for transcripts of 9/17/00 "60 Minutes" and "Nightline"
Judge Parker concluded that the
government did not have a case. "Lee To Get Hearing, Court
Says," 9/6/00 Newsday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th
Circuit, agreed to set a hearing on September 11 on Wen Ho Lee's request for
In a memorandum
to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Judge Parker wrote that the
government had failed to present convincing arguments for keeping Dr. Lee in
jail until trial on November 6. The judge also wrote he wasn't convinced
that the material Dr. Lee allegedly mishandled were the ''crown jewels'' of U.S.
nuclear technology, as the government contended. Evidently the judge has
reviewed the evidence and has concluded that the material was in the public
domain or not classified secret when Dr. Lee downloaded it. The judge
added that the government ''has never presented direct evidence that Dr. Lee
intended to harm the United States or to secure an advantage for a foreign
nation.' If the prosecutors could not prove these elements, they could not
convict Dr. Lee.
9/5/00 Reuters: "Judge Slams U.S. Government Case Against Scientist"
U.S. District Court Judge James Parker said it was no longer
clear that Lee copied top secret data or acted deviously as alleged by
prosecutors. Parker said the case against Lee now appeared in ``somewhat
mottled shades of gray'' based on testimony in three days of bail hearings last
month and new information from government documents dug up by the defense. He
said the new information raised questions about key allegations in the
government's case, including claims that seven missing computer tapes made by
Lee contained top secret nuclear weapons designs.
``It is no longer indisputable, as the government made it
appear in December 1999, that the missing tapes contain crown jewel information
about the nation's nuclear weapons program,'' Parker wrote in detailing his
reasons for ordering Lee, who has been in solitary confinement since last
released on $1 million bail.
Former Los Alamos colleagues testified that Lee was ``naive''
and may have simply been foolish in making the tapes.
The judge also noted the government in July acknowledged Lee
may have been copying data to bolster his chances of getting an overseas job and
that an FBI agent recanted allegations that Lee lied to another scientist about
using his computer. ``This suggests that Dr Lee's actions may not have
been as surreptitious, clandestine, and secretive as the government originally
said he remained seriously concerned about ``evidence of several deceptions as
to which innocuous explanations have not yet been provided.'' Those
incidents included a 1982 phone call by Lee to a California scientist
under investigation by the FBI and the fact that Lee broke security rules by
mailing non-classified information to a Taiwanese representative in the United
"Lee's Nuke Secrets Couldn't Build Bomb, says CIA
Director Tenet," 9/27/00 Reuters.
CIA Director George Tenet said
nuclear secrets downloaded by scientist Wen Ho Lee would offer another country
``a graduate course in nuclear weapons design'' but not the means to build a
weapon, a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee said.
`This information would
help primarily from a design perspective, providing significant insight and
guidance almost equating to a graduate course in nuclear weapons design,'' Tenet
said in the unclassified statement. `But for a country to design, develop,
test and deploy a nuclear weapon, more is required than design codes,'' his
statement said. To make a nuclear weapon, a country would need fissile material,
technology to build the device and engineering expertise for delivery, Tenet
`The actual value of the information depends in large part on
the capabilities of the country or group that received it,'' he said.
The CIA did not play any decision-making role in the question
of whether Lee should be prosecuted, Tenet said.
case's collapse muted in Congress: Concerns over spying are still alive, GOP
says," 9/13/00 San Jose Mercury News.
Cracks in the case began to appear in June 1999, when the
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board criticized the Department of
Energy and the FBI for focusing almost exclusively on Lee when there was no hard
evidence that he, or anyone else at Los Alamos, was the source of classified
information somehow obtained by China.
Several months after Lee was fired, in March 1999, the FBI
acknowledged it had information suggesting that China might have stolen the data
about the W-88, the most advanced U.S. nuclear warhead, not from Los Alamos but
from Sandia National Laboratories, Lockheed Martin Corp. or the U.S. Navy.
In addition, the former chief of counterintelligence at Los
Alamos contended that federal investigators had improperly targeted Lee because
of his ethnicity. Lee is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Taiwan.
Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) released a scathing report in
1999 along with Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman that called the investigation
``a tragedy of errors'' and was critical of the quick focus on Lee. ``They
clearly had probable cause to focus on Lee, but they had reason to have a
broader focus than Lee,'' Thompson said on Sept. 12, 2000.
"The spy who never was: The FBI have branded
Wen Ho Lee America's Public Enemy No 1. He has languished in solitary
confinement at a high-security prison for nearly a year. He is accused of
selling missile secrets to the Chinese and putting the lives of millions of
people at risk. Only one thing stands between him and the electric chair. The
truth." by Andrew Gumbel. 8/31/00, The Independent (UK)
If Wen Ho Lee is one of the most dastardly spies of the
nuclear age, he certainly doesn't look the part. He has an almost impossibly
benign face, so gentle he looks incapable of swatting a fly, much less betraying
And yet, for the past nine months, the 60-year-old nuclear
scientist has been kept in solitary confinement at a high-security prison in
Santa Fe, New Mexico, under suspicion of delivering some of the most precious
secrets of America's atomic weapons programme to the Chinese. He is allowed out
of his cell for just one hour a day, and even then he is shackled and
accompanied by two FBI agents at all times.
According to his prosecutors, Dr Lee committed the most
despicable of acts: abusing his security clearance at the Los Alamos National
Laboratories and filching America's military "crown jewels" for the
benefit of a potentially hostile foreign power. One expert cited in the
prosecution's deposition papers said his actions might alter the whole global
strategic balance, and that "hundreds of millions of people could be
killed" as a result.
Reason enough, from the government's point of view, to truss
him up like a serial killer and watch him around the clock in anticipation of
And yet there is something very wrong with the case against
Dr Lee, something that was apparent to his friends and colleagues from the very
first moment he came under suspicion for leaking secrets to the Chinese, and
that now threatens to besmirch the reputation of the very government agencies
arrayed so ferociously against him.
For all the recent scandals about security leaks at Los
Alamos and the fears - much vented in the pages of The New York Times and in a
controversial congressional report published 18 months ago - that China was
filching many of America's most closely held military secrets, it is not at all
clear what evidence, if any, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
Department of Energy have against Dr Lee.
Already they have indicated that they won't be pressing
espionage charges, an astonishing climbdown after more than a year of vilifying
Dr Lee as a traitor in court documents and in the media. Their efforts to show
he had unauthorised contacts with Chinese scientists have fallen flat, as have
their attempts to catch him out in a lie about his behaviour: he has passed all
polygraph tests with flying colours.
The only thing, in fact, that they appear able to hold
against him is that he downloaded files from a secure computer at Los Alamos to
a less secure computer, and copied some of the material on to disks or tapes
that have not been fully accounted for. This activity is the basis of the 59
charges of mishandling classified information still outstanding against him. But
these accusations are fraught with problems.
The material Dr Lee is alleged to have downloaded was only
declared secret after the fact. According to numerous prominent scientists at Los Alamos, most of what he copied was in the
public domain already. And none of it posed the remotest security threat to
What is worse, it appears that government agents
misrepresented the facts - both to Mr Lee when they interrogated him, and to the
court that ordered him
to be held under draconian conditions without bail last December. In a hearing
in Albuquerque last week, the lead FBI agent on the case, Robert Messemer, was
forced to retract three key allegations. Dr Lee had not, he said, tricked a
colleague into letting him use his computer to download sensitive files; there
was no evidence that Dr Lee used this information to talk up job applications to
foreign governments; and it was not true that Dr Lee's contacts with Chinese
scientists he met on an official visit to Beijing in 1996 had gone unreported.
Agent Messemer defended his earlier allegations as
"simple, inadvertent error". But they could yet be the loose thread
from which the whole case unravels. Already, Judge James A Parker has ruled that
the defendant should now be offered bail; the precise terms of Dr Lee's release
are yet to be worked out, but barring injunctions from a higher court he is
likely to return home as early as Friday.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of jurists and expert
witnesses are beginning to wonder if the trial, set for November, will take
place at all or if the case will simply be thrown out. And the government, far
from crowing about tracking down a spy, is beginning to quake at the prospect of civil suits seeking damages for the trauma that Dr Lee
and his family have gone through.
