Charles C. Thompson II is a network news veteran, both as a founding producer of ABC's "20/20" and as Mike Wallace's producer at
CBS's "60 Minutes."
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Russian intelligence operatives have fanned out across America hoping
to dig up the same kind of dirt on George W. Bush and his aides that
they have apparently used to influence President Bill Clinton and Vice
President Al Gore in the past, according to several Russia experts in
the nation’s capital.
“The Russians apparently haven’t found anything, but it’s their
standard operating procedure,” said J. Michael Waller, vice president of
the American Foreign Policy Council. Waller, who is also editor of the
Russia Reform Monitor, an executive editor of Demokratizatsiya: The
Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization and a contributor to
Insight magazine, holds a Ph.D. in international security affairs from Boston University.
In fact, Waller revealed that a Russian diplomat recently had lunch with him and asked him probing questions about Gov. Bush and his closest advisers.
“The Russian wasn’t making idle conversation, and I fed him mostly disinformation,” Waller said. “I wasn’t shocked, because I knew that’s how the Russians do business.”
According to Waller and other intelligence specialists, the Russians are primarily interested in defeating Bush, because they already have a wealth of derogatory information about Clinton and Gore.
For example, in early 1996, when Clinton was in the midst of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, he warned Lewinsky that they had to use code words when they engaged in phone sex since foreign embassies, most likely the Russians, were bugging their conversations. This was a year before Lewinsky began spilling her secrets to Linda Tripp, who secretly taped their conversations.
In his book,
“Sellout,” David Schippers, chief investigative counsel for the Clinton impeachment, wrote, “Another issue with possible security implications was the president’s reported phone sex. Almost every phone line in the White House is totally secure. But as Lewinsky testified under oath, the president was engaging in tawdry phone sex, on an unsecure line, opening the question of whether a foreign power might have intercepted and recorded these calls which was a chilling possibility given the potential for blackmail.”
A top former CIA intelligence analyst, who has advised several presidents, including Clinton, told WorldNetDaily that the Russians were the ones who did the bugging. They proved they had the capability in 1998 when Russian diplomat and intelligence office Stanislav Borisovich Gusev placed a sophisticated bugging and transmission device in the wooden molding of a wall of a conference room inside the U.S. State Department. Fifty to 100 meetings were held in the conference room before the device was discovered. Gusev was expelled.
According to former White House FBI agent Gary Aldrich, who was assigned to conduct background investigations for Clinton White House appointees, as late as two years into the Clinton administration the General Accounting Office found that only 24 White House employees had been cleared to handle thousands and thousands of pages of classified material. The other employees told the FBI that they could not be bothered with getting a clearance from the FBI.
Aldrich notes that his partner, agent Dennis Sculimbrene, once complained to him that “‘I’m having a heck of a time getting these Clinton people to grant interviews. I call people up, tell them who I am and what I need to do, and they tell me they’re too busy to talk to the FBI!’”
Kenneth Timmerman, another expert on Russian espionage methods, said that compared with the State Department, the White House was packed with amateurs who weren’t interested in security. Timmerman and Waller both pointed to the case of a woman from the Dominican Republic who was assigned to the White House by Hillary Clinton, even though she was a dedicated Cuban intelligence officer. She rebuffed all attempts at getting her to submit to a background investigation, saying she was a close friend of Mrs. Clinton and shouldn’t be bothered. She was later nominated to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic, but had her nomination blocked by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee due to her subversive background.
“Bugging the White House wouldn’t cause the Russians to break a sweat,” Timmerman said.
In his recent book, “Midnight Diaries,” former Russian president Boris Yeltsin revealed that Russian intelligence sent him a coded report in 1996 that Clinton was embroiled in an affair with a young woman and that the Republican Party was going to use that weakness of the flesh to destroy the president’s reputation. Yeltsin said he considered giving Clinton a copy of the coded dispatch, but thought better of it.
Yeltsin amended this account during an Oct. 9 interview with the The Times of London, after he was asked by reporter Giles Wittell if he knew the woman in question was Monica Lewinsky.
“I know,” Yeltsin replied.
Why did he not tell Clinton about it?
“He had enough problems already,” Yeltsin answered. “But it was not only because of that. I decided not to mention it because I didn’t fully believe it, and because we are very sensitive to such issues in Russia. I was also convinced that he would overcome the problem himself, which in the end he did.”
Waller and Timmerman and other intelligence experts raised the following questions:
Did knowledge of Clinton’s and Gore’s misdeeds and associations exert extraordinary pressure on our policy in the years 1996 through 98, especially on the billions of U.S. dollars that were funneled into Russia?
If the Russians were able to obtain this kind of blackmail information, what other sensitive information did they receive?
What happened to U.S. counterintelligence information about the possibility of this exposure, especially during President Clinton’s impeachment hearing? According to Waller and Timmerman, this was a terrible failure if the government didn’t know — and a terrible abuse of power if it knew and did nothing.
If anything, Russian intelligence experts say, Gore’s security problems date back even further and are more serious than Clinton’s. Gore began his relationship with his father’s close friend and employer, Armand Hammer, when he was a small boy.
