Weapon Sales – From John Huang to the Middle East Thanks to the Clintons

Weapon Sales – From John Huang to the Middle East

Charles R. Smith
Monday, Aug. 19, 2002

Documents Detail Clinton Commerce Role in Fighter Jet Sale to the United Arab Emirates

The Bush administration has finally released a batch of Freedom of Information documents after initially refusing to do so. The newly declassified documents cover information acquired by a top member of the Clinton administration convicted of criminal activity.

The batch of documents details the export of advanced F-16 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. In an Aug. 5, 2002, letter, the Department of Commerce defended its “advocacy” of U.S. arms but failed to explain the role of convicted Chinagate figure and DNC fundraiser John Huang in the sales of such weapons.

In fact, the Commerce Department’s written defense of its role inside global arms sales appear confused and contradicts the documented evidence.

“BIS [Bureau of Industry and Security] advocates on behalf of U.S. companies involved in foreign procurements of defense articles, including arms. This advocacy only occurs after the United States government had decided to approve an arms export if the U.S. company wins the foreign procurement,” states the August 2002 Commerce Freedom of Information reply letter.

“DOC [Department of Commerce] plays no role in the approval of any defense articles or services under either the Department of State’s arms licensing process or the Department of Defense’s FMS [Foreign Military Sales] program,” states the 2002 Commerce reply.

Clinton, Gore and Daley Sell F-16 Jets to the Middle East

One document released by Commerce illustrates the role of the Clinton Commerce Department in an F-16 fighter jet sale to the United Arab Emirates. According to a 2000 memo for Commerce Secretary Daley, the department appears to have had a great deal to do with the sale of jet fighters to the U.A.E.

“On 12 May 1998 President Clinton, Vice President Gore, His Highness UAE Crown Prince Khalifa, and Secretary Daley participated in a White House ceremony announcing the selection of Lockheed Martin as the winner of the UAE combat fighter competition. The award was for up to 80 F-16 fighter aircraft and is worth $6 billion,” notes the 2000 memo for Commerce Secretary Daley.

While the Commerce Department claims that the fighter jet sale was already approved, the Commerce 2000 memo notes quite clearly that the arms deal was far from being final. In fact, in 1999 the U.S. government had not approved the F-16 sale to the UAE. “However, although the UAE agreed to buy the fighters, a final contract has not yet been signed largely because of U.S. national disclosure policy on some of the key software involved in the electronic warfare systems of the aircraft,” states the memo to Commerce Secretary Daley.

“U.S. policy has consistently denied the release of the software to any foreign nation. Government to government discussion on disclosure of these key codes are ongoing. In early September 1999 most technology release issues were resolved although contract negotiations continue,” noted the memo.

Sale Not Final Because of Israel

According to Commerce Department documents, the export issues involved in selling advanced jet fighter were not resolved before Commerce Secretary Daley helped His Highness UAE Crown Prince Khalifa sign on the dotted line. One document found in the office of John Huang explains quite clearly what was holding the final approval of the arms sale to the UAE.

“There are potential obstacles in the selection of a U.S. aircraft due to technology transfer/releasability concerns. As with the export of any sophisticated defense article, countries seek to leverage maximum technology transfer from the U.S. The U.S. also seeks to maintain a qualitative technological edge over any product that is exported by the U.S.,” states a 1995 memo found in the convicted Chinagate figure’s office.

“Accordingly, the UAE is seeking aircraft sub-systems in the areas of electronic warfare systems, communications equipment, and weapons that are not releasable at this point. This is due to regional stability [maintaining the qualitative military advantage of Israel] and national disclosure policy [systems and equipment which is to be utilized by the U.S. only],” noted Huang’s document.

The UAE contract is worth up to $6.4 billion and includes 55 single seat and 25 two-seat versions of the Block 60 F-16. The F-16 fighters for the UAE are designed to counter Russian made SA-10 and SA-12 surface-to-air missiles now being offered to Middle East customers.

U.S. Air Force and Navy officials admit that the Falcons sold to the UAE are more advanced than any aircraft currently operated by American armed forces. Deliveries of the advanced strike aircraft to the UAE are scheduled to begin in 2004.

Chinagate Figure Had Details of F-16 Sale

Ironically, all these details were available to John Huang. In fact, convicted DNC fundraiser John Huang had access to highly classified materials during his stay at the U.S. Commerce Department.

Curiously, Huang cited his Fifth Amendment rights over 2,000 times before pleading guilty to minor campaign violations. Huang took the Fifth Amendment more than 2,000 times when asked if he was an agent of the Chinese military.

Despite 37 classified briefings by the CIA, which later noted in congressional testimony that some of the material given to Huang could endanger the lives of field agents, the Reno-led Department of Justice and the Freeh-led FBI refused to investigate the Chinagate figure’s possible espionage activities.

For example, files found in the offices of John Huang detail exports of Patriot missiles to South Korea, Apache attack helicopters to Holland, 155 mm artillery to Kuwait and F-16 fighter jet sales to the UAE. Huang, however, was not a member of the Commerce Department’s Bureau for Export Administration, the predecessor of today’s Commerce Department Bureau for Industry and Security.

How Huang obtained these documents and why he was involved in arms sales remains unanswered, but it is clear that U.S. defense contractors sought Commerce Department help with foreign sales prior to any approval by the Defense Department or State Department.

Patriot Missile Sale to South Korea

For example, the missile documents found in the files of John Huang contain details of a Nov. 3, 1994, meeting requested by Raytheon, the U.S. manufacturer of the Patriot surface-to-air missile. In an October 1994 letter to Sue Eckert of the Commerce Department, Richard Elliot of the legal offices of Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton and Garrison, noted that Raytheon requested and obtained the meeting the Commerce Department.

“Thank you for agreeing to host a meeting with representatives of Raytheon at 2:30 pm next Thursday, November 3,” wrote Elliot to Commerce’s Eckert.

“As we discussed, the purpose of the meeting is to brief you and other Commerce Department officials concerning Raytheon’s efforts to sell the Patriot missile system to South Korea. Needless to say, we would like to request Commerce Department support for these efforts – and, in particular, for accelerated South Korean procurement of the Patriot,” noted the memo.

Elliot also included an attachment of Patriot missile data for Huang, including “Coalition” military tactical information on North Korean offensive missiles and “U.S. Army analysis” of South Korean defenses. According to a Raytheon attachment, titled “Modernization of South Korean Air Defense,” South Korea has no defense against a North Korean missile attack.

“The North Korean threat consists primarily of high performance aircraft, cruise missiles and an extensive family of tactical ballistic missiles. The SCUD tactical ballistic missiles deployed by North Korea are a serious threat to all populated areas and industrial areas and military forces in South Korea,” states the Raytheon documentation.

Shift Weapon Sales to Defense and State

During the Clinton years, the U.S. Congress removed some of the powers wielded by the Commerce Department after it was found the agency had exceeded its authority in approving exports of advanced missile technology to China. Today, space-launch and satellite-technology exports are rightly under control of the State and Defense departments.

Congress should consider taking the same steps with the Commerce Department claims over arms sales around the globe. Commerce advocacy for U.S. defense firms provides little more than another avenue for foreign nationals to press advanced technology weapons sales under circumstances best left to the experts at the Defense Department and the State Department.


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