Representative Christopher Cox's high-profile congressional committee alleges that 20 years of spying on the U.S. allowed China to modernize its nuclear arsenal. But on June 10, the Newport Beach Republican endorsed easing U.S. limits on technology sales to the Chinese military.
You read that right: easing.
The U.S. computer industry—upset that export rules limit overseas sales—has been pushing the Clinton administration for more leeway to export more powerful computers, particularly to China, a big and potentially lucrative market. After a meeting with computer-industry leaders last week, Cox rationalized that if the Red Chinese can't buy U.S. computers directly, they'll just buy the same makers' powerful computers in Hong Kong. So he sided with the computer industry and the White House.
But China's purchase of U.S. computers may already have damaged American national security, according to Cox himself. In his commission's three-volume, 872-page report released last month, the Cox committee found "it is possible" that high-powered computers China acquired from U.S. companies have been used "in the design, development and operation of missiles, anti-armor weapons, chemical and biological weapons, and information-warfare technologies." That didn't keep the Cox committee from supporting the continued sale of computers to China "for commercial but not military purposes." But the committee's own report says it's impossible to differentiate the two. Academics and computer-industry experts say Beijing doesn't have to rely on the same high-speed models used by the Pentagon; Chinese scientists can simply link inexpensive hardware purchased from U.S. companies to achieve the performance needed for military applications, the report states.
The committee's weak remedy: comprehensive intelligence reviews of security implications afterhigh technology is exported to China.
As R. Scott Moxley and Anthony Pignataro previously reported in the Weekly ("Cox, Dicks, No Balls," June 4), Cox, "who may be corporate America's biggest congressional mouthpiece," guided his panel away from the role of high-tech companies and toward alleged Chinese spying at two U.S. nuclear-defense laboratories. Oh, and the Cox Clan tied it all up in a bow by kicking Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for apparently receiving campaign contributions traceable to the Chinese government.
Why would Cox downplay the computer industry's possible complicity in the controversy? Here's one possible answer: when it comes to Silicon Valley political contributions, few people collect more than Cox. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Cox ranked No. 7 in contributions during the last election cycle from computer-industry PACs and the securities and accounting firms that serve them (a total of $49,360). He was second in the House during that cycle when it came to contributions from computer company PACs and individuals ($25,998).
According to the Center for Responsive Politics' June 15 "Money in Politics Alert," securities, accounting and high-tech computer firm lobbyists will visit Washington later this month and ask the House Commerce Committee to pass legislation that would shift all securities class-action suits to friendly federal courts.
They'll be greeted by the toothy grin affixed to committee member Cox, whom the center describes as one of two reliable pro-Silicon Valley votes.
Feel free to ask Cox about all of this in his "first major Orange County report on the China investigation" on July 6 at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda. He'll also autograph copies of the report, but only those purchased for $23.50 in the gift shop.