Cited under fair use for non-profit educational use.


     Published in Washington, D.C.. . . . . . . . Vol. 13, No. 35 --
            Sept 15, 1997 . . . . . . . .
                   Did Clinton Bug Conclave for Cash?
                           By Timothy W. Maier
     A presidential conference with Asian leaders was bugged by U.S.
   intelligence agencies, say high-level sources, and information was
     passed from the White House to big Democratic corporate donors.
    I magine sitting in your room, shoes kicked off and your necktie
      loosened. It's been a long, hard day and now, sipping coffee,
       you're talking to a colleague who is fixing a drink at the
   mini-bar. At the same time, you're on the phone sharing information
    about the conference you've just attended. Sounds pretty typical,
    doesn't it? Okay, now continue to imagine that just a few floors
    below your hotel room there's a secret command center filled with
   federal law-enforcement officers, intelligence agents and military
         personnel watching and listening to your every move and
   . . . . Such a scenario might make sense if you were a mobster or a
     spy or a terrorist on whom the government needs to conduct such
   surveillance to protect the country from crime, espionage, or acts
   of terror. But what if this scene -- extended to hundreds of hotel
   suites and meeting rooms in a major coastal city -- occurred during
       an international conference of world leaders hosted by the
               president of the United States of America?
   . . . . Insight has been told that this is exactly what happened in
         1993 in Seattle during a five-day Asia-Pacific Economic
     Cooperation, or APEC, conference, in which leaders of about 15
   nations gathered to discuss the future of trade and security issues
    involving the United States and our Pacific partners. "There were
    bugs placed in over 300 locations," says a high-level source with
   detailed knowledge about the extraordinary top-secret operation run
     by the FBI in conjunction with intelligence personnel from the
        National Security Agency, or NSA, and the Office of Naval
                    Intelligence, among many others.
   . . . . "Just about every single room was bugged," according to the
    high-level source who spoke to Insight on condition of anonymity.
   "Vehicles were bugged," as were telephones and conference centers.
   Even a charter-boat trip arranged by the president to Blake Island,
    a 475-acre state park in the Puget Sound, was monitored by agents
                   with electronic-listening devices.
        . . . . The top-secret bugging operation was massive and
      well-coordinated. And the only reason it has come to light is
     because of concerns raised by high-level sources within federal
     law-enforcement and intelligence circles that the operation was
   compromised by politicians -- including mid- and senior-level White
      House aides -- either on behalf of or in support of President
    Clinton and major donor-friends who helped him and the Democratic
        National Committee, or DNC, raise money. A quid pro quo?
      . . . . If the allegations of a massive, secret eavesdropping
         operation and leaks of information from that project by
   presidential aides prove true, then the White House will have a lot
     of explaining to do. So will the DNC and people involved in the
     reported clandestine plot who subsequently gained knowledge of
          suspected White House leaks but chose not to launch a
                       national-security inquiry.
    . . . . The FBI was not happy with many aspects of the operation,
    according to the sources -- especially so when agents discovered
        the leaks. Complaints were brought within the bureau but,
              apparently, got nowhere. That is, until now.
     . . . . The White House and the DNC deny the charges, let alone
      admit that such a secret intelligence operation was conducted
   against the heads of government gathered for the trade conference.
   The NSA and the National Security Council, or NSC, won't respond to
   questions about such an operation or any similar operation, Insight
    sources in and out of government have confirmed. Neither will the
        FBI nor the Defense Department comment. The CIA and other
                   intelligence agencies are mum, too.
   . . . . Besides the revelation of the Seattle operation, Insight's
   sources say that information collected by the project's "monitors"
     was shared with people outside of national-security circles and
    involved proprietary data on oil and hydroelectric deals in Asia,
      including Vietnam. "I was told that information was passed to
      attorneys working for the DNC" who were involved directly and
    indirectly with large business ventures overseas, says one of the
     sources, who adds that one of the couriers was alleged to be a
                       mid-level White House aide.