So what happened? Does the government know something about Dr
Lee that it hasn't yet told us, or is this - as Asian American activists,
Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and others are saying
- a grotesque miscarriage of justice based on political expediency, racial
prejudice and blind panic?
The case goes back to 1996 when a CIA double agent produced
evidence that the Chinese government had obtained information on a number of US
nuclear warheads, including the most sophisticated in its arsenal, the W-88 Trident D-5.
An inquiry into the security leak was hastily ordered, and the Department of
Energy, which runs the US nuclear program, immediately focused its efforts on
Los Alamos at the instigation of its head of counter-intelligence, Notra Trulock.
(Mr Trulock was later forced to resign over his handling of the case and is now
under investigation for mishandling classified information himself).
In theory, the inquiry was supposed to focus on all
scientists with access to sensitive documents who had either been to China or
received Chinese delegations at Los Alamos.
But in practice, only two people were ever investigated: Dr
Lee and his wife Silvia. Their ethnicity was almost certainly an issue. Although
Dr Lee was born in Taiwan, not China, and had been a US citizen since 1974, Mr
Trulock is quoted in court papers as saying he did not think any ethnic Chinese
should be given security clearance to nuclear secrets.
For almost three years, no case could be made against Dr Lee.
He kept taking and passing polygraph tests, and at one point a deputy director
of the Los Alamos Laboratories wrote a letter of apology for the constant questioning he
The pressure to find a bad apple to toss out of the cart
continued to grow, however, first with the release of the Cox Committee Report
into security leaks to China and then, in March 1999, with a New York Times
article pinpointing Los Alamos as the source of those leaks.
Dr Lee was subjected to a brutal FBI interrogation, in
which he was told - incorrectly - that he had failed his polygraph tests and
that if he continued to maintain his
innocence he could expect to go to the electric chair.
Within a few days he had lost his security clearance, his job, and the pension
he had been due to begin collecting nine months later. His name - leaked to the
media in violation of every federal regulation in the book - was a constant
feature of the 17 Senate hearings that took place on the security issue over the
next six months, making his indictment a near-inevitability.
The absurdities of the case are many. According to Robert
Vrooman, who was head of counter-intelligence at Los Alamos until 1998, codes
for the W-88 warhead were distributed to 548 different locations, from the
laboratories themselves to the Pentagon, other government agencies and private
contractors. Information could have been passed to China from any one of these
Moreover, it is unlikely that Chinese possession of the codes
for the warhead would make any difference to the global strategic balance.
Harold Agnew, a former director of Los Alamos, has said it would have
"little or no effect" because every country develops its own codes and
can't do much with ones that are incompatible - even assuming it has the
to build a new weapons system, which China hasn't.
Like earlier waves of hysteria against Asian Americans, from
the discriminatory laws against ethnic Chinese in the 19th century to the
internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during the Second World War, it appears the paranoia about China is another passing fancy: after all, the
country has just been granted Permanent Normal Trading Relations status with the US - an odd thing to seek from an enemy.
The US intelligence establishment, meanwhile, has sprung so
many leaks it looks more like a sieve than a national security outfit. A White
House investigation published last year found classified documents detailing the
designs of nuclear weapons sitting on public-access library shelves at Los
Alamos. In May, two computer hard drives containing nuclear secrets mysteriously
disappeared from a secure area of the labs, only to reappear, just as
mysteriously, a few weeks later.
Meanwhile, the head of the CIA,
John Deutsch, was caught downloading classified documents on to his home
computer and forced to resign. Curiously, there has been no mention of
prosecution in his case.
Dr Lee, meanwhile, has been left to rot in prison - treated,
as his daughter Alberta says, "like an animal". He can see his family
for one hour a week, and then only from the other side of a thick glass wall. No
physical contact is permitted, and his conversations are attentively followed by
the FBI. Alberta has toured the country speaking on his behalf, scarcely
believe that the gentle father she knows has been put through this hell.
