The very heart of the darkness is the Soviet Union and from that heart comes a different sound. It is the whirring sound of machinery and the whisper of the computer technology we ourselves have sold them.

—Ronald Reagan. Speech to the Fourth Annual Conservative Political Action Conference, February 6, 1977.

Tyrannies are unable to harness the creative genius of man. It follows that the free world has nothing to fear so long as it does not transfer advanced technology to despotic countries. Yet this is what has happened time and time again. China’s rapid adoption of high technology industries, including computer processor manufacturing, aerospace, satellite, and rocket technology, is pregnant with danger for the future.

This process is occurring because the Free World is depleting its own advanced manufacturing capacity and technical know-how by transferring production, and even research, to a communist nation. Far tighter controls need to be in place. The transfer of such advanced technical know-how to a large, industrious people, with a long and ingrained culture of despotic rule, is sowing the wind.
It is not unjust to withhold from these people that which they did not invent, and which they do not need to attain maximum prosperity. There is no reason why countries like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan cannot make a living for themselves in all the other industries available to them.

The Free World should not merely prohibit the export of high-end computer processor manufacturing, aerospace, satellite and rocket technologies to countries such as China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, but should also withhold the technology from countries that do not have similar embargoes in place.

Making technology transfer illegal is not enough. Lockheed Martin Corporation, Loral Space and Communications Corporation, Hughes Electronics Corporation, and Boeing Satellite Systems have all pleaded guilty to illegally transmitting technology to China, which has allowed China to improve its rocket technology ( “Two U.S. Aerospace Companies Agree to Fines over Helping China,” New York Times, March 5, 2003.). These cases demonstrate the need for criminal sanctions against the executives and employees involved and regular auditing to verify compliance.

By espionage

The United States used its tremendous wealth to develop the first atomic bomb. However, the results of this stupendous investment were stolen before the first bomb exploded. This was as a result of extreme laxity in the American security measures. During the project, two spies operated with almost complete impunity. One of them was German-born Communist Party member Klaus Fuchs, who was trusted with all the secrets and given no appropriate supervision. The other was Theodore Hall, openly friends with an avowed communist who helped him contact the Soviets during his frequent unsupervised trips to New York. Had Fuchs and Hall been properly vetted or supervised, the Soviets would possibly never have obtained the bomb.

Obviously no lessons were learned, as the Cox Report explained:

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has stolen classified information on all of the United States’ most advanced thermonuclear warheads, and several of the associated re-entry vehicles. These thefts are the result of an intelligence collection program spanning two decades, and continuing to the present. The PRC intelligence collection program included espionage, review of unclassified publications, and extensive interactions with scientists from the Department of Energy’s national weapons laboratories.

The stolen U.S. secrets have helped the PRC fabricate and successfully test modern strategic thermonuclear weapons. The stolen information includes classified information on seven U.S. thermonuclear warheads, including every currently deployed thermonuclear warhead in the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. Together, these include the W-88 Trident D-5 thermonuclear warhead, and the W-56 Minuteman II, the W-62 Minuteman III, the W-70 Lance, the W-76 Trident C-4, the W-78 Minuteman III Mark 12A, and the W-87 Peacekeeper thermonuclear warheads. The stolen information also includes classified design information for an enhanced radiation weapon (commonly known as the ‘neutron bomb’), which neither the United States, nor any other nation, has ever deployed.

In addition, in the mid-1990s the PRC stole from a U.S. national weapons laboratory classified U.S. thermonuclear weapons information that cannot be identified in this unclassified Report. Because this recent espionage case is currently under investigation and involves sensitive intelligence sources and methods, the Clinton administration has determined that further information can not be made public without affecting national security or ongoing criminal investigations.

The W-88 is a miniaturized, tapered thermonuclear warhead. It is the United States’ most sophisticated strategic thermonuclear weapon. In the U.S. arsenal, the W-88 warhead is mated to the D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile carried aboard the Trident nuclear submarine. The United States learned about the theft of the W-88 Trident D-5 warhead information, as well as about the theft of information regarding several other thermonuclear weapons, in 1995. (The Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China released on January 3, 1999.)

There is simply no point in the United States spending trillions of dollars developing defense capability if it is then simply transferred to its enemies by email. By leaking defense secrets like a sieve, the United States endangers the safety not just of its own citizens, but also the rest of the world. It would be safer to leave these weapons undeveloped.

All countries have a duty to humanity not to let the dangerous technology which they bring into existence escape their control. The United States continually breaches this duty. Just as a people who allow themselves to be ruled by a tyrant are collectively responsible for the resultant damage, so too is a country that allows dangerous technology to escape responsible for the consequences. This applies as much to nuclear technology stolen by China as it does to nuclear weapons stolen by Islamic terrorists.

