CyberAlert -- 05/14/1999 -- Networks Ignore a 1997 Spy: Peter Lee; Jennings Derided Reagan

Networks Ignore a 1997 Spy: Peter Lee; Jennings Derided Reagan

1) Dan Rather led Thursday night by delighting in "what a difference a day makes" as Republicans are "looking for a way out just 24 hours after rejecting a modest gun control measure."

2) Another spy suspect, Peter Lee, passed on submarine tracking secrets in 1997. The New York Times called his case "significant" because it showed China obtained secrets during Clinton's second term. But only FNC and Fox News Sunday have explored his case.

3) In his book, The Century, Peter Jennings attacked Ronald Reagan from the left: "To the problems of homelessness, AIDS, the skyrocketing budget deficits and a frightening arms build-up could now be added a morally suspect foreign policy."

4) MediaWatch's "On the Bright Side" story: How NBC Nightly News actually highlighted the benefits of gun ownership.

>>> May 17 MediaWatch now online thanks to the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry. The Review by Tim Graham, "Sex Lies Draw More News Than Policy Lies," documents how "The big three ignored proof Clinton lied on China spying." A front page piece, "Starr an Abuser, But Clinton No Harraser" features this insult from a Time magazine reporter: "Starr has taken on the air of an old crank screaming obscenities on a street corner." To read these articles, plus Newsbites and the articles excerpted below in items #3 and 4 in today's CyberAlert, go to the MRC home page or directly to: <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) CBS and NBC led Thursday night with the Republican retreat in the Senate on gun control. Dan Rather delivered this loaded intro to a CBS Evening News story:
"Good evening. What a difference a day makes. The Republican-led U.S. Senate is backing off and looking for a way out just 24 hours after rejecting a modest gun control measure. The potent gun lobby and its allies in Congress are changing their strategy under wide-ranging and withering fire, especially in the wake of reaction to the Columbine High School massacre."

It's hard to imagine any restrictions on free speech which Rather would label "modest."

In the subsequent piece Bob Schieffer explained how the Senate was retreating on its Wednesday vote rejecting background checks at gun shows. He played a clip of Clinton complaining about how the Senate had missed a chance to "save lives" and noted that gun advocates have power because Senators recall how they brought down Speaker Foley and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks in 1994.

Schieffer then added: "Even so a Democrat says he understands why Republicans are having second thoughts about yesterday's vote."
Senator Robert Torricelli: "Senate Republicans are in a classic political problem. They have this far-right base that wants no gun control, but now they're realizing the larger public is watching too."
Schieffer: "And one Republican all but admitted a mistake was made."
Senator John McCain: "We obviously needed to take additional action and we realize that."

Only thing missing from Schieffer's story: anyone from the "gun lobby" or anyone who thought the Senate voted correctly on Wednesday.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Wen Ho Lee isn't the only spy suspect, but you wouldn't know it from the network newscasts which have ignored the case of Peter Lee, who supposedly passed on information about how to track U.S. submarines, even though his damage was outlined earlier this week by the Washington Post and New York Times.

The New York Times detailed how he was not properly prosecuted because of Pentagon and Justice Department resistance. The Times called his case "significant" because it showed officials knew China was obtaining secrets during Clinton's second term. But only FNC and Fox News Sunday have explored his case. In fact, FNC had the story before the papers.

As detailed in the May 7 CyberAlert, on the May 6 Special Report with Brit Hume FNC's Carl Cameron exclusively reported that after an 18 month sentence for falsifying documents Lee was to be released that coming weekend. Cameron reported: "And now the Defense Department is taking the heat for perhaps letting Peter Lee get off easy. An FBI source says quote, 'The Pentagon refused the judge's request for a briefing on how serious the violations were...they never told the judge what this guy had been doing.' Furthermore, during 1997, sources say Peter Lee was known to be passing additional secrets on to the Chinese -- top secret experimental and developmental nuclear secrets along with top secret satellite technology so the Chinese could track U.S. submarines."

