Back in 2002, I got an unexpected phone call from the White House. "Would you be interested in serving as the head of U.S. counterintelligence?" they asked.
The Obama administration may already have placed such a call and picked someone to handle my old job: identifying and stopping other nations' spies. But my successor will have his or her work cut out for them.
In 2003, when I began my three years as the first congressionally mandated national counterintelligence executive (known by the unpronounceable acronym NCIX), Washington seemed ready to transform the fight against foreign espionage into a focused, coherent enterprise. But today, this vital national security mission is on life support.
Think this isn't a big deal? Think again. Most Americans would be astonished to learn how successful foreign intelligence services have been at stealing our national security secrets and threatening our vital interests.
The Chinese stole the design secrets to all -- repeat, all -- U.S. nuclear weapons, enabling them to leapfrog generations of technology development and put our nuclear arsenal, the country's last line of defense, at risk. To this day, we don't know quite when or how they did it, but we do know that Chinese intelligence operatives are still at work, systematically targeting not only America's defense secrets but our industries' valuable proprietary information.