After I learned last week that
Carlos Ghigliotti, the expert hired by a congressional committee who claimed shots had been fired during the FBI’s operation at Waco, had been killed, I received many e-mails from friends basically saying, “Watch your back, Johnny.”
Yes, God will watch my back. All I want to do is continue to expose what I know about the Chinagate investigation. After all, this is important to the American people and American history. To people who like to compare Watergate and Chinagate, I say the comparison is that Watergate looks like a tea party for little boys and girls. And Chinagate? God help us!
In the summer of 1998, after
my sentence had been delayed for the first time, President Clinton was visiting China. While there, he attended a press conference with China’s president. The two leaders were asked about Chinagate, and both said they didn’t know anything about it. They were not telling the truth — I know that.
I’ve spoken many times about
Robert Luu, the Chinese messenger sent to keep me quiet during the Chinagate investigation, but there was also a second messenger from China. The Justice Department, FBI and I gave him a nickname, Fish Powder, because he was in the fish powder business.
During the investigation, the Justice Department requested that I not reveal his real name. Even today, I still honor that request. But I have to ask myself why, because after three years, the DOJ has done nothing with the information I gave them.
Fish Powder is a very important witness. He knows exactly
happened at the meeting between Liu Chao-Ying — daughter of the highest-ranking Chinese general — Gen. Gi Sheng-de — China’s military intelligence director — and myself.
Fish Powder is also the trusted friend with whom I left two American teen-age girls — one of which was my own daughter — while I went to the meeting with Liu and Gen. Gi in Hong Kong.
Being an associate of mine, I took Fish Powder to meet President Clinton and the first lady at several different political events. One of those events was the 1996 Democrat Convention in Chicago.
After Bill Clinton made his acceptance speech for his second nomination, he held a private meeting with fat-cat donors. Once again, no money, no access. The price tag was $5,000 per person, which I paid for several Chinese businessmen. At the last minute, I decided to take Fish Powder to the meeting, so I had to come up with another $5,000. I wrote a check, which Fish Powder handed over to DNC finance director Richard Sullivan. Of course, Sullivan knew Fish Powder was Chinese, but he took that check with a smile.
After my meeting with Liu and Gen. Gi, who I only knew at the time by a fake name, Liu told me the mystery man was actually Gen. Gi Sheng-de.
I went back to China to pick up my daughter and her friend and asked Fish Powder if Gen. Gi was really China’s military intelligence director.
He confirmed it.
My prosecutor, Michael McCaul, put Fish Powder on a government “watch list,” which meant the minute he set foot on U.S. territory, McCaul would be notified. But, apparently, his name did not appear on the list because Fish Powder came in and out of the U.S. freely, without any notification.
At one point, Fish Powder called me at my office out of the blue. Immediately, I began recording the conversation, as I had been told to do by the Justice Department and FBI. After the conversation, I notified McCaul. He was shocked and angry.
I met with Fish Powder several times, each meeting being audio recorded. Because my attorney and I protested about the antiquated recording equipment I had used in previous sting operations, I was finally given state of the art technology. Now I was in 007 style. The pager they gave me was a microphone, and my cellular phone battery was a tiny recording device — and the phone still worked! I felt much more comfortable because I no longer needed a bulky battery pack and body wire.
My hope is that someday Congress will find out why he was able to come in and out of the U.S. freely without anyone being notified of his presence. And it is still happening!
Last week, I went to my bank — the same one used by Fish Powder. A bank employee told me that Fish Powder was there just a few days before.
Once my part in the investigation was finished and my sentence handed down, I could speak freely about my involvement in the scandal. I was subpoenaed to testify on May 11, 1999, before the
Reform Committee. I was not the first witness Congress interrogated — others before me had all asked for immunity.
When asked if I, too, wanted immunity, I asked myself, “If I’m going to tell the truth, as I have been all along, what do I need immunity for? I’ve already been sentenced for my crime. Besides, the Democrats probably wouldn’t give me immunity anyway.”
I was the first major witness in the Chinagate hearings to testify without immunity.
The night before my congressional testimony, I was restless. I knelt down at my hotel room bed and prayed. Later that night, I went to the Congressional Rayburn Building with my pastor, Verl Lindley, my good friend Bob Abernethy, and my attorneys to meet with congressional staff.
