In response to:

Washington: The Yellow Peril from the July 15, 1999 issue

To the Editors:

The late Peter Braestrup, author of The Big Story, in a moment of candor told me how tough the New York “hothouse literary atmosphere” can be. He was correct. Lars-Erik Nelson [NYR, July 15] launches a name-calling diatribe against Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash. As a native New Yorker I respond.

First, if the leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) makes you feel comfortable, stop reading. Still reading? Good, because the PRC leadership has been responsible for the death of at least 50 million Chinese citizens including the massacre of over 3,500 students in Tiananmen Square 10 years ago. Ignore that point and history will put you in the circle of hell belonging to Holocaust deniers.

Mr. Nelson attacks by name-calling—we are “goofy.” He is correct. Both my daughters often say, “Dad, don’t be so goofy.” However, he is careless with his own facts. “The two authors are a current and a former staff member of the House of Representatives.” Bill Tripplet is the former Chief Counsel of The SENATE Foreign Relations Committee, and currently staff to SENATOR Bennett. This error in D.C. is the equivalent of identifying Lars-Erik Nelson as a columnist for The New York Post (my apologies to the Post).

He calls us “dishonest” with hothouse prose stating, “They work themselves into a dither over the refusal of former Secretary John Dalton, a Clinton appointee, to agree that the Chinese merchant fleet poses a tactical or strategical threat to the US Navy.” But he misquotes. The actual question asked four times by Chairman Solomon of the Rules Committee—is not is there a threat but even a “potential” threat (see letter published in Year of the Rat, p. 193). Dalton said no. That is the equivalent of asking the director of the FBI, if a mob-owned trucking firm is a potential threat to law enforcement and having him say no, absolutely indefensible.

We are accused of not reporting about back doors in the satellites we sell to China designed to compromise their communications thus helping America. Good idea, faulty execution. Tragically, modern encryption technology available to the PRC is just too good; in meetings with the Director of the FBI and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee all agreed to this harsh reality.

He accuses us of being pro-Israel by ignoring Israel as a “major military supplier of China.” As a former USMC fighter pilot and friend of one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force, I trust the judgment of the leaders of Israel more than I trust both Clintons.

Lars-Erik is harsh on The New York Times because we are sources. Since Mr. Nelson raised the issue of sourcing to attack and discredit, it is fair to now state I was called by Lars-Erik for assistance when I was the investigator on the Committee on Rules. I was honored by his call and glad to help.

Now, if Mr. Nelson had only called me before his review I would have again graciously assisted him. Lars-Erik Nelson was an honorable journalist who just got a little lazy and intellectually careless in defending second-rate apologists who twist themselves into pretzels to excuse PRC Communist dictators and their good friend, Bill Clinton. It is sad.

Ed Timperlake
Annapolis, Maryland

Lars-Erik Nelson: replies:

Mr. Timperlake’s complaint about whether the Chinese merchant fleet is a threat or a “potential threat” is mere wordplay. I did not misquote his book. John Dalton’s letter said, “I do not believe that the China Ocean Shipping Company poses a tactical or strategic threat to the US Navy.” In complaining about my alleged misquotation, Timperlake avoids the central issue: his ludicrous claim that Dalton’s letter prevents the Navy from targeting Chinese merchant ships in the event of war. If war breaks out with China, Chinese merchant ships will be at risk, just as the Serbian civilian power grid was at risk during the recent Kosovo conflict even though no secretary of the Air Force would ever have described it as a tactical or strategic threat to the US Air Force.
If, as Timperlake tells us, modern encryption technology is too good to be broken, we may as well abolish the National Security Agency, which intercepts and deciphers foreign communications, as a useless relic. I hear no such suggestion.

To my knowledge, I have never spoken to Mr. Timperlake or used him as a source. Finally, I referred to the book, not its authors, as dishonest and goofy, but I am willing to reconsider my position so that it accords with his interpretation.

This Issue

August 12, 1999