To watch Cameron's story, go to the online version of the May 7 CyberAlert or to the MRC's video page:

Three days later Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow raised the case with guests Senator Richard Shelby and Congressman Porter Goss of the Senate and House intelligence committees. Snow inquired:
"Let's talk about a man named Peter Lee. He's been in the news a little bit in the last week. It turns out he was under surveillance for a period of maybe as much as 17 years. At the end of it, and he admitted to espionage, he admitted that he had talked to Chinese scientists about nuclear weapons in the 1980s and about satellite tracking technology in the 1990s, in 1997. For this, the Justice Department decided to file charges for filing a false statement. He's now out of a halfway house. Should Justice go back and charge him with espionage?"
Shelby replied that the case illustrates the "sloppily if not incompetent" way that "Justice has handled the whole thing. I don't believe that they have taken these cases seriously and they go to the very heart of national security."

That day the Washington Post ran a story on Peter Lee and the next day, Monday, May 10, the New York Times featured an extensive story on the front page, but neither prompted any attention from the other networks.

Here's an excerpt from the illuminating May 10 New York Times report by the Washington-based spy case duo of Jeff Gerth and James Risen:

A scientist working on a classified Pentagon project in 1997 provided China with secrets about advanced radar technology being developed to track submarines, according to court records and government documents.

Submarine detection technology is jealously guarded by the Pentagon because the Navy's ability to conceal its submarines is a crucial military advantage.

The information about the radar technology, which is considered promising and has been in development for two decades, was divulged to Chinese nuclear-weapons experts during a two-hour lecture in Beijing in May 1997 by Peter Lee, an American scientist, court records show. Lee was then working for TRW Inc., which had been hired by the Pentagon.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles wanted to charge Lee with espionage but were unable to, in part because Navy officials in Washington would not permit testimony about the technology in open court, law-enforcement officials said.

The Justice Department in Washington, having some questions of its own, would not approve the prosecution either, the officials said.

Instead, Lee ended up pleading guilty to filing a false statement about his 1997 trip to China and to divulging classified laser data to Chinese scientists during an earlier trip to China in 1985.

Despite the failure to prosecute Lee over the radar technology, the case shows that the scope of Chinese espionage is broader than the assertions of nuclear thefts at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which officials say involved another American scientist, Wen Ho Lee.

The two men are not known to be related. The submarine technology in the Peter Lee case was developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a weapons lab in California.

The Peter Lee case is also significant because it clearly demonstrates that the American government believed that China was successfully engaged in espionage -- obtaining American defense secrets -- during President Clinton's second term.

While the Los Alamos disclosures earlier this year prompted an array of investigations, Clinton, two months ago, said no one had brought suspicions of Chinese espionage to him and administration officials initially portrayed the problem as one confined to earlier administrations.

Today on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson acknowledged that there had been espionage by China during the Clinton administration, but he did not go into detail.

The breach involved in the Peter Lee case -- code-named Royal Tourist by the FBI -- occurred in 1997, a point made in a classified November 1998 counterintelligence report ordered by and then sent to the White House....

END Excerpt

As noted in more than one CyberAlert this week, no network other than FNC, not even NBC's Today or Nightly News, has picked up this admission from Richardson even though it provided a nice hook to raise the Peter Lee case.

To read the whole story, which explains how Lee passed along the secrets and how he was caught, go to:

(You'll have to be a registered user of the online New York Times to access the article. Becoming a registered user does not cost anything. To get a password you just have to give them your name and e-mail address. You can also sign up to get the front page headlines e-mailed to you each morning. That way you can learn before getting the CyberAlert what new spy revelation the networks will ignore.)


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) "Bias of the Century: ABC Book Replays Old Reagan Slurs," is the headline over a May 17 edition of MediaWatch story by MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson documenting how Peter Jennings attacked Ronald Reagan from the left in his book, The Century. Referring to Iran-Contra, Jennings declared: "To the problems of homelessness, AIDS, the skyrocketing budget deficits and a frightening arms build-up could now be added a morally suspect foreign policy."

Below is a reprint in full of the MediaWatch article:

As the year 2000 approaches, the networks are seeking to sum up the century, and their review of history is not any fairer than their coverage the first time around.

Anchorman Peter Jennings headed up ABC's massive undertaking, titled The Century, which began as a best-selling book by Jennings and Todd Brewster. The book was cross-promoted with excerpts on, as well as a 12-hour network special and a 16-hour one on The History Channel.