After meeting with them until about midnight, I walked down the hall with Pastor Verl and Bob into the vast committee room I would be testifying in the next morning. It was a large room, totally empty and very quiet. I asked Pastor Verl to say a prayer that I would do a good job the next day, that the truth would come out and that I would have strength and a peaceful heart. Then we all looked around and tried to imagine what it would be like during the hearing. My friend Bob, who has been a real encouragement to me, went up and sat in Chairman Burton’s big leather chair, pounded the gavel, and said with a smile, “Check this out — I could get used to this!”
The next morning, I was very intimidated as I prepared to go before the committee. As I waited in the congressional offices beforehand, Bob went out into the committee room to see what was going on. He came back and reported that the room was in a hubbub.
He calmly described the scene: a full room with a bank of eight or nine TV cameras, all off to the left side, and about a dozen photographers sitting on the floor right in front of the witness table I was to sit at.
Once again, I started to think of the song “Jesus Loves Me,” which I sang often to my children and myself in order to calm our nerves. When the time came, I walked out into the committee room with Bob and Pastor Verl.
As we came in, lots of cameras clicked, snapped and whirred. I sat at the witness table, and Bob and Pastor Verl sat right behind me in the seats I had asked the congressional staff to reserve for them. I wanted them there for moral support.
I had been meeting weekly with Pastor Verl for one-on-one Bible study for a year and valued his wise counsel. A former WWII bomber pilot whose plane was shot down over Europe, Pastor Verl was then protected by resistance forces and eventually returned back to safe territory. After the war, he became the founding pastor of Granada Heights Friends Church — more than 40 years ago.
I wanted Bob there, too — he had proven himself a true friend through some difficult and dangerous times, when no one else wanted anything to do with me. He had put himself at risk for me more than once. Even so, we can still laugh about the many people who thought Bob was my FBI protection.
Real FBI agents have told us that Bob looks like an FBI agent right out of “Hollywood casting.” It was a common misconception we usually did not seek to correct — and even when we tried to, people still didn’t believe us. No doubt many Americans watching the hearing that day also thought Bob was an FBI agent. We heard later about one who did — FBI Director Louis Freeh.
The hearing lasted several hours and was covered live by C-SPAN, Fox and others. I first read a prepared statement and then answered questions from both the Republicans and Democrats on the committee. I told the world about the Chinese government’s efforts to influence the 1996 U.S. presidential election and left with a peaceful heart.
Afterwards, Pastor Verl and Bob took me to Chinatown in Washington D.C. for a good meal. They said I deserved it.
When I arrived back at my hotel room, I immediately fell asleep.
The next day, Wednesday, I spent relaxing and giving Bob and Pastor Verl a tour of Washington, D.C. As we walked and taxied around the city, it was strange to see a big picture of me on the cover of the New York Times peering out from all the newsstands.
Of course, I had been to Washington many times, and was able to give Bob and Pastor Verl a good tour of the city. As we walked past the White House, Bob joked about us all going in for a guided tour — since I had already been there 57 times I would make a good tour guide, he said. But we decided that perhaps that could wait until after the next election.
Early on Thursday, May 13, Bob and I went with my attorneys to a deposition in Washington, D.C. to be taken by the public interest legal group, Judicial Watch. They wanted to ask me questions related to their case against the Department of Commerce for illegal campaign contributions. When we arrived, we had to wait in the hallway outside the judge’s chambers. Larry Klayman, founder of
Judicial Watch, asked Bob if he was an FBI agent. Bob simply said, “No, just a friend.” Of course, whenever Bob told people that they just became more convinced he was FBI.
The deposition lasted several hours. I could tell from the beginning that unlike many other investigators I had talked to, Mr. Klayman was a man who was really after the truth. And that’s what he got from me. During the deposition, we built a mutual trust. I knew this guy was serious — he was digging deep to expose government corruption.
I answered all of his questions he posed to me. Sometimes, even my own attorney objected. But when he did, I told the judge present that I wanted to answer the question.
The judge said, “Mr. Chung, you do not need to answer that question.”
“But your honor,” I replied, “I want to answer the question.”
I knew in my heart that Judicial Watch was doing the right thing for the American people. I was in a position to help them, and that’s what I did.
At one point the judge remarked that “it is certainly refreshing to have a witness who is so candid in his responses.”
After my deposition was completed, my prosecutor, Michael McCaul, invited me to go to his house for dinner.
It was an odd invitation, but I was intrigued.
I asked him, “Mr. McCaul, how many people have you tried to put in jail and then still invite them to come to your home for dinner?”
“Mr. Chung,” he said, you are the one and only.”
So I accepted his invitation.
Next week, I will share with you the details of that night, including my prosecutor’s amazing revelation of his role in the investigation. It was a night I will always remember.