WASHINGTON – A former U.S. nuclear-weapons scientist suspected of spying for China was spotted by an FBI counterintelligence agent in China near the North Korean border, raising suspicions that U.S. nuclear secrets may have also found their way to the “axis of evil” state, WorldNetDaily has learned.
The incident has been closely held at the FBI over the last decade, but can be revealed here for the first time.
On Nov. 28, 1990, former FBI agent William Cleveland, who was then the chief spy-catcher in the bureau’s San Francisco office, joined FBI counterintelligence veteran Ivian C. Smith in Beijing to conduct security surveys of U.S. diplomatic facilities in China.
Early the next month, while in Shenyang, located north of the China-North Korea border, they ran into scientist Gwo-Bao Min, who had been the subject of an FBI espionage investigation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
At the lab, Min had access to classified information about a variety of nuclear-missile warheads in the U.S. stockpile. He was forced to resign in 1981 under suspicion of passing bomb secrets to Beijing, though no criminal charges were filed.
Smith, who led the trip to China, recalled the startling encounter with Min near North Korea in an exclusive WorldNetDaily interview.
“When we arrived in Shenyang, Bill Cleveland was walking around the lobby of the hotel and came up to me, somewhat wide-eyed, stating, ‘You won’t believe who I just spotted,’” he said. “It was Min.”
Smith says Min told Cleveland he was there on “business.” After leaving Livermore, he started an import-export trading company.
But the report of Min’s visit to the Chinese military region of Shenyang set off alarms back in Washington. U.S. intelligence believes China has been aiding North Korea’s nuclear program. And China’s military leaders in charge of Shenyang are said to maintain close ties to Pyongyang’s military.
North Korea last month disclosed for the first time that it has nuclear weapons, confirming U.S. intelligence. And the U.S. fears the rogue communist state may have already developed nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the West Coast of America.
While working in Livermore’s D-Division, which studies the military uses of nuclear weapons, Min had access to secrets about the W-70, or neutron bomb, which U.S. intelligence believes were leaked to China. According to the 1999 Cox Report, “this suspect may have provided the PRC (People’s Republic of China) additional classified information about other U.S. weapons that could have significantly accelerated the PRC’s nuclear-weapons program.”
The FBI walked away from the Min case, code-named “Tiger Trap,” after failing to get him to confess to trading secrets to Beijing. At one point, agents stopped Min at an airport before he boarded a plane carrying suspicious documents.
While he was in trouble, another suspected Chinese spy, Wen Ho Lee, called to help, offering to find out who had “squealed” on him. Lee, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, recently was convicted of stealing U.S. nuclear secrets.
The FBI continued to monitor Min, however, as he took several trips to China in the 1980s.
As it happens, Cleveland, the Tiger Trap case agent, was later compromised by an affair he had with Chinese double agent Katrina Leung, who was arrested last month.
After his lover’s arrest, Cleveland lost his job as head of counterintelligence at Livermore, a post he took after retiring from the FBI. He is cooperating with the FBI in her investigation, and also in the investigation of another counterintelligence agent who had an affair with Leung – James J. Smith (no relation to Ivian C. Smith), who was indicted this week on charges of negligence.
I.C. Smith, who retired in 1998, says he cannot say for certain whether the FBI has investigated Min’s reasons for doing “business” near the China-North Korea border. Calls to FBI headquarters here were not immediately returned.
Attempts to reach Min at the Danville, Calif., office of his Grand Monde Trading company were unsuccessful. He also runs a company called Min’s Consulting Associates.