"He's been scapegoated. He's essentially a political
prisoner," she says. "I can't believe it is my country putting him
Bail would be acrucial first step towards restoring his
dignity and putting some balance back into a frighteningly unbalanced case;
whether fact or circumstance will enable him to clear his name altogether
remains to be seen.
4/18/00 Los Angeles Times: "Case Against Lee Is Flying Out Window:
Spy case: How can the Clinton administration cling to its allegations in the
face of evaporating evidence?" by
Startling new evidence in
the Wen Ho Lee spy case reveals that the "sensitive nuclear secrets"
that the scientist allegedly downloaded originally were not classified as secret
or even confidential. In a desperate effort to buttress an extremely weak case,
the government ex post facto slapped a higher security label on the material
after firing Lee.
Yet despite this glaring
admission in a recently released grand jury document, the former Los Alamos
scientist still is being held in solitary confinement, has been denied bail and
faces a life sentence if convicted.
The grand jury exhibit, a
47-page Los Alamos National Laboratory analysis of the data in question, showed
that the much ballyhooed "stolen secrets" referred to by Justice
Department lawyers and lurid newspaper accounts as the "crown jewels"
of U.S. nuclear weapons secrets were of such low priority that government
security experts had not even bothered to formally classify them.
The files Lee is accused
of downloading were either totally unclassified or given a "PARD"
designation, a low-level warning to "protect as restricted data." Such
material is routinely left on desktops at the lab and is not required to be
locked in secure safes overnight. One former Los Alamos weapons designer told
the New York Times last week that he himself inadvertently allowed some PARD
information to be blown out of an open window at the lab. PARD material can be
shredded or otherwise destroyed without having to be documented. This is
relevant, because Lee is accused of destroying some tapes.
The fact that the
government suddenly classified the files as secret is fueling suspicion that Lee
is being persecuted as a scapegoat by a Justice Department that is eager to fend
off criticism of congressional Republicans that the Clinton administration has
been negligent in protecting U.S. military secrets from China.
Lee is a hapless pawn in this vicious political game which, while it may appease
those who want to start a new Cold War with China, is fast becoming one of the
most shameful national security scandals, in which racial profiling has led to
the framing of an innocent man. This is the American equivalent of the Alfred
Dreyfus case in France of a century past.
Lee long has been the
target of convenience as the Clinton administration scrambled to prove its
toughness on national security leaks to China. Ironically, Lee was born in
Taiwan and came to this country to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and to
devote his life to improving this nation's security. Yet when a congressional
committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) charged that secrets
important to design of the W88 warhead had been passed to the Chinese, FBI
investigators honed in on Lee as the likely culprit.
Subsequent Justice Department investigation has exonerated
Lee from connection with the theft of the warhead, and the probe has moved away
from Lee and Los Alamos. Yet with its case against the much- maligned Lee in
shambles, prosecutors came up with the totally unrelated charges that Lee
improperly downloaded classified files. In its zeal to destroy this man, the
government also told Lee that he had failed a lie detector test that he in fact
had not failed, and then leaked reports to the media that Lee had failed the
The Justice Department's
59-count indictment of Lee makes no claim that he passed secrets to any
unauthorized person or government, nor is he charged with espionage. The entire
case against him rests on the downloading of files within the secure confines of
the Los Alamos lab. The fact that those files turn out to have not even been
originally classified as secret makes this entire case against Lee bogus.
But to save face, the
Justice Department sticks to its hoary rhetoric to vilify Lee. Despite the grand
jury revelations made public last week by the Albuquerque Journal, Justice
Department spokesman Myron Marlin once again insisted, "What Lee stole
[were] the crown jewels." The Clinton administration seems determined to
destroy a man whose crimes appear only to have been that he looked the part for
the administration's unseemly game.
To not grant Lee bail and
permit him to meet openly with his lawyers to prepare his defense is a national
disgrace, as is the entire prosecution of this man.
9/1/00 Washington Post, p. A16. "Affidavits Cite Race in Probe
Affidavits from two former counterintelligence officials state
that Lee was singled out in 1996 as an espionage suspect on the basis of race,
in the absence of credible evidence that Chinese spies had stolen nuclear
warhead secrets from the laboratory.
