Sing Tao Daily, News Analysis, Wong Shuo-ge, Translated by Eugenia Chien, Posted: May 23, 2007
Editor's Note: Seven years after the Wen Ho Lee case, a civil rights organization says that Chinese Americans are still suspected of being spies, according to Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily.
PALO ALTO, Calif. – The Wen Ho Lee case should remind all of us that discrimination and suspicion of immigrants still exist today, according to Justice for New Americans, a non-profit organization that educates new American citizens about civil rights.
At an event to commemorate the national Asian Pacific American Heritage month, the organization screened a short film that looks at the history of the Wen Ho Lee case and how it gained national attention. In March 1999, Lee, a Chinese-American physicist working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was fired from his job when an FBI investigation of an intelligence leak led to his name.
Lee’s name appeared in national newspapers including the New York Times. Despite possessing evidence that would have cleared him, the government charged Lee with 59 counts of illegally downloading data and for selling nuclear secrets with intent to harm the United States. Lee was arrested in December 1999, and held without bail for nine months until he pled guilty to one felony count of improperly downloading restricted data. The government dropped the other charges.
In June 2006, the government and five newspapers including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times settled a privacy lawsuit with Lee