Hammer, a Soviet paymaster and super-spy, went into the bull-breeding business with Gore Sr., placing the Tennessee senator on his payroll in 1950 when Gore was still in Congress. In return for Hammer’s generosity, Gore Sr. bailed his mentor, a stock swindler and art forger, out of his frequent brushes with the law. He also attempted to convince several U.S presidential administrations to cut deals that favored Hammer and his Russian masters.
Hammer further rewarded the senator’s efforts with an insider deal consisting of thousands of shares of Hooker Chemical Co. stock, which Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum was about to acquire. Hooker made things like fertilizers and metal-coating chemicals.
One of Hooker’s plants was located on Grand Island, N.Y., which disposed of its waste and other harmful byproducts into an adjacent waterway called the “Love Canal.”
“Al Gore [who currently controls his late father's stock in the company] takes credit for helping cure the ‘Love Canal’ pollution. He should! He helped cause it!” said Dan Schaitberger, a former Hooker employee.
Hammer made Gore Sr. executive vice president of Occidental Petroleum after Bill Brock soundly defeated Gore in his reelection bid in 1970. And Hammer subsequently named Gore to a similar position in Island Creek Coal Co. after Gore managed to get the fuel company out of a long-term contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority and to substitute another contract much more favorable to Island Creek. The former senator also helped paper over a number of toxic waste spills by the company.
Hammer also showered his favors on Albert Jr., helping underwrite his successful run for Congress in 1976 as well as all of his subsequent races. During young Gore’s abortive 1988 presidential bid, Hammer unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Democrat Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois to drop out of his home-state’s primary in favor of Gore. Hammer promised Simon a cabinet position in the Gore administration if he did. Shocked, Simon remained in the primary and trounced Gore.
Gore accompanied Hammer to Moscow where Hammer received a peace prize from an international group of anti-nuclear scientists. Gore later praised Hammer at a reception in New York for his “patriotism.”
But as bad as Gore’s compromise with Hammer was, it was even worse with former Russian premier Viktor Chernomyrdin. The two served on a joint commission that was supposed to smooth out relations between the U.S. and Russia. The commission was also supposed to come to the assistance of American businessmen who were threatened with death or beaten by members of the Russian mafia. But as
reported, Gore and his staff largely ignored pleas of Americans who were subjected to such brutal treatment.
Between 1993 and 1999, billions of dollars of foreign aid intended to help ordinary Russians was instead diverted to the pockets of high-ranking officials who ruled Russia and members of the Russian mob, or siphoned off and deposited in offshore bank accounts to be laundered.
It has also recently come to light that, in 1995, Gore and Chernomyrdin signed a secret deal for Russia to build a nuclear reactor for Iran. This deal, which has been widely reported, also specified that Russia could sell a diesel-powered submarine, T-72 tanks and other arms to Iran. Arms sent to Iran from Russia since the early 1990s include advanced Kilo-class submarines, torpedoes, anti-ship mines, and hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers.
“How in the world can this country trust a man like Al Gore who owes his personal fortune to a fully recruited Soviet agent, Armand Hammer?” Michael Waller asked. “Al Gore Jr. grew up with a Soviet agent, and if he (Gore) were to be nominated as an assistant secretary for some department, he couldn’t be nominated, because he is a security risk,” he added.
In her forthcoming book, “The Betrayal of Liberty,” veteran journalist Anne Williamson recounts an encounter she had with Moscow’s assistant chief of the KGB during Christmas of 1994. Williamson, an expert on Soviet-Russian affairs who has written for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, asked the security official whether it was true the KGB had picked up the tab for Gore Jr.’s room service orders at the high-toned Fairfax Hotel in Washington (where he spent his formative years) and his Harvard tuition.
“After a thoughtful pause, the man responded, ‘He’s not our first Harvard graduate, of course, but I do believe he’s our first St. Albans’ (a Washington prep school) boy,’” Williamson wrote.
As bad security risks as Waller and Timmerman believe Clinton and Gore are, they have another prize candidate, Strobe Talbott, the State Department’s number two man and Clinton’s Oxford roommate. Talbott made his journalistic bones by tagging along with a well-known KGB agent named Victor Louis. Louis leaked Nikita Khruschev’s diaries and insisted that Talbott, a young employee in Time’s Moscow bureau, go along with the deal. Talbott thus became a member of the magazine’s inner circle.
Timmerman testified last year to the House International Relations Committee that Talbott’s support of Russia and Boris Yeltsin was unwavering and uncritical in the face of mounting evidence of organized corruption. He also said that Iran’s Shahad and Kosar missile programs would not exist without Talbott. The Shahad-3 missiles are now deployed in southwestern Iran and are capable of targeting Israel with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.
The editor of Middle East Defense News, Timmerman said, “Despite having detailed intelligence on Russia’s involvement with the Iranian missile programs, the U.S. government failed to press the Russians in any meaningful or effective way. And the official who played the greatest role in this disaster was Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. If we had intervened with the Russians when the Israelis first came to us in late 1996, the Shahab missile would never have been tested successfully two years later.”
Timmerman, Waller and other Russia intelligence experts interviewed by WND, while not labeling Clinton, Gore and Talbot out-and-out agents, accused the trio of being unduly influenced by Russia and her policies.
“It’s not a healthy situation, and I hope the country has enough sense to avoid something like this in the future,” Waller said.