Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Written by Bruce Daniels - ABQnewsSeeker
Wednesday, 08 March 2006
LANL scientist was fired on this day seven years ago.
The Taiwanese-American scientist was accused of leaking nuclear secrets to China in a story that appeared March 8, 1999, in The New York Times, and although those dark allegations were later dropped, Wen Ho Lee was later accused of improper handling of restricted data.
After his arrest in December 1999, Lee was held without bail in solitary confinement for 278 days until his release on Sept. 13, 2000, after he pleaded guilty to one count of improperly downloading restricted data.
Government prosecutors dropped the remaining 58 counts of illegally downloading classified data, leading to a sharp and unprecedented rebuke of government prosecutors by U.S. District Judge James A. Parker and an apology to Lee.
There's a roundup of the whole affair in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, including a link to an Albuquerque Journal article about suggestions that current Gov. Bill Richardson, who was then Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration, was the source of the leak to The New York Times on that day seven years ago.
Richardson acknowledged in his autobiography ("Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life" released last fall) that Lee was "badly treated."
The story has sunk below the headlines and the national consciousness, but it continues to burn up the electrons in the Blogosphere. There's a heated discussion on the LANL blog -- LANL: The Real Story -- that suggests some real disagreement about the case. And maybe some uncomfortable moments ahead if a certain New Mexico governor decides to seek national office.
Here is an excerpt from Ian Hoffman's article in "Inside Bay Area":
"In a one-year stint working for Congress, Libby led a committee's investigators aiming for a staggering political prize: links between apparent advances in China's nuclear arsenal and campaign contributor influence over the Clinton administration.
"Months before the report of the Cox Committee went public, the New York Times trumpeted key, leaked findings that China had 'stolen' the design of the most sophisticated U.S. nuclear warhead, the W88, and that the suspect who 'stuck out like a sore thumb' was a computer scientist still working inside Los Alamos National Laboratory.
"The scientist was Lee, and the Committee's report, along with the New York Times' coverage, fueled demands for Lee's prosecution. Several staff on the committee suspected that Libby was a source of leaks to the Times.
"Lee faced charges of copying and mishandling a vast library of secret nuclear weapons design software that government experts called the 'crown jewels' of H-bomb science. Cline rounded up weaponeers to persuade a federal judge that the software itself was not all that valuable or secret and so was essential to showing jurors that Lee did not intend to compromise U.S. security. Rather than turn over the software, prosecutors cut a deal so Lee could plead guilty to a single, low-level count and walk free with time served in jail.
"Now Libby has turned to the same lawyer and strategy largely responsible for winning Lee's freedom."
It disgusts me that a man who broke every rule in the book and, most likely engaged in espionage, is walking free while a man who did nothing wrong and was loyal to a fault died at the hands of the government he served. If it wasn't for my genuine belief in God's justice I think I would lose all hope that the scales will ever balance.
Ex-Director Nanos set out to nail Todd Kauppila and John Horne for discovering that the so-called "missing" CREM had never, in fact, been created, thus demonstrating to all the world that Nanos' shutdown of the Lab was completely indefensible.
As to Wen Ho Lee, his motives will never be known for certain, but he is in a class by himself, since he was found guilty in a court of law, and considered by the judge in the case to have been punished sufficiently by nine months in solitary confinement.
Libby will have his day in court after the 2006 Congressional election; Nanos will likely never see the inside of a court of law. This in spite of the fact that the damage Nanos did to LANL far exceeded that caused by Lee; in fact, it rivals the damage done by a genuine Los Alamos spy, Klaus Fuchs. And now, the act of privatization of Los Alamos Lab is nearly complete.