"I did not believe then and I do not believe now that
Dr. Lee engaged in espionage," Robert S. Vrooman, the former director of
counterintelligence at Los Alamos, said in his sworn declaration. Vrooman
also revealed the existence of an earlier espionage case, code-named Buffalo
Slaughter, in which a "non-Chinese" employee at a Department of Energy
laboratory transferred classified information to a foreign country but received
full immunity "in return for agreeing to a full debriefing on the
information that he passed." Sources familiar with the case say the
breach occurred in the early 1980s at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory
and involved the passing of secrets about fissile material to the Russians. One
source said that damage stemming from the case cost the government billions of
In his statement, Vrooman said that Robert Messemer, the
FBI's lead agent on the case, had misstated his views by writing in an
investigative report that Vrooman had told the FBI that he suspected Lee of
passing classified information to China. "His allegation that I did so is
false," Vrooman said.
Charles E. Washington, the Energy Department's former acting
director of counterintelligence, also signed an affidavi
9/1/00 "Los Alamos Affidavits Unsealed" by Richard Benke Associated
In affidavits, Charles Washington, a former acting chief of
counterintelligence at the U.S. Energy Department and Robert Vrooman, who held a
similar job at Los Alamos National Laboratory, stated that they believed jailed
scientist Wen Ho Lee was singled out because of his race.
Charles Washington, who headed the Energy Department's
counterintelligence branch for several years in the 1990s, said he knows of
other employees who eluded prosecution for more serious offenses. ``I have
concluded that if Dr. Lee had not been initially targeted because of his race
... he may very well have been treated administratively like others who had
allegedly mishandled classified information,'' he said in the affidavit.
Washington, who still works for the Energy Department, said
his agency routinely handles infractions like Lee's by merely counseling
violators. He said he read an administrative report on the Lee
investigation and concluded ``the inquiry was wholly lacking in any support to
identify Dr. Lee as a suspect.''
Vrooman, former head of security at the lab, said Lee became
the focus of an investigation to the exclusion of other potential suspects who
fit a profile based on access to certain information and travel to China. He
said others with those characteristics were not pursued.
``It is my opinion,'' he said in the statement, ``that the
failure to look at the rest of the population is because Lee is ethnic
9/1/00 Associated Press: "Intelligence Chiefs Defend Lee," by Richard
Two former counterintelligence chiefs believe jailed
scientist Wen Ho Lee was singled out for prosecution on charges of
breaching security because of his race, according to newly unsealed affidavits.
Leaders of three prestigious scientific organizations also
took issue with the government's treatment of Lee.
Charles Washington, who led the Energy Department's
counterintelligence branch for several years in the 1990s, said he knows of
other employees who eluded prosecution for more serious offenses. He said his
agency routinely handles infractions like Lee's by merely counseling violators.
``I have concluded that if Dr. Lee had not been initially targeted because
of his race ... he may very well have been treated administratively like others
who had allegedly mishandled classified information,'' he said in the affidavit.
Robert Vrooman, former head of security at the lab, said Lee
became the focus of an investigation to the exclusion of other potential
suspects who fit a profile based on access to certain information and travel to
China. Others with those characteristics were not pursued, he said.
``It is my opinion,'' he said in the statement, ``that the failure to look at
the rest of the population is because Lee is ethnic Chinese.''
In an open letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, the leaders
of three scientific organizations protested Lee's treatment.
``Although we make no claim as to his innocence or guilt, he
appears to be a victim of unjust treatment,'' said the letter, signed by Bruce
Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences; William A. Wulf,
president of the National Academy of Engineering and Kenneth I. Shine, president
of the Institute of Medicine.
The three organizations are independent research groups
chartered by Congress to provide scientific advice to government.
