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February 13, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

China hand ousted
China specialist Ronald Montaperto, a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst once investigated on suspicion of being a spy for China, has been placed on leave from the Pacific Command's Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, we have learned.

Mr. Montaperto's departure from the Hawaii-based defense think tank was the result of a "personnel action," said a Pacific Command official, who declined to comment further, citing privacy concerns.

Another official said Mr. Montaperto's departure was the result of "security-related concerns."

No other details were available on the circumstances related to the departure. But defense officials tell us Mr. Montaperto recently tried unsuccessfully to regain a position at the National Defense University's Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs.

Mr. Montaperto came under suspicion of being a Chinese spy after a Chinese government official defected to the United States after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. The defector told U.S. intelligence that China had successfully developed five to 10 clandestine sources of information here.

FBI counterspies suspected Mr. Montaperto was one of them when he worked in the DIA's China section. He had developed a close personal friendship with a Chinese major general, Yu Zhenghe, an air attache at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Mr. Montaperto was later cleared by investigators.

One official said Mr. Montaperto may have been dismissed from the Pentagon think tank in Hawaii as part of the expanding counterintelligence investigation of Katrina Leung, a Chinese-American socialite who worked as an FBI informant and who is accused of being a double agent who supplied secret documents to China.

Mr. Montaperto, who was dean of academics at the center, could not be reached for comment.

Rumsfeld on Israel
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fielded questions during his recent visit to Munich where he took part in an annual European security conference.

He was asked about the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel's nuclear weapons. One man identified as a Palestinian noted Israel's nuclear weapons and suggested the United States is worried about Iran and North Korea but is not doing anything about Israel's arsenal.

"You know the answer before I give it, I'm sure," Mr. Rumsfeld replied. "The world knows the answer. We take the world like you find it; and Israel is a small state with a small population. It's a democracy and it exists in a neighborhood. Many, over a period of time, [have] opined from time to time that they'd prefer it not be there and they'd like it to be put in the sea. And Israel has opined that it would prefer not to get put in the sea, and as a result, over a period of decades, it has arranged itself so it hasn't been put in the sea."

Schmidt talks
Air National Guard Maj. Harry Schmidt steadfastly has remained silent ever since the Air Force began investigating him in the "friendly fire" deaths of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Now, Maj. Schmidt is speaking for the first time via a declaration to a military appeals court.

Maj. Schmidt was flying his F-16 over Afghanistan when he mistook flashes of Canadian gunfire for enemy antiaircraft rounds. He dropped a bomb on what he later learned was a training range.

As the Air Force's prosecution slowly moves toward a court-martial, the military judge so far has refused to give Maj. Schmidt's attorney, Charles Gittins, the security clearance he needs to review all the evidence.

This means the prosecution team has tremendous control over what Mr. Gittins can and cannot learn. And, if the pilot wishes to discuss something of a classified nature with his attorney, the prosecutors get to monitor the information.

"In fact, lack of security clearance has rendered my civilian defense counsel, obtained at my own expense, ineffective by allowing the government to limit and control his access to pertinent classified information," Maj. Schmidt wrote in a statement to the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. "Importantly, much of what I need to discuss with my civilian counsel in order to prepare him to represent me on the issues relevant to my trial are classified."

Maj. Schmidt wants the court to delay the trial start in April so it can rule on Mr. Gittins' petition to win a security clearance.

"The Air Force," the pilot states, "has ignored both the request and the regulations on the issue in order to create an atmosphere of control with regards to trial preparation, strategy and discovery of classified materials utilized by the defense and thereby violating the established attorney-client privilege of confidential communications."

The Air Force is making the major's life difficult on still another front.

His military counsel, Maj. James Key, is committed in March with a Guantanamo spy case hearing and cannot participate in preparing for Maj. Schmidt's April trial.

And then, there's this: Maj. Schmidt was playing night soccer in January when he suffered painful injuries: He broke his leg, and ruptured his Achilles and plantaris tendons.

"The soccer was meant as a stress reliever," Mr. Gittins told us.

Maj. Schmidt played varsity soccer at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is the only person the military has moved to court-martial in any of the war on terror's "friendly fire" deaths.

Colombian captured
The United States hopes the recent capture of the guerrilla drug king known as "Sonia" may shed some light on the fate of three Americans held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Sonia (real name Nayibe Rojas) was the cocaine and finance chief in the Caqueta area of southern Colombia.

Said a defense source, "As a senior leader in that region, she is likely aware of where our guys are, disposition of enemy forces, etc. In addition, her capture will put a big dent in the FARC's ability to generate cash from coca."

A new U.S.-trained Colombian special-operations unit has scored a string of successes in recent months as it corners and kills or captures top leaders of FARC, a terrorist organization that indiscriminately kills military personnel and civilians, and deals in the international cocaine trade.

We reported earlier this year that a rescue mission would be next to impossible at this point to rescue three American contractors captured when their plane was shot down. The FARC moves the hostages frequently. At base camps, FARC operators set up multiple rings of defense.

Rummy on Al Jazeera
The U.S. military has believed for months that Al Jazeera, the Arab-language satellite channel, is causing American deaths by inciting violence and spreading lies.

On his recent trip to Europe, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made a complaint:

"We are being hurt by Al Jazeera in the Arab world, there is no question about it, and the quality of the journalism is so outrageous, inexcusably biased, and there is nothing you can do about it, except try to counteract it. And it is happening in that part of the world, and it's a steady drumbeat, and it's hurting. It's causing more people to be against what we're doing, what the coalition is doing. In fact, you could say it causes loss of life. It's causing Iraqi people to be killed."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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