The mammoth, 600-page volume details the 20th century, decade by decade, examining major figures and events. But the chapter "New Morning: 1981-1989" recycles many of the liberal criticisms degrading the Reagan years as a time of naivete:

"In fact, it would be hard to imagine a time more devoted to historical revisionism than this decade, America, in particular, feelings of nostalgia for less complicated times ran so high it felt occasionally as if the society had been transplanted to the grounds of an elaborate theme park where a tidied-up, even cinematic, version of the past could be lived out in comfort."

The authors cribbed some of the worst diatribes from 1980s newscasts and cast them as history: "Finally, with the deepening of the chasm separating America's rich and poor, the arrival of AIDS and a drug epidemic in the inner cities, the soaring deficits encouraged by Ronald Reagan's ambitious defense spending" made it "hard not to feel that the nation was just pretending to be in better times, distracted by the fizz and bubble of its new wealth, tolerating the worst kinds of ethical and moral abuse, pushing aside bad news or, worse, delaying its full impact for future generations."

Toward the end of the chapter, in discussing Iran-Contra, the authors found doom for Reagan's legacy, insisting the scandal "had portrayed the President as either a figurehead in a rogue government or an impotent and forgetful leader whose lack of attention to detail had finally caught up with him and the nation. To the problems of homelessness, AIDS, the skyrocketing budget deficit, and a frightening arms buildup could now be added a morally suspect foreign policy. And this, from the man who had made a return to an old-fashioned moral ethic central to his national plan."

END Reprint

This story is available online at:

The book by Jennings is also the subject of the latest column by MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell. Go to:


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Now to some more positive news, the "On the Bright Side" article from the May 17 MediaWatch. In this piece MRC News analyst Geoffrey Dickens shows how a couple of weeks ago the NBC Nightly News delivered an unusual look at guns, devoting most of the April 30 show to the role of guns in society. Unusual, that is, for a network, as NBC illustrated some benefits of gun possession.

While NBC included a look at such issues as the medical costs of gunshot wounds, the show earned the On the Bright Side recognition for highlighting how guns also save lives, protect people from injury and can be handled responsibly by children if taught properly by parents. Here's a reprint of the MediaWatch piece in full:

At a time when reporters were quick to blame access to guns for the Littleton massacre, NBC actually spotlighted positive aspects of gun ownership. NBC's April 30 Nightly News ran four stories in which gun owners were depicted as normal, law abiding citizens and even heroes.

Pete Williams looked at an NRA-supported program being used with great success. "Not long ago Richmond had one of the nation's highest murder rates. But now under Project Exile here in Virginia gun crimes are prosecuted under tough federal laws." Williams noted Richmond's murder rate dropped by 30 percent. Williams showcased the brave actions of businessman Gary Baker: "He says he's here today because of his guns. Four years ago as he opened his jewelry store two men with guns stormed in and started shooting. He fired back killing both of them."

Robert Hager picked up on the self-defense theme in exploring concealed-weapons laws. He profiled 71-year-old Ryland Moore, who "fended off a shotgun toting robber at a Texas diner with his concealed .22 caliber revolver," and Texas state representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who "remembers how her parents were killed with 20 others in a Texas cafeteria massacre in 1991. Says she had a shot at the gunman but wasn't carrying her pistol because back then it was against the law."

Hager cited the rarely noticed research of University of Chicago professor John Lott, showing "states permitting concealed weapons murder rates declined nine percent, rape five percent, robbery three [percent]."

Roger O'Neil visited a Milwaukee hospital to interview an emergency room doctor about how the higher caliber bullets of today are doing more damage to victims, but then Kelly O'Donnell profiled a family that taught their children how to responsibly use guns. After airing soundbites from the parents stressing gun safety, O'Donnell concluded: "One estimate says 1.8 million kids between seven and seventeen use guns to hunt. Like millions of families, handing down an American tradition. A respect for weapons. A belief, this family says, that a parent's guidance with guns can prevent what happened in Littleton."

END Reprint

To read this article online, go to:

Final Note: MRC ad to appear in Sunday's New York Times. A full page ad from the MRC, highlighting how the networks have avoided the Chinese espionage and campaign contributions scandal, is scheduled to run in Sunday's New York Times. I'll send an e-mail message with more info later today (Friday) as soon as its placement is confirmed. -- Brent Baker


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