"Scientist moved hundreds of classified files, undetected for
years by Los Alamos officials," by Dan Stober, Dec. 16, 2000
San Jose Mercury News http://www0.mercurycenter.com/local/center/lee1217.htm
"Spy hunters hit peaks and valleys searching for thief of U.S. secrets,"
by Dan Stober, Dec. 17, 2000 San Jose Mercury News
Let's Send a Powerful Message to Washington about Wen Ho Lee" by George Koo
The government's star witness, FBI
agent Robert Messemer, has had to steadily recant his earlier testimony under
cross-examination, causing Judge Parker to find Messemer a source of false,
At the original bail hearing in
December, Messemer convinced Judge Parker that in the interest of protecting the
nation from nuclear holocaust, it was necessary to hold Lee in shackles and in
solitary confinement. Since then, Messemer admitted under oath that he
made numerous "honest mistakes."
Originally Messemer accused Lee of
not reporting his meeting with Chinese officials on his officially sanctioned
trip to China; the defense then produced a copy of Lee's trip report which
listed the people he met.
Messemer twice accused Lee of lying
to his colleague when he downloaded some computer data. But the colleague
testified that Lee made no such misrepresentation and Messemer had to backtrack.
It is now common knowledge that Lee
passed a lie detector test with flying colors, the same test that FBI agents
told Lee he had failed and would send him to the electric chair.
Messemer now pleads honest mistakes,
maintaining Lee was not forthcoming. Less charitable assessment would say
that Messemer lied repeatedly. By comparison, Dr. Lee displays a simple
and naive honesty and forthrightness. Government disclaims dirty pool
tactics but treats Lee worse than a convicted spy even as they keep scrounging
around for lesser charges that might stick.
Amnesty International has joined the
American Civil Liberties Union, American Physics Society, American Association
for the Advancement of Science, Federation of American Scientists, New York
Academy of Scientists, and many more, condemning the U.S. for depriving Lee of
his human rights, likening Lee's treatment to that which might be expected from
any despotic government.
The latest to protest the handling of
the Wen Ho Lee case is an open letter to the Attorney General from the
presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of
Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. These are America's most
prestigious bodies of their respective disciplines. The Attorney General
ignored their two previous private letters seeking assurance about Lee's
In the open letter, the leaders of
the academies complain about the "inaccurate and detrimental testimony by
government officials" that resulted in Lee "needlessly spending eight
months in prison under harsh and questionable conditions of confinement."
The National Academy presidents urge the Attorney General "to rectify any
wrong to which Dr. Lee has been subjected" and hold accountable those
responsible for any injustice he has
The government continues to insist
that Lee downloaded the "crown jewels" of nuclear secrets. Dr.
Harold Agnew, former lab director, Dr. John Richter, profiled by the Wall Street
Journal as the nation's foremost designer of nuclear bombs, and Dr. Walter Goad,
Fellow Emeritus at Los Alamos National Laboratory, all testified that the
downloaded data is of marginal value to another country and in any case most of
the information is in the public record.
Defense seeks review of government
documentation they believe will show the selective prosecution of Lee and that
he is a victim of racial profiling. The government defends their targeting
Dr. Lee when others committing security infractions or worse have gone
free. Judge Parker has ordered the government to release the documents for
his review. The public may soon know the whole sordid truth. Is this
worrying the prosecutors enough for them to resort to more desperate deception?
Certainly the prestige of the United
States has been shredded by their conduct of the Wen Ho Lee case. Why then
is the government insisting on maneuvers to prolong the judiciary process?
Don't they realize their continued hounding of Lee will further erode global
leadership by the United States, wreak more havoc on our national laboratories,
and result in a weakened national defense?
Perhaps they reckon that they have no
more shame to lose but can hope to wear down the defense team and break Lee's
spirit. If they originally hoped to grind Lee down to submission, the hope has
been dashed by a resiliency from Lee they did not expect. So far, Lee's
legal team has been equal to Lee's courage. However, the government can
pit its infinite resources against the meager funds collected from Lee's
There is only one public response
that will finally put an end to this disgraceful chapter of U.S. history.
And that is to strengthen the Wen Ho Lee defense fund.
Express your outrage and send your
Wen Ho Lee Defense Fund
P. O. Box 1663
Santa Monica, CA 90406-1663
(Contributions are not tax
Wen Ho Lee Family Assistance Fund
c/o The Organization of
1001 Connecticut Ave., Suite 601
Washington, D.C. 20036