WASHINGTON – He could crow, "I told you so," and who could blame him? Even early skeptics Sam Donaldson and Tim Russert have confessed to him, in private, that he was right all along.
But that wouldn't be his style. The soft-spoken, almost diffident, FBI agent who first warned of the White House's reckless disregard for security procedures, is also too busy exhorting other federal
whistle-blowers to come forward to inform the public of a dangerous pattern over the past nearly eight years: the systematic dismantling of safeguards across the entire U.S. security complex.
Gary Aldrich could also dish out dirt (and there's "a ton," he says) on the Clinton appointees who smeared him in the press as a "pathological liar." After all, he would know, having read their sensitive FBI "302" reports while vetting them for jobs.
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But to this day – even though he's retired from the bureau and can't be fired or sued for violating The Privacy Act – Aldrich holds his tongue.
It's not easy for him, judging from his pained eyes and clenched jaw. During a two-hour interview in his Fairfax, Va., office, he came close to returning the favor when a few White House names popped up.
So what stops him? "My own ethics," he said.
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In 1995, Aldrich left the White House, where he worked as one of the FBI agents tasked with clearing new White House hires for security passes.
The next year, his book, "Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House," was published. The shocking bestseller charged, among other things, that White House officials were hiring hard-drug users and other security risks over agents' vetoes. Many of them gained access to classified information without proper clearance.
After being pilloried by the White House and its friends in the prestige press as a "liar," Aldrich became withdrawn. And when other law-enforcement agents failed to back his story – and his own agency turned over his manuscript to the White House, without his consent – he became disillusioned with his whole profession. He was out on a long, lonely limb, and the sound of sawing was deafening.
But slowly, with each new report of security lapses, his story of loose security and reckless conduct has been confirmed.
At the White House, drug and gun smugglers were waved into fund-raising coffees with the president and vice president. One Clinton donor with Beijing ties even managed to sneak a foreigner past the Secret Service using a bogus driver's license.
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But it's not just the White House.
A recent undercover sting by Congress turned up alarming security failures at 19 government agencies, including the Pentagon and even Aldrich's former employer, the FBI. And now, with yet another major security breach at Los Alamos National Laboratory, more and more fingers are pointing back to the White House.
In every agency that deals with protecting national-security secrets, normal security rules and procedures have been ignored, changed or tossed during the Clinton-Gore years.
Clinton appointees have kicked open lab gates to foreign visitors, even ripping out the doors to the Energy Department's executive suites. They've shelved security badges. They've cut funding and staff for Pentagon background checks, resulting in a backlog of hundreds of thousands. The CIA's own director downloaded classified files onto an unsecured home computer used, among other things, to access Internet porn. Officials at the State Department, where escorts were no longer required for foreign visitors, have "lost" top-secret laptops.
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Meanwhile, Russian and Chinese spies run amok.
But there is one place where security is tighter, Aldrich says: The Democratic National Committee headquarters.
In 1998, Aldrich founded The Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty to aid and support whistle-blowers opposed to serious wrongdoing, especially involving national security, in the federal
One of his clients is a former senior Energy Department official who exposed to Congress the dismantling of military lab security by Clinton appointees – and suffered reprisals for it. After he was effectively fired from his job, he says the administration had him tailed.
Another Aldrich client is a Pentagon official who also was harassed for blowing the whistle on the department's loosening of background investigations.
"We're running a civilian witness-protection program here," Aldrich, 55, said.
The center plans to broadcast ads on a Washington-area FM radio station, entreating federal employees to come forward with what they know about Clinton corruption and attempts by his political appointees to undermine national security.
The spots will appeal to their "sense of patriotism, shame, you name it," Aldrich said. They'll also let them know their rights.
Aldrich served 26 years as a special FBI agent, specializing in white-collar crime such as fraud and political corruption. He married an FBI agent. They have three teenagers.
