- Text smaller
- Text bigger
During President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, the only thing people heard about was Monica Lewinsky. The media made virtually no mention of the Chinagate scandal. I wonder why.
Last Friday, the president and vice president were both questioned by the Justice Department’s campaign finance task force regarding the Chinagate scandal. This is an important issue, but it was also Good Friday — a holy time for many Americans who would be less likely to pay attention to the news. Barely a noticeable mention was made in the media about the interviews.
That same day, Janet Reno said she was going to do whatever she could to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father. When I heard this in the news, I thought, “Uh, oh. This is going to be a diversion. Not again!”
The Clinton-Gore interviews on Friday should have been headline news the next day, but the Justice Department did more than capture Elian. It captured Americans’ attention, giving them something to focus on other than the interviews. I can tell you from first-hand experience that everything this White House does is very well calculated.
So what’s going to be the next diversion? The Clinton administration knows how to manipulate the media and use it as a tool at just the right time in order to win the game. It happened to me when
a series of leaks to the press compromised my safety while I was involved in the Chinagate investigation.
Those leaks, which had to come from high-ranking government insiders, prompted the FBI to take my family and I into protective custody.
Just before noon on May 15, 1998, the morning after my second meeting with Chinese operative Robert Luu, I got a phone call from the FBI.
“Mr. Chung, it’s time to go,” the agent said. “We need to take you and your family to a safe place.”
When the FBI saw an article on the front page of the New York Times exposing my cooperation in the investigation, the agency immediately put my family and I under protection. That was the beginning of our government protection. I had an 18-month-old daughter, a three-year-old son, and 16-year-old daughter who was two weeks shy of her high school graduation.
That night, FBI agents came to my house and told my wife to pack our luggage.
“You are going to be out of your house for a while,” they said.
One of our dearest family friends, Molly — a missionary to Asia who was six months pregnant — came to help my wife pack. We decided to empty our refrigerator, giving away all the food because we did not know when we would be returning. A few months later, Molly had a beautiful baby boy.
While we were packing, with FBI agents waiting in our house, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. We were all so shocked — we had no idea who it could be, and tension filled the room. My son went to the door and said, “It’s Grandpa!”
Not knowing our situation, my father-in-law stopped by to deliver a wooden toy car he had made for my son. He was so shocked when he found out we were going under government protection.
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
We couldn’t tell him very much because of the sensitivity of the situation. We were not allowed to tell even our closest family members where we were going.
“I will keep the toy car until you come home,” my father-in-law said, and he left to go get my wife’s mother.
Before we left the house, we sat down at the dining room table, and I prayed.
“Lord, we do not know what’s going to happen from this point, but we will put our trust in your hands. Please protect my loved ones.”
After we prayed, my wife and I clasped hands and went upstairs to check every room in the house, locking all the windows as we went. We hugged each other, and said goodbye to our home.
I said to my wife, “Honey, we will be back. God will bring us home. We have to have faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
We drove caravan-style to the secret location, led by FBI agents who were in the first car. Behind them was my wife who had our three children in her car, followed by me in another family car. A fourth car, driven by more FBI agents, brought up the rear. There were also an unspecified number of agents driving around our perimeter to make sure no one was following us.
After driving on the freeway for a couple of miles at alternating high and low speeds, we would exit onto a different freeway, do the same, and return to the original highway. The purpose of this procedure was to ensure we were not being followed.
We went to a hotel, and I saw even more FBI agents waiting for us. One of them told me to go straight to my room. They did not want me carrying luggage or attending to my family or anything. They were very clear to my family that I was their first priority, and I had to be protected.
So I went up to my room where I was joined shortly by my family.
The next morning I sat down to eat my breakfast across from one of the agents. Behind me was a 50-inch television, and on the screen was my picture — larger than life.
The agent said to me, “Don’t look at the TV or anyone else, just go straight back to your room.”
More media outlets had picked up the story, and my face was everywhere.
