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MOLLY IVINS Let’s Fire Reno Again! Isee that the Republicans are calling for Janet Reno’s resignation again. Someone once defined professional basketball as watching ten jocks jump in the air every twenty-four seconds. It seems to me Washington is a place where every ten minutes, all the Republicans leap up and demand Janet Reno’s resignation. This time, it’s over the Great Chinese Spy Scandal, which has been reported with such a lack of skepticism that I’m embarrassed on behalf of American journalism. “U.S. Secrets Looted; House Committee Finds that Nuclear Espionage by China Over a 20-Year Period Has Exposed Every Weapon in the Arsenal,” headlined The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “‘Insatiable’ China Stole U.S. Arms Data Arsenal-Wide, Panel Reports,” said The Boston Globe. The Daily Telegraph of Britain a country famous for its superb security added to the festivities with: “Leak of Atomic Secrets `Worst U.S. Lapse Ever.’ And my personal favorite, a commentary from the Los Angeles Times: “Is Clinton Losing China?” Happy days are here again; the Cold War’s bringing cheer again … Nothing better to amuse the press and the populace than a spy scandal featuring inscrutable Orientals. In fairness to the Los Angeles Times \(and The New York Times and a handful of othof skepticism about the contents of the Cox Committee report. And even television news has pointed out the Republican desire to use all this as another club to beat President Clinton about the head. Congressman John Spratt Jr., who served on the committee, said the report “is alarming. But is it accurate? Perhaps not.” Congressman Norm Dicks, ranking Democrat on the committee, said that “the conclusions of the report have been written in a worst-case fashion” in order to impel security improvements at the national weapons labs. It’s certainly clear that Janet Reno should be fired for that. And, as usual, the amorphous American “intelligence community” the bunch that finally noticed Aldrich Ames was driving a purple Jaguar just can’t tell if any of it is true. Maybe, maybe not. It wasn’t seven types of nuclear warheads it was only four, and we no longer use two of them. According to The New York Times’ intelligence sources, assessing which part of China’s nuclear knowledge comes from espionage is like trying to unscramble an egg, because the Chinese also got information from scientific conferences and publications, declassified documents, unautho”Chinese expertise.” Why is it we always assume that other countries’ scientists can’t figure out the same things that American scientists do? As I have pointed out before, many if not most of our important nuclear physicists, starting with Einstein, were from other countries to begin with. Getting our knickers into a twist about Chinese spies is fine as long as what we do about it is beef up our own security. But if we’re going off into one of these self-righteous snits of spy hysteria, count me out. A country that spends between $25 billion and $35 billion a year spying on other countries is not in a position of high moral superiority, and since the last thing we did to the Chinese was bomb their embassy in Belgrade, perhaps it behooves us to be just a trifle discreet in our complaints about them. As you will recall, when our embassies in Africa were bombed, we did not take it calmly. We probably should have fired Janet Reno over that. Meanwhile, poor Wen Ho Lee, the Taiwanese-born American computer scientist who was the first target of the current Chinese spy scare, is looking more and more like a fall guy. They can’t find anything to charge him with because there is no evidence that he passed classified information to the Chinese, intentionally or otherwise. If you read the leaks about the case carefully, you’ll find the leakese equivalent of “oops.” But Newsweek reported: “Though the case against Lee may be crumbling, the Feds appear determined to get him on something. ‘I think the case will just linger and keep spiraling down,’ says one top F.B.I. of ficial. ‘Then we’ll find that he spit on the sidewalk, and we’ll charge him with that.’ It now appears that Lee is guilty of mishandling classified information, but it has been widely reported that many scrutable, white, native-born, clean-cut American scientists have done the very same thing. In fact, John Deutch, former head of the C.I.A., was once investigated because he transferred thirtyone secret C.I.A. files to his unsecure home computer. Oops. Did anyone think to fire Janet Reno over that? The trouble with spy scares, from Titus Oates \(now there was a beauty seventeenth-century English fabricator of conspiracies who sent the entire kingdom into a that they sometimes produce these fits of domestic hysteria that do far more damage than any foreign spies ever could. And we should certainly fire Janet Reno for that. Molly Ivins is a former Observer editor and a columnist for . the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her latest book is You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You. You may write to her via e-mail at [email protected] star-telegram. com . GRAY PANTHERS Join the intergenerational advocates working for single-payer national health care. $20 for individuals, $35 for families. 3710 Cedar, Austin, TX 78705. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. Join the Texas Civil Rights Project $25 a year. Volunteers needed. 2212 E. MLK, Austin, TX 78702. for more information. JUNE 11, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 +ve