Return to

March 9, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

Sutter criticized
The director of the FBI's Washington Field Office has rebuked former CIA analyst Robert Sutter for his recent refusal to help the FBI better understand China's intelligence activities.

Joseph Persichini Jr., assistant FBI director in charge of the Washington office, told reporters and editors of The Washington Times last week that the FBI continues "reaching out" to many members of the community for information as part of its counterintelligence program.

Asked about negative comments made by Mr. Sutter regarding the FBI, Mr. Persichini said: "That's his personal opinion, and he's just one person in a community of thousands."

Mr. Sutter said in an e-mail to a group of China affairs specialists that he met with two FBI counterintelligence agents who sought his help in learning about Chinese intelligence-gathering activities.

"I told the agents that while they seemed like nice people and I tried to be cooperative with the U.S. government, I could not trust them or have any assurance that they would not use any information I provided in some way that would hurt me or others," he said.

Mr. Sutter said he was upset by the FBI "sting" of former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ron Montaperto, who pleaded guilty in June to illegally withholding classified information and admitted as part of a plea deal that he improperly passed both "top secret" and "secret" intelligence to two Chinese military-intelligence officers.

Mr. Persichini said the FBI will continue to seek information from multiple sources and will continue to request help from other academics and specialists.

Regarding Mr. Sutter, he said: "It's sad that he has that opinion, but I don't believe it is widespread."

China chat group
U.S. government policy and intelligence officials who are part of a private China affairs Internet group, which includes former CIA analyst Robert Sutter, are being advised to stop sending e-mails to the group amid concerns about disclosures of classified information.

The chat group in the past had been called "Chinasec," short for China security. Participants say it has sought to promote two themes: Use group members' contacts with reporters at the New York Times, The Washington Post and other press outlets to manipulate coverage and discussion of China's growing military activities, and to obtain sensitive or classified information and tips from the approximately 15 members of the group who hold high-level U.S. government security clearances.

One member of the group, a Pentagon employee who held a clearance above the "top secret" level, quit the chat group this week in the aftermath of the exposure in this newspaper of Mr. Sutter's refusal to help the FBI track Chinese spies. The official explained in an e-mail to the group that he could not obtain official authorization for future e-mail discussions.

The defense official warned other officials and contractors who are members of the chat group that if they, too, hold top-secret clearances they can be penalized for continuing to participate.

The official explained that the deputy secretary of defense several years ago sent a memorandum to all officials with access to secrets stating that it is a criminal security violation to discuss work-related matters on an unclassified Internet chat group.

A similar CIA-related chat group was disbanded several years ago amid concerns about disclosures of classified information.

China's intelligence service is known to be among the most aggressive at collecting intelligence electronically from such forums, mainly through sympathetic group members who have frequent contacts with Chinese nationals.

The group's moderator, Michael Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment, could not be reached for comment.

Among the chat group's participants is Dennis Wilder, a CIA analyst who is currently the senior National Security Council staff director for Asia. Mr. Wilder in April posted an insider's account of President Bush's summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Acting National Intelligence Officer for East Asia Lonnie Henley also is a participant.

Another frequent contributor is Chris Clarke, currently the head of China affairs at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Mr. Clarke has posted reports on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and critical comments of U.S. government reporting from Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Other group postings have sought to play down the significance of the Jan. 11 anti-satellite weapons test by China, and some were critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her tough views of China.

One participant, Evan Medeiros of the Rand Corp., recently was cautioned by other group members for posting a sensitive e-mail that appeared to be based on a CIA file.

Several former CIA China specialists have been known to post to the group from their contractor offices, often surrounded by classified documents on their desks.

According to one U.S. official, Mr. Swaine recently rejected a U.S. government request to provide information on former group member Ron Montaperto, who pleaded guilty to espionage-related charges in June.

Montaperto had made hundreds of postings over the 12-year history of the group. Some members now advocate that all e-mail posting files be destroyed rather than maintained at the Carnegie Endowment.

Al Qaeda in Pakistan
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said this week that terrorists linked to al Qaeda and the ousted Taliban are regrouping and working inside Pakistan.

"The Taliban and al Qaeda have been able to use the areas around particularly North Waziristan to regroup, and it is a problem," Mr. Gates told reporters. "We are working together with Pakistan to address that problem."

It was the first official confirmation that U.S. and allied forces are stepping up operations in the remote region of Pakistan, which is well known for being a hide-out for al Qaeda and Taliban forces that are using the rugged area for training.

Petraeus on the enemy
Army Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I), said recently in a message to troops that the fight to stabilize Iraq is difficult.

"The enemies of Iraq will shrink at no act, however barbaric," he said. "They will do all that they can to shake the confidence of the people and to convince the world that this effort is doomed. We must not underestimate them."

The Feb. 10 letter was sent to the "soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians" of the MNF-I.

In his first meeting with reporters, Gen. Petraeus also said progress is being made at stopping deadly improvised explosive devices.

"There have been successful operations to both locate car bomb factories and destroy them," he told reporters yesterday in Baghdad.

Also, troops recently found a cache of 140 "explosively formed penetrators" deadly armor-piercing bombs during sweeps in Baghdad, along with nearly 100 caches of bombs and components in the area during the past two weeks.

Some terrorist cells also have been broken up and terrorists detained, he said.

Gen. Petraeus is optimistic the war against the insurgency eventually will be won and he also thinks Iraqis can "put the good of Iraq ahead of personal agendas and sectarian interests."

  • Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    2006 Columns
    2007 Columns
    Return to