The problem started in April, 1991, with a tape made months earlier by the National Security Agency’s ‘big ears.’ The tape was an intercept of a conversation in Mandarin between a woman in Los Angeles and her Ministry of State Security controller (MSS, China’s intelligence service) in Beijing. The tape landed on the desk of Bill Cleveland, the chief of the Chinese counterintelligence squad in the FBI’s San Francisco office, who had recently returned from an official trip to China. While there, Cleveland had been startled and shaken to see Gwo Bao Min, whom Cleveland had pursued for the past ten years. Min was a former Livermore National Laboratory employee, which was one of two national laboratories in the U.S. that design nuclear weapons.
As shaken as Cleveland had been by this incident, it was only a precursor to the start he received with the NSA intercept. This particular case would ultimately lead to thousands of hours of investigative work involving many FBI agents and individuals from several other agencies. It would smear the careers of two career FBI agents, and lead to the exposure of some of the more unsavory measures to which the U.S. Government will sometimes resort when dealing with their own careerists.
The first few pages start with a bang, but then quickly settles into a lot of necessary background and detail to lay out the complicated matters to come. It isn’t really until a good third of the way through that it picks up. But there’s more than being past the background, details and information that’s foreign to most of the public. It’s also because that’s when it seems that the manifold secrets that seem to be almost hemorrhaging are finally being taken seriously, concertedly and with the brain- and manpower that hadn’t been applied until now.