Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Clinton braced for spy fallout
The report says China has information on every US nuclear weapon
The Clinton administration is bracing itself for the release of a Congressional report expected to accuse China of systematically stealing US nuclear secrets while the White House did little to stop it.
The report, due for release on Tuesday (1430 GMT), is thought to have the potential to cause as much damage to the Clinton presidency as many fear has already been done to America's defence interests.
"Thefts almost certainly continue to the present," a copy of the report, leaked to the Associated Press (AP) news agency, is quoted as saying.
The three-year investigation, led by Republican Congressman Christopher Cox, concludes that despite high-level knowledge of the leaks, little was done to tighten control on sensitive information, and security still falls short of minimal standards.
It adds that two land-based and one submarine-based weapon system have the capability to reach the US mainland, and China may be able to begin a device later this year.
Many analysts say the case appears to be the most serious breach of nuclear security since the Soviet Union stole atom bomb secrets in the 1940s.
Earlier this year, Mr Clinton said during his time in office no one had told him of suspected nuclear espionage.
BBC Washington Correspondent Tom Carver says the fact that this sort of espionage appears to have been going on for so long is a damning indictment of America's ability to protect its secrets.
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is expected to announce a series of disciplinary measures against staff within the next few days.
But there are growing calls for more senior heads to roll, including that of Attorney General Janet Reno.
She is under fire for refusing to authorise FBI requests for a communications tap on Taiwanese-born scientist Wen Ho Lee.
Sacked from his position at the Los Alamos weapons research laboratory, he is suspected of passing nuclear secrets to Beijing, although he has not been charged with any crime.
Senior Republicans have labelled Ms Reno's handling of the case as "indefensible". She says she is staying put.
According to AP, the report also picks out two US companies - Loral and Hughes Aircraft - which went "outside the scope" of their export licences to provide China with information, helping to improve the reliability of nuclear missiles.
It says China may have set up around 3,000 "front companies" to act as conduits for technology used in the development of advanced weapons.
About a third of the report will remain classified, as the information is considered too sensitive for release.