Save a portrait of American patriot Patrick Henry ("Give me liberty or give me death") hanging behind his desk, his office walls are bare. But his desk is stacked high with paperwork. WorldNetDaily sat down with Aldrich to talk about the recent security lapses and what can only be described as sad vindication for his troubles. This is the first of an exclusive two-part interview concluding tomorrow in WorldNetDaily.
WND: You really were the first to sound the alarms about the security problems in this administration. It turns out it wasn't just the White House. The security breakdown appears to be systemic,
cultural, cutting across the entire Cabinet, even our military labs. Do you feel vindicated?
Aldrich: The only way I could ever feel vindicated is if they actually went in there and pulled the untrustworthy bastards out. Which they're not going to do.
Q: Why the laxity in security? You had access to classified information about Clinton and national security issues. What do you think's going on?
A: I would go further than that (laxity) and say it's a national security meltdown, which is a direct consequence of policies and procedures from the top, from the White House.
And also because of the appointments of certain individuals to key posts in these agencies that deal with national security, like the Department of Energy and over at the CIA. They bring political appointees into those positions who have the authority to alter the security set-up, and they do.
Q: Like who?
A: In the case of Energy, it was Hazel O'Leary who knocked out all the barriers. In the case of CIA, it was (executive director) Nora Slatkin. She was so hostile to the process of badges and background investigations she refused to carry her own badge. And so they had to have an employee walk around the CIA with her carrying her badge to put it up against the various checkpoints. She refused to wear a badge. In the case of the Department of Energy, for example, Hazel O'Leary didn't like the discriminatory nature of the different colored badges, which would allow you in different places in the Energy Department and labs. Therefore, she ordered all badges should look alike so people didn't feel bad about the kind of badge they had.
This is the kind of liberal, la-la thinking that has permeated (the federal government). And what was the response of the so-called intelligence community, the people who are charged with making sure the country is safe? Capitulation, silence, transfer, retirement. The people who were charged with protecting the national security of this nation took a pass.
And I'm angry about that, because they all enjoyed those (high-paid) GS-13, 14 positions. They all had great medical benefits and they got great retirement programs. They also took an oath. And yet, when it came down to it, very few stood up against this. And instead, they turned their backs on it and walked away. And that says something about the kinds of people the government is hiring into these key positions. I'll say it again: Career, federal security professionals took an oath to the Constitution to defend this nation against threats foreign and domestic. For them to know what they know, and to stand by and watch it happen, is as close to treasonous as I can imagine anything is.
Q: Why should we worry about this "meltdown"?
A: First of all, billions of dollars are spent every year to maintain a perception that we're protecting national security. If in fact we are not, we need to save that money and use it for some better purpose, or give it back to taxpayers.
But of course, there is a need to protect national security. The need is to protect – not just the classified material and the people like the president, for example, from harm, but – the policies
and tactics that are being discussed, for example, at the White House that deal with the way we conduct commerce with other nations.
It's not just about lobbing a bomb into New York City. It's about our plans the next time we have an economic summit. How are we going to address certain issues, you know, where are our bottom lines? What will we agree to? What won't we?
Suppose you're buying a car. You go into a dealer, and all discussions between the salesman and the manager about you buying the car are held in your presence. And let's suppose you get to also see all their internal paperwork. How could the car dealer conduct transactions to their benefit? They couldn't. So it's not just about protecting secrets that save the lives of sources and spies in foreign lands. It's not just about stopping some nutcase from some hostile nation from walking a satchel charge into the Oval Office. It's about that, too, but it's also about the business of this nation.
But having said that, the only security the Clintons seem to be concerned about is the political kind. When some reporter walked into the Democratic National Committee headquarters and was able to wander around because they had loose security over there, all hell broke loose. They called an immediate meeting of all personnel and they stressed that everyone, everyone had to be escorted and wear a badge. The security is tight as a drum at the DNC and loose as a goose at the White House. What does that tell you? They know the difference between loose security and tight security, you bet your butt they do.