It is extremely foolish to have foreign nationals working in sensitive industries handling data vital to national security. Three examples suffice to demonstrate this:

  1. The Los Alamos nuclear weapons research facility had a Taiwaneseborn Chinese national, Wen Ho Lee, working in its weapons design department for twenty years. Despite being an ethnic Chinese
    nuclear weapons researcher for the United States, he was allowed to travel twice to China during the 1980s, where he was approached to assist the Chinese with their nuclear weapons program. Subsequently he was able to download classified data and move it onto an unclassified network, and from there to a computer connected to the Internet, and from there it was downloaded by a person unknown. Wen Ho Lee pleaded guilty in 2000.

  2. Chi Mak, a Chinese-born naturalized American citizen, was in fact placed by the Chinese as a spy. He worked for defense contractor L3-Communications, which makes command and control electronics, avionics, space, and top secret navy hardware. His security clearance allowed him to steal and transmit to China data on the propulsion systems for the next generation of United States nuclear submarines, data on the advanced Aegis Radar System which is used by Navy ships to track incoming missiles, and data on next-generation stealth ships. He was found guilty in 2007.
  3. Dongfan Chung, a Chinese-born naturalized American citizen, was in fact placed by the Chinese as a spy. He worked for Boeing. His security clearance allowed him to steal and transmit to China data on a phased-array antenna used for radar and communications with the Space Shuttle and the fueling mechanism for the Delta IV space rocket. He was found guilty in 2010.

The way to prevent the Chinese and other suspect regimes from stealing vital data is to prevent their nationals from working in sensitive industries. This may seem insulting to those ethnic groups; however, if they love their adopted country, they will understand that it is for the best. It is not a question of rights—after all the average citizen is also refused access to
classified data—rather, it is a question of securing classified data.

By socialist politicians

After the Second World War, the British voted in a socialist government. The minister of trade, Sir Stafford Cripps, was an avowed Marxist. Accordingly, when the Soviet Union sought technical assistance in building a jet engine, he authorized the transfer of technical specifications and fifty-five of the latest Rolls Royce jet engines (Sunday Times, July 4, 1999.). Those designs and engines represented the state-of-the-art at the time. The Soviets duly reverse-engineered the engines and incorporated them into the MiG-15, which became one of the most produced jet fighter aircraft of all time, constituting the backbone of the Soviet Union’s air force, as well as the air forces of the Warsaw Pact and communist China during the 1950s.

During the Korean War, more than 1,000 American air crew were killed in aerial combat by these engines and even more by its derivatives during the Vietnam War. It was not until 1953, when an enemy pilot defected, that the United States Air Force learned the truth of why the Soviet MiG-15 performed so well. The leakage was responsible for those deaths and for placing the Soviet Air Force in a position where it could challenge NATO air supremacy throughout the Cold War.

The episode emphasizes the need for legislation, rather than executive whim, to determine what technology should and should not be transferred, and to which countries. This will at least allow full and proper debate on the issue and legislative override by the people.

By captured equipment

During the Second World War, three Boeing B-29 Superfortresses made emergency landings in Soviet territory while on bombing missions against the Japanese. The United States asked that they be returned, but this was refused. The Soviets then reverse-engineered the aircraft down to the last bolt and displayed the clone, Tupolev Tu-4 m, in a flyover at a military parade in 1947. This shocked the United States and its allies, as the Soviet Union now had the ability to reach British and American cities with strategic bombers.

In 1958 the United States introduced into combat the superlative AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. This missile, which is still in service today, was at the time a revolutionary step, granting aerial superiority to the side that possessed it. Unfortunately, almost as soon as it was introduced, an unexploded missile lodged in the airframe of a Chinese fighter, and the Soviets soon reverse-engineered the design as the Vympel K-13, which was introduced into service in 1960. During the Vietnam War, the K-13 was responsible for downing over 100 U.S. Air Force aircraft in aerial combat.

Both these examples show that reverse-engineering of captured technology is a very easy way for the enemy to gain restricted technology. As a result, aircrews should be trained to ditch in the sea, or to incinerate their craft on landing. Circuit boards, hard drives, processors, encryption equipment, and the like should be coated in thermite and have various passive and active triggers in place so that tampering or even disconnection causes them to self-destruct.

By negligence

The transfer of sensitive technology also occurs as a result of negligence. Into this category falls the decision, taken by the United States, to allow the launch of U.S. satellites by Chinese rockets. This set the stage for an inevitable leakage of technology from the satellite manufacturing companies. A report prepared for Congress in 2001 noted:

China experienced a number of embarrassing and costly failed satellite launches until 1996. In 1992, a PRC rocket stalled while attempting to launch the Optus-B1 satellite and another rocket exploded and destroyed the Optus-B2 satellite (both built by Hughes). In 1995, a Long March rocket exploded and destroyed the Apstar-2 satellite (built by Hughes). In 1996, another PRC rocket exploded and destroyed the Intelsat satellite (built by Loral). Aside from the dramatic explosions, other problems prevented the PRC rockets from successfully launching satellites into the correct orbits. However, since the launch of a ‘scientific’ satellite on October 20, 1996, China has enjoyed over 20 consecutive, successful satellite launches, raising questions as to whether U.S. technology contributed to this achievement. (CRS Report for Congress, China: Possible Missile Technology Transfers from U.S. Satellite Export Policy – Actions and Chronology, September 5, 2001.)

