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Don Keyser, Taiwan's Top Spy
Donald Keyser Taiwan Top Spy Guilty

Why is Taiwan's top spy being let off the hook?

It is hard to believe that his actions resulted in no damage to USA national security.

Will Americans ever know whether Don Keyser compromised or damaged American interests in East Asia?

Update VI: After years of legal wrangling, Donald Keyser, former number two in Colin Powell's State Department, was sentenced January 23, 2007, and will get a year (and a day) in jail for passing TOP SECRET documents to Taiwan agents and causing undisclosed damage to American interests.

State Department's Press Release.

Update V: The US Government has now dropped its charges of espionage. Sentencing scheduled for Febuary 2007. Update at the blog.

Update IV: Josh Gerstein now reveals that Taiwan is no longer cooperating with the Keyser espionage investigation and is attempting to get back the documents agent Isabelle Cheng gave the FBI. The hearing on reversing Keyser's plea is scheduled for next month (November 2006).

Update III: It seems only the conservative New York Sun with its ties to American Enterprise Institute, etc., is following the Keyser story. Some interesting tidbits in staff reporter Josh Gerstein's latest dispatch of August 15.

No one should take seriously any of the so-called China "experts" involved after all this blows over. It will be interesting to see whether John Tkacik, for example, will still get prominent editorial space to spew his Red China scare line. And Keyser should escape jail because he helped "save" Harry Wu?!

UPDATE II: Don Keyser's sentencing, delayed for the fourth time, was to be decided June 23 but was delayed yet again by the prosecution led by David Laufman (President George Bush's nominee to be Inspector General of the Defense Department) which intends to present classified information that will elevate the Keyser proceedings to an "espionage-related case."

But the details of the charges will not be made public as the prosecution's brief and the hearing scheduled for no later than August 9 will be in secret.

Bogota (Colombia) born Judge T. S. Ellis III indicated that if differences ensue -- and most likely they will as Keyser is represented by former President Bill Clinton's Assistant Attorney General Robert Litt, currently a partner at DC heavyweight law firm Arnold & Porter -- the case could drag on indefinitely. Sadly, perhaps this is the true aim of both sides?

UPDATE The Press Office for the US Attorney has not returned our phone call asking for status on the sentencing that was scheduled for March 24 9:00 EST at the US Federal Courthouse Eastern District, Alexandria, Virginia...

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA December 12, 2005 — In late February 2006 Donald Willis Keyser, former number two at the State Department under Colin Powell, will be sentenced for removing classified documents and making false statements during a top secret security clearance review.

Keyser pleaded guilty to the charges on December 12 at a USA federal court in Virginia. The maximum combined penalties for these offenses are eight years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

There is no mention of espionage by any of the parties concerned which is of course a much more serious crime and punishable by life in prison or even death.

Yet Keyser took top-secret materials from the State Department for twelve years and was observed by the FBI passing documents to foreign intelligence agents of Taiwan on four separate occasions prior to his arrest in September 2004.

In 2000 Keyser was disciplined by then Secretary of State Madeline Albright for the loss of a laptop computer containing top-secret information on weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

A laptop containing classified materials was found by the FBI when they searched Keyser's house. In total the FBI found 3,600 top secret and "secure compartmented information" documents in Keyser's possession.

After his initial arrest, Keyser was released on $500,000 bond (conveniently matching the possible fines) and free to return to the roomy McMansion in a secluded leafy neighborhood in Fairfax, Virginia, that he shares with his fourth wife (a CIA employee) provided he wear an electronic monitoring device. After pleading guilty on December 12 Keyser was again allowed to return home and await sentencing.

Contrast Keyser's treatment to that of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. Lee was held in solitary confinement for almost a year. His very being was smeared by every major news outlet, particularly the New York Times, and vilified by the USA Congress.

But the case against Lee was a sham - a disgraceful display of partisan politics and anti-China hysteria. Not only did Lee never pass any documents to a foreign government, none of the documents he allegedly took were even classified.

Back in the late 1990s when the anti-China Cox Committee led by California Congressmen Christopher Cox (R) was persecuting Wen Ho Lee, it was also investigating whether the defense contractor Loral gave China high technology secrets.

The possibility that American technology and nuclear "secrets" were given to the Red Chinese was considered a national disaster by the Cox Committee and all its supporters in government and in the press. Internet websites (at the time a new phenomenon) spread the word that Clinton sold out America to China for campaign cash.

For example, Joseph Farah, producer of the World Net Daily website, declared that "treason" and "traitor" were not strong enough words to describe what Clinton and Loral had done to America and the scandal was "unlike any other in American history."

America survived the "crisis" and today Christopher Cox is President Bush's head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the World Net Daily is part of an army of online apologists for Bush administration policies.

Coincidentally, Keyser's attorney, Robert Litt of Arnold & Porter, was Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Clinton and gave more than one deposition in the Loral inquiries. In a bizarre twist, Keyser was briefly a Senior Inspector at the Office of Inspector General during this period.

A sure sign of the insidious interconnection between governments and press in Washington, DC, the husband of the Taiwan agent (Isabelle Cheng) Keyser passed documents to and secretly met in Taipei in 2003, is an American reporter for the Taiwan newspaper The China Post. He is currently listed on the USA Senate's press membership roll and reports often (and often critically) about China.

Isabelle Cheng's boss, Lieutenant General Huang Kuang-hsun (the other agent Keyser gave documents) was until very recently the deputy head of the National Security Bureau, Taiwan's "CIA." He told a reporter for Taiwan's state-owned news agency that his government handed over to the USA the records of Keyser's meetings with Taiwan agents during the FBI investigation.

Keyser's career was marked not just by top appointments but also spanned crucial periods in USA-China-Taiwan relations.

Keyser learned Mandarin Chinese on Taiwan from 1968 to 1970 during the most tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. He first worked in China proper back in 1976 when the capital was still called Peking and there was no US embassy. From that point until 1992 he was back and forth between Beijing and Tokyo holding ever more important posts. In the pivotal year 1989, the same year Keyser graduated from the National War College, he was back in Beijing. Whether he was there before or after the Tiananmen Square uprising is not known as of this writing.

Keyser was trained in and exposed to the highest levels of American foreign policy for over thirty years. He analyzed Chinese, Japanese, American political affairs and had access to top secret classified materials – which he stole for twelve years – and passed materials to foreign agents of a country that the USA has no official relations with.

It is hard to believe that this is not considered espionage. It is hard to believe that his actions resulted in no damage to USA national security.

So why is Taiwan's top spy being let off the hook? Will Americans ever know whether Don Keyser compromised or damaged American interests in East Asia? Or after he is sentenced on February 24 will the whole business be swept under a rug and forgotten?

©2005 Ben Calmes for Sinomania!

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