And the third element is this: (State Secretary) Madeleine Albright, (State policy director) Morton Halperin and the rest of Clinton's friends have said repeatedly that one of the most dangerous things that we have in the world today is that America is too strong. Now if you have that mentality from the top, doesn't that suggest that it's OK for China to get our missile secrets; it's OK for Russia to plant bugs in the State Department; it's OK for spies to wander around? Because it's a lopsided playing field anyway, and we need to even it out? And if these secrets get out, it's not such a bad thing?
This is their worldview. America is too strong, and we're a threat. It's a "small-world-after-all" theme. That's fine. You know, I like to talk about that in church. But when you're protecting a nation, I really think you need to have more of an adult approach.
Q: So why isn't there more public outrage about the administration's cavalier attitude towards national security?
A: The normal American can't imagine people in the White House who don't have U.S. interests in mind. They can imagine that people are working in the White House who want to alter things a little bit this way, or tweak them that way. But they can't comprehend that we would actually have traitorous people inside our White House, some of them at the highest levels. Look, the Clinton administration doesn't care if China or Cuba or North Korea get our secrets. They don't care. It isn't because these people are stupid. They don't care.
Q: How much do you think the public knows, through the media, about this national security "meltdown," as you call it? Could you put a figure on it?
A: I'd say 25 percent. One of the reasons is the disinterest on the part of the media overall. But, despite recent (inside-the-Beltway) interest in national security, for a long time there were just a couple of us carrying around a candle in this town. (Former Reagan Defense official and Center for Security Policy director) Frank Gaffney is another. For the longest time I couldn't find interest even on Capitol Hill about the issue of national security, except for on the part of a few. Remember that most of these problems at the White House related to national security were run by the House and Senate intelligence committees. I never saw any interest on their part, not until recently. I had high hopes when Republicans took over Congress that we'd see some attention paid to these matters. Lord knows, we gave them a road map. Yet, they by and large haven't shown an interest. Now there's something wrong with that.
Q: But isn't a lot of that disinterest because of the post-Cold War zeitgeist? I mean, I've talked to some senior Bush administration officials, people who were involved in defense programs,
so-called cold warriors, who have turned quite dovish.
A: I can assure you there were also a lot of people in the Bush administration who did see it a different way. Look, Republicans have also made great commerce of it (the end of the Cold War), especially in relation to China. Just look at the PNTR (permanent normalized trade relations) vote. They were talking about trade, while we were talking about their ICBMs targeting us and their slave-labor camps. We were talking about the U.N. listing China as the biggest offender of human rights. We're talking about a godless ideology where everybody's a slave. When all you have is commerce on your mind, it's hard to think of anything else.
Q: You dealt with former senior Clinton aide Patsy Thomasson when you were in the White House. Are you comfortable with her, in her new State Department job, being in charge of our foreign buildings, including embassy security?
A: No. She wasn't any good at security at the White House, and she's no damn good at security at the State Department. The woman's background speaks for itself. She worked for a convicted drug dealer, and she was in charge of drug testing at the White House. And now she's evidently in charge of diplomatic pouches? It's a joke, frankly. It makes you wonder if there isn't some other grand plan here on the part of the Clinton administration to downgrade and downscale national security until we don't have any at all.
Q: What do you think of Secretary Albright and President Clinton cracking jokes to the press about these security leaks?
A: Going back to my law-enforcement background, there was a kind of con man who really was head and shoulders above the best con men. And that con man would crack wise about what he was doing. We caught many of them like that. They would actually put into their documents little signs and signals that they were crooks, that they were con men, as a joke. Because they thought the people they were fleecing were so stupid, they would never notice what they were doing to them, and they'd get a good yuck at their expense. That is a mentality that law-enforcement officers are very familiar with. And it's shared by this president and a lot of his people.
Q: How would you recommend George W. Bush handle this national security mess, should he inherit it?
A: As a candidate, Bush must talk about it incessantly on the campaign trail. If he doesn't prepare the public for it, it will never get fixed. Unless he lays a foundation down now, he won't have the
mandate for it if he's elected. You can bet Democrats will fight it by screaming, "This ridiculous defense buildup will blow a hole in the deficit!"