Again, I did as I was told, and the FBI decided to move us to an even more isolated location.
The second night, in a new location, I was extremely angry because of the leak to the media. Another leak had been made, and now MSNBC was reporting that my family and I were under government protection at a hotel near the Los Angeles Airport in fear of retaliation from the Chinese government.
I found out later that one major American newspaper was also given the information, but refused to print it for the sake of protecting my family.
Under heavily-armed protection, wearing sunglasses, a ball cap, tee-shirt and shorts with slippers on my feet, I figured nobody would be able to recognize me. I asked my protectors, “What’s going on here? Next it will be my hotel room number!”
My situation continued to go downhill. The FBI learned the Chinese government had sent a four-man “hit squad” from Beijing. I was only allowed one hour of sunshine each day, and most of my time was spent inside my hotel room wondering what was going to happen to me and my family. I read my Bible, checked the Internet news, said a lot of prayers and knew nothing about my future. But there was one thing I did know: I could put my trust in the Lord Jesus.
We later found out about a second hit squad, two men and one woman, who came into LAX, but the FBI sent them back to China on the same plane.
Sometimes I felt so sorry for my young ones. During this time, my 3-year-old son and one and a half-year-old daughter said they wanted to go home. The only way we could explain our circumstances to them was to say, “We are on vacation. We can’t go home yet.”
That was the first time I began to feel really hopeless. I was not in control of my life. Other people were controlling me. But I felt so peaceful knowing Christ was ultimately in control.
During the investigation, I vowed to fully cooperate with the DOJ and the FBI, whatever the cost. But I often found myself feeling torn. Part of me wanted to go forward, and part of me wanted to go back. I had to please everybody because I was not in control. I was under the government’s control. All I could do was cooperate, and I often went the extra mile because I knew it was the right thing to do. I never said “no” to them, even though I knew I had that right.
Last week, I told you about the
FBI plan to pick up money from Luu, which he had promised to give me if I kept my mouth shut. Minutes before the operation was to take place, it was called off.
After the canceled operation, I had
my meeting with Justice Department task force lead prosecutor Chuck LaBella, author of the famous LaBella report, which recommended the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate apparent wrongdoing by the White House and the DNC. I have not read that report, but I know what I said to him.
In that meeting, I told LaBella everything I knew. I had pleaded guilty, so I had to fully cooperate. I did what I had to do and waited for my punishment.
But my sentence had been delayed. I had a second sentencing hearing scheduled to take place after the meeting with LaBella.
I stood in front of the judge, ready for the ax to fall, but again it was delayed.
In all, my sentencing was delayed five times. Every time I went before the judge, I sang in my head, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” the same song I sing to my children, because it is so comforting.
Finally, on Dec. 15, 1998, I was told I would be on probation and serve 3,000 hours of community service. That same week, I received not one, but five Christmas cards from the White House at my home and office.
What did they want me to think? For the White House and the DNC, it was business as usual. But I was furious. Since 1996, when the Chinagate scandal erupted, I was the poster-boy for the whole saga. Now they still wanted my money? After all, they say they were victimized by me.
At my final sentencing hearing, all of the FBI agents who had protected me were standing behind me in a show of support. My friends from Granada Heights Friends Church, 30 or 40 of them, were also there. When my attorney mentioned the presence of my church friends to the Judge Manuel Real, the judge said he noticed because their faces looked different from those of the media.
I have begun my community service, first at my church and later at the YMCA, where I am currently working as a janitor.
I found out in the last few years that telling the truth is not normal business for the Clinton administration. But I know that as you, the readers of my column, hear more of my story, you have become just as angry and frustrated as I have been through all of this.
Maybe you ask, “What can we do?”
For me, the answer to that question has been to tell the truth, which I have never regretted doing. And I will continue to tell the truth by writing this column, week after week, exposing more details of the scandal and the accompanying investigation.
As for you, the reader, don’t give up. We can make our country better. Never forget that this country, this government, is subject to “We, the people.”