It now develops that John Huang, the highly controversial former Commerce official and Democratic Party fund-raiser who has recently been asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, used his top secret security clearance far more often than Commerce officials previously acknowledged. As The Washington Times' Jerry Seper reported this week, Mr. Huang received well over 100 classified intelligence briefings during his 18-month tenure at Commerce, nearly triple the 37 briefings that had been earlier reported by department officials.
At these briefings, Mr. Huang had access to `top secret' documents and classified information about China and Vietnam, where his former employer has substantial business interests. As previously reported by Mr. Seper, five months before he left Lippo, from which he received a nearly $1 million severance package, Mr. Huang obtained his security clearance, which he could have used to gain access to classified intelligence documents. Mr. Huang retained a security clearance for a year after he left Commerce. Lippo Group is a multi-billion-dollar Indonesia-based conglomerate whose associates have helped to bankroll both of Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns and whose owners, the Riady family, have bragged about placing their man at Commerce.
From the moment John Huang surfaced in October as a central player in the Democratic Party's unfolding fund-raising scandal, the Democratic party line had been that during his 18 months at Commerce he had no role in Asian policy. Indeed, the Clinton administration initially asserted that the duties of the former principal deputy assistant secretary of Commerce focused on administrative and personnel matters. Assurances were given that Mr. Huang recused himself from any and all matters that could conceivably involve his former employer. Considering his background as a longtime Lippo executive, it was vitally important before the presidential election to keep the lid on any influence Mr. Huang may have exerted at Commerce that could have benefitted Lippo or, worse, raised the specter of economic espionage.
Lippo, after all, is a banking partner of the Communist Chinese government. By selling a 15 percent share in the Hong Kong Chinese Bank four days after Mr. Clinton won the 1992 election, Lippo joined forces with China Resources Company Ltd., which Communist China's Ministry of Foreign Trade uses in its trade and foreign investment operations. The next year China Resources raised its stake to 50 percent, paying such a premium
above net asset value that Mochtar Riady, chairman of Lippo Group, earned a $165 million profit. According to `Chinese Intelligence Operations,' a book written by Nicolas Eftimiades, who serves as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, a military case officer from Guangzhou traditionally serves as a vice president of China Resources Company, where he `coordinates the collection activities of other intelligence personnel.'
Imagine how such details would have been received in November had voters known then what was revealed this week. During one nine-day period in May 1995, according to information gathered by House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon:
On May 4, 1995, four hours after an aide delivered to Mr. Huang a document classified as `secret,' Mr. Huang engaged in a 10-minute telephone conversation with Lippo's Los Angeles office.
On May 9, following a scheduled morning meeting at Commerce to discuss the status of a multibillion-dollar power plant in Taiwan, Mr. Huang called Lippo twice.
The next day Mr. Huang again telephoned Lippo's Los Angeles office after receiving `secret' documents. That night, according to his calendar, Mr. Huang met with China's ambassador.
On May 12, Mr. Huang called Lippo in Los Angeles once again, this time after a scheduled briefing by the Commerce Department's intelligence officer.
Altogether, Mr. Huang called Lippo more than 70 times from his Commerce office. He received at least nine calls from the Chinese embassy, met with Chinese government officials at least three times and attended breakfast at the Chinese embassy once.
In addition to participating in more than 100 classified briefings over an 18-month period, Mr. Huang somehow managed to visit the White House nearly 80 times, including one visit attended by the president, presidential fixer Bruce Lindsey, Lippo scion James Riady and Lippo Joint Venture partner and former Rose Law Firm partner Joseph Giroir in which it was decided that Mr. Huang would leave Commerce to become vice chairman of finance for the DNC.
Clearly, in its zeal to keep a lid on the exploding fund-raising scandal until after the the elections last year, the administration lied through its collective teeth about Mr. Huang's role as a Commerce official and the nature of the contributions he raised for the DNC.