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The Wen Ho Lee case - Asian American arrested while European American merely dismissed for similar violations

Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-born US citizen, was suspected of being responsible for nuclear secret leaks to China. Due to a lack of evidence, the US government has not brought espionage charges against the nuclear physicist but has arrested him for mishandling classified information instead. At this point, it is unknown if Dr Lee is guilty of spying, though Asian American groups have accused the US government of racial profiling. Investigators alledgedly focused solely on Dr Lee while other individuals in a similar suspicion matrix were not pursued. Considering the current relations between China and Taiwan, and the fact that Dr Lee is a Taiwan native, it does seem quite improbable that he would want to help give China more power to threaten his native land.

What happened?

Physicist Lee Indicted in Nuclear Spy Probe (Washington Post 12/10/99):

Nuclear physicist Wen Ho Lee, a central figure in the government's Chinese espionage investigation at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was arrested yesterday in New Mexico and charged with 59 counts of mishandling classified information and violating secrecy provisions of the Atomic Energy Act. Some of the counts carry a maximum sentence of life in prison...

"He has been under 24-hour, seven-day a week surveillance since March 1999, even though the government has fully acknowledged that it has no evidence that he engaged in any espionage activities," Holscher said. ...

Double Standards

China spy case: real or imagined? (Christian Science Monitor THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 1999 ):

...Then it turned out that a recent CIA director, John Deutch, had kept secret material on his unsecured home computer. In the atmosphere of the Lee case, the government had no choice but to strip Mr. Deutch of his security clearance.

"The national security part of the community in Washington has been utterly convulsed by [the Lee case] for over a year," says John Pike, a Federation for American Scientists intelligence expert.

But wait. If the respected former head of the CIA did some of the same things Lee did, does that mean...?

Oops. Never mind....

Former chief counterintelligence officer at Los Alamos raises ethnic issue

Voorman concerned about racial profiling in Wen Ho Lee case:

... I recently retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, where I was the chief counterintelligence officer from 1987 to 1998.

... ethnicity was a crucial component in identifying Lee as a suspect. Caucasians with the same background as Lee were ignored... My staff and I worked closely with the FBI agent assigned to this case. One of our major concerns was to protect Mr. Lee's civil rights. We were particularly concerned because the case against Lee was so weak.

... The ethnic issue also surfaced in comments made to us by some people in the DOE's Office of Counterintelligence that ethnic Chinese should not be allowed to work on nuclear weapons.

... For the record, I am not a Sinophile. I have a long record of serving the US both in combat in Vietnam and as a CIA case officer. I was also a conservative Republican, but I have registered as an independent since moving to Montana. Our party's scare mongering regarding the Chinese disgusts me...

Flawed Case

FBI Chased Lee Despite Spy Doubts (Associated Press 12/11/99):

Facing flaws in their evidence, FBI officials began to doubt more than a year ago that Los Alamos laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee had given China one of America's most prized nuclear secrets as originally feared, according to government officials and documents. The agents wrote a memo alerting FBI Director Louis Freeh to their suspicions, officials told The Associated Press. But the pursuit of Lee continued for months -- along with a barrage of news leaks implying he was a Chinese spy.

...FBI officials acknowledge they are no closer today to proving Lee leaked any U.S. nuclear secrets to China or Taiwan.

Links to external sites:

Dr Wen Ho Lee site