The national security implications of this are fairly obvious. Until 1996, if China attempted to attack the United States with intercontinental nuclear missiles the chances are they would have blown up in their silos or shortly after takeoff. As a result of the transfers of technology, missiles launched by the Chinese carrying thermonuclear warheads designed by the United States will now find their target.

By hacking

The United States F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, costing $330 billion and counting, is the most costly weapons program in history. Yet despite this, Chinese hackers were able to steal ‘several terabytes’ of data related to its design and electronics systems (Reported in the Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2009.). The entire printed collection of the U.S. Library of Congress is only twenty terabytes, so we may assume that the United States has entirely lost this massive investment to the Chinese even before the first production aircraft has taken off.

The fault belongs to the laxity of the procedures in place. Computers storing critical information should never be connected to the Internet. When it comes to national security, it should be taken for granted that every firewall will be breached, every password stolen, every encryption protocol deciphered. History teaches us that vaunted security protocols will always be broken. The solution is not better firewalls or better encryption; the solution is to ensure that data are never put onto computers near the Internet or capable of transferring data to storage or network devices. Data should be distributed in the same way nuclear weapons are: with an armed guard. Contractors should be required to keep data only on designated, shielded machines which are not capable of being connected to the Internet either directly or indirectly. The data they are given should be limited to need to know and/or salted with misinformation.

By treason

No wise man, therefore, will in any instance of moment trust to the mere integrity of another.

—John Trenchard. Cato’s Letters No. 61, How free Governments are to be framed so as to last, and how they differ from such as are arbitrary, Saturday, January 13, 1722.

Traitors have appeared throughout history and will continue to appear. Samuel Dickstein was a Democrat congressional representative between 1923 and 1945. He served as vice-chairman of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities. In the 1990s researchers discovered documents in the Soviet archives that showed he was a traitor on the payroll of the Soviets between 1937 and 1940. His activity, and those of numerous others before him, like Coriolanus, Arnold, Pétain, Laval, Quisling and Philby, prove that even those who are apparently fierce patriots can at the same time be traitors. Only by treating all persons in sensitive positions as potential traitors is it possible to prevent leakage.


The experience of all ages may convince us, that men, when they are above fear, grow for the most part above honesty and shame.

—John Trenchard. Cato’s Letter No. 61, How free Governments are to be framed so as to last, and how they differ from such as are arbitrary, Saturday, January 13, 1722.

Robert Hanssen was an FBI supervisory special agent,who over a period of twenty-two years gave the Soviet Union and Russia vast quantities of top secret information. After he was caught, instead of being executed he was merely imprisoned. If potential traitors know that the worst punishment they face is no greater than the operator of a Ponzi scheme faces, then they are not being adequately deterred.

It may seem compassionate to punish traitors as though they were common fraudsters, but this is misplaced compassion. What is at stake is not the comfortable retirement of several thousand, rather the nuclear obliteration of potentially hundreds of millions. Any deterrent effect, however minuscule, that can be gained by the imposition of dread punishments is worth having when the stakes are so high.


It is essential that military technology be kept secure. There is no room for political correctness when it comes to safeguarding classified information. Persons with access to classified information should:

  1. Never be trusted;
  2. Not be foreigners;
  3. Not be recently descended from a citizen of a foreign country deemed to be a risk (for example children and grandchildren of Russian or Chinese immigrants should be barred);
  4. Not be gamblers;
  5. Not be alcoholics;
  6. Be subject to intensive initial and ongoing background investigations (any affiliation with communists, fascists, or subversive groups of any kind should disqualify them);
  7. Be secretly observed and later be quizzed about their activities to see if they lie;
  8. Have their whereabouts and finances regularly audited (their house should be randomly inspected, they should be interrogated about their friends and family, their bank accounts, assets, and spending habits should be analyzed to see if they are living beyond their means);
  9. Be forbidden to purchase goods except directly from their disclosed bank accounts;
  10. Be required to keep a GPS tracking device with them at all times;
  11. In the case of super-sensitive material, be required to live in a closed facility;
  12. Be required to behave and travel in a fashion that enables covert surveillance to eliminate the possibility of clandestine information exchanges;
  13. Be kept isolated from classified information not immediately pertaining to their employment;
  14. Have all their computer activity logged, tracked, and audited for anomalies;
  15. Be separated from other people on the project so each person or team only has access to parts of the project on a need-to-know basis.

Anyone who thinks that such precautions are overkill and that the cost to implement them would be prohibitive does not have the problem of espionage in proper perspective. For example: the $330 billion advantage the Chinese would obtain by getting full specifications for the F-22 and F-35 (if they do not already have them) equates to approximately sixty times the annual budget of the FBI.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove