A Republican leader in the House is accusing the Obama administration of violating a federal law designed to protect America’s most sensitive technological secrets from the Red Chinese. The most extreme of Obama’s czars, Science Czar John P. Holdren, so flagrantly violated the law that a one-sided Justice Department legal memorandum drawn up to exonerate him said it could defend “most, if not all” of his actions.
According to Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf, the offense took place when Holdren attended the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) on May 9-10. Holdren, who heads the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), took nine OSTP employees to the meeting, where they admit they met with representatives of the People’s Republic of China. This violates section 1340 of the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, a funding bill Congress passed earlier this year to avoid a federal shutdown.
Wolf is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and an outspoken advocate for human rights in China. He authored the provision, which prohibits OSTP or NASA from collaborating with the PRC, because he rightly believes China’s burgeoning space program benefits the long-range plans of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The relevant section of the law states:
None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division.
Despite the clear statutory language, nine OSTP employees participated in the S&ED with their Chinese counterparts, costing the agency $3,500. Wolf said their participation constitutes “blatant disregard for the law.”
A howling Wolf requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) offer its legal opinion on the matter. On October 11, the GAO ruled, “we conclude that OSTP’s use of appropriations to fund its participation in the Innovation Dialogue and the S&ED violated the prohibition in section 1340.” In fact, the GAO found OSTP violated two laws; by spending funds that were not available to it, the agency also broke the Anti-Deficiency Act.
As a sign of this administration’s growing contempt for the rule of law, the government did not attempt to hide its wrongdoing; it simply said the lawbreaking is none of your business.
The GAO noted, “OSTP does not deny that it engaged in activities prohibited by section 1340.” Instead, Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz wrote a 13-page memo contending that the law is “unconstitutional,” since it infringes upon “the President’s constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States.” Besides, “Most, if not all, of the activities of the Office of Science and Technology Policy that we have been asked to consider fall within the President’s exclusive power to conduct diplomacy.”
The wording “most, if not all,” piqued reporters’ curiosity. When the Washington Examiner asked the Justice Department whether this wording deliberately implied not all of Holdren’s actions were legally defensible, OSTP spokesman Rick Weiss refused to comment.
For its part, the GAO acknowledges it does not test the constitutionality of laws, but stated this provision “is entitled to a heavy presumption in favor of constitutionality.” And since when is this administration concerned about the Constitution? Not when it is passing ObamaCare, beginning multiple and fruitless wars-by-decree, or writing a passel of executive orders and federal regulations to bypass Congress on everything from amnesty for illegal aliens to discrimination against “transgendered” people.
During tense Congressional hearings in May, Holdren testified he envisions NASA cooperating with China’s space program on a manned mission to Mars. Although Wolf called cooperation with China’s oppressive military “fundamentally immoral,” Holdren said cooperation is welcome since “China is going to be, by 2030, the biggest economy in the world.”
Collaboration with China would represent a breakthrough in Holdren’s mind. Seitz’s memo describes Holdren as “an accomplished scientist with a distinguished résumé who serves as the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology…it would be reasonable for the President to conclude that the prestige associated with Dr. Holdren’s official titles and qualifications may assist the United States in achieving its diplomatic goals.” By designating him for these talks, she claims, Obama signaled “the priority the United States attaches to science and technology policy in its international relationships.”
In reality, Holdren is a globalist and socialist. A self-described “neo-Malthusian,” Holdren has written he supports the creation of a “comprehensive planetary regime” to redistribute wealth, control all the world’s natural resources, and set appropriate population levels for each nation. His proposal would demand the U.S. government transfer $1.43 to $2.86 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Third World countries every year for several decades. This plan could also include “laws requiring compulsory abortion” for American women.
Such sentiments cast a new light on Vice President Joseph Biden’s comments in August that he was “not second-guessing” China’s one-child policy and hoped the two nations could “learn together” how to control expenditures on human needs.
Among the issues Holdren discussed with his Chinese counterparts was “cooperation on clean energy, energy security, climate change, and environment.” The GAO notes “the Director spoke on multiple occasions, including on climate science.”
That is, the Obama administration violated the law to promote the international Green agenda. Obama boasted to a UN gathering in 2009, “we have put climate at the top of our diplomatic agenda.” That he has. One of Nancy Pelosi’s few redeeming qualities was her hardline stand on Chinese human rights, but when she visited Beijing in the summer of 2009, she largely restricted herself to fecklessly hectoring the PRC to reduce its carbon footprint, insisting “protecting the environment is a human rights issue.”
Thankfully, some House Republicans believe the rule of law trumps globalist eco-dreams. Rep. John Culberson, R-TX, put Holdren and Obama on notice during Congressional hearings in May:
The president just signed into law an absolute, iron-clad, and unambiguous requirement that none of the funds be made available to the administration may be used by NASA or your office…[to carry out] a bilateral policy with China or any Chinese-owned company. It’s not ambiguous or confusing. But you’ve just told us that you have embarked on a policy to evade and avoid this very specific requirement.
You need to remember that Congress enacts these laws and it’s the chief executive’s job to enforce them…Now if anyone in your office, or at NASA, participates or collaborates or coordinates in any way with China, you’re in violation of the statute. And frankly, you’re endangering your funding and NASA’s funding…and it’s up to the chairman and this committee to decide how to enforce the law or what remedies are available…You have a huge problem on your hands. Huge.
Holdren told the committee he believes he has the right to conduct certain talks, law or no law, but he also understands OSTP cannot conduct certain other functions. He refused to specify any activity he could not undertake but promised he will “be reviewing them on a case-by-case basis.” He added, “I’m not a lawyer.”
Holdren’s irresponsible attempts to bypass the law could have real implications for U.S. interests. Wolf correctly observed, “There is no reason to believe that the PLA’s space program will be any more benign than the PLA’s recent military posture.” Larry M. Wortzel of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in a 2007 paper:
Space warfare will be an integrated part of battle planning by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in any future conflict. One of the major proponents of integrated space power for the PLA, Major General Cai Fengzhen, believes that “control of portions of outer space is a natural extension of other forms of territorial control,” such as sea or air control. More seriously, because of American superiority in space, China’s military theorists treat the United States as the most likely opponent in that domain of war.(Emphasis added.)
The same year the Defense Department affirmed China’s space programs “have significant implications for anti-access/area denial in Taiwan Strait contingencies and beyond.” Additionally, the PRC has a “multi-dimensional program to generate the capability to deny others access to outer space.”
China has been a serial violator of intellectual property rights, treating joint ventures such as the Obama administration’s proposed collaboration as a means of acquiring foreign know-how. Yet this administration appears unready to counter such malign intentions. Michael Griffin, the NASA Administrator under George W. Bush, wrote, “without a more robust counterintelligence capability, we stand to lose more than we would gain.”
Some local politicians view this cooperation as a welcome source of foreign cash during an economic downturn. Paul Markowski of Global Strategies-Analysis Group/MES Advisers said states eager to court PRC investments need to ask themselves: “So, the Chinese are going to put some money in here, but are they going to take away our industry and bring it back home? Are they going to steal our technology and put our companies out of business?”
The Sino-American talks are little better when conducted legally. Derek Scissors of the Heritage Foundation has observed S&ED is not transforming China into a democratic republic; it is making America more like the PRC. “This old game has a new flavor: taxpayers should fork over more so America can keep pace with China,” he writes. “Billions should be spent on wind turbines that generate relatively little energy, because China is doing the same. Massive high speed rail lines that few will use must be built, because China is doing so.” Indeed, this was the genesis of the ongoing Solyndra scandal.
Their illegality should inspire action. Wolf is threatening to cut OSTP’s $6.6 million budget by 55 percent. He has authored a bill to extend the ban through next year, but scientists on both sides of the globe expect nothing to change regardless of whether the provision passes. After all, says Mu Rongping of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, such bilateral cooperation is “important and necessary for both countries, not just for China.”
Congress should be calling for Holdren’s ouster both for his disregard for the law and his ideological extremism. It should also demand to know precisely who gave this non-lawyer the green light to to go Red China. It seems likely the president himself instructed an all-too-eager Holdren to violate a law he signed to the end that the Chinese army not be deprived of sensitive intellectual property. Such lawbreaking is not only unconscionable but perilous. It cannot be tolerated without lowering the historic standards of liberty this nation was created to guarantee.