            . . . . Such startling revelations about domestic
      intelligence-gathering and allegations of leaks for political
    purposes certainly will become a cause célèbre for investigators
    now probing campaign fund-raising abuses by the DNC and the White
   House. "You get me the name of a person who will talk about this to
      us," says one senior congressional investigator contacted by
           Insight, and Congress will get to the bottom of it.
    . . . . Insight's sources say that besides worry about the damage
    caused by one of the largest eavesdropping operations mounted on
   American soil in U.S. history -- it allegedly included video, audio
   and telecommunications equipment -- U.S. intelligence experts also
   worry about the effects potential leaks of private conversations by
      heads of state and top ministers may have had on business and
                    political deals around the globe.
    . . . . Beyond the tawdry politicizing of this alleged operation,
     the very nature of such an intelligence undertaking on American
    soil comes as no great surprise. The surprise is in the detailed
    information about the clandestine operation that reached Insight.
    "No reputable government official would discuss it" with you, an
    astonished senior intelligence official said privately when asked
                               to comment.
   . . . . But clandestine snooping on a grand scale is familiar stuff
    in the Washington area. It is a widely known secret that the NSA
    has a system known as ECHELON by which the government can -- and
      routinely does -- intercept E-mail, fax, telex and telephone
      communications. Designed primarily for nonmilitary targets --
     including governments, businesses and individuals -- the system
   steals communications internationally, says John Pike, the director
     of cyberstrategy projects at the Washington-based Federation of
                          American Scientists.
      . . . . "I assume that it is all being monitored with keyword
   scanning," Pike says. "They throw away almost all of the stuff they
      collect. But they have that watch list for names and they are
    working on voice-recognition software and that's going to be the
    big thing in the future." Such technology is used jointly by NSA
    and its allies as a "creative" means to avoid court orders, Pike
    . . . . In 1992, a year before the alleged bugging of the Seattle
   conference, a group of agents for GCHQ, the British counterpart of
    the NSA, blasted ECHELON. "We feel we can no longer remain silent
       regarding that which we regard to be gross malpractice and
      negligence within the establishment in which we operate," the
    intelligence agents told the London Observer. The British agents
    claimed the NSA even helped intercept communications from Amnesty
   International and Christian Aid. Asked about ECHELON, the NSA says,
                  "We have no information to provide."
     . . . . Given all this snooping, there is little wonder that a
    worldwide market has developed for impenetrable encryption, which
   also could curb identity theft -- stealing Social Security numbers
     and credit cards. "It's the reason I can't make any money on my
     World Wide Web site," Pike says. "People, for better or worse,
       don't trust the Internet. What we need is strong encryption
    available to everybody. Yes, it's going to cramp the style of the
   folks at the Puzzle Palace [NSA], but a life more difficult at NSA
    means life is easier for the rest of the planet. The benefits of
    promoting global Internet commerce outweigh the harm to the NSA."
       . . . . But, of course, exporting sophisticated encryption
   technology is prohibited, and everything bureaucratically possible
      is being done to restrict its widespread dissemination in the
                       United States and overseas.
       . . . . Mike Godwin, an attorney with the California-based
     Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the government is afraid.
      "Encryption is frightening to the government because it makes
     transactions hard to trace. We have the technology to shift the
      balance back to the 19th century, where you could be certain
    someone was not listening outside of your house. But you can't be
                             certain today."
    . . . . Indeed you can't. Apparently not even at an international
       conference of world leaders hosted on American soil by the
         president of the United States. Worse still, under this
      administration it may even be that the electronic pockets of
        America's top security agencies are not safe from gumshoe
    counterspies who, for reasons of politics or money, deliver vital
       information gained from snooping and otherwise to political
    operatives eager to trade it for contributions from international
        corporate operators or whomever is paying the most today.
    . . . . It is because of such concerns that bipartisan members of
    Congress -- including nervous Democrats -- publicly and privately
        are stepping up their demands for an independent-council
     appointment to probe campaign abuses. It seems likely that more
    calls for probes soon will be heard. And questions about what the
     FBI knows, as well as the Secret Service, may lead to yet more
                          astonishing answers.
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