinese intelligence people she dealt with.

And so it's hard to get a sense of really what's going on here other than the fact that you have to look at what it is that they the government believes was imparted and there's no indication that anything that she told the Chinese was in any way out of the realm of what she was supposed to say. …

 

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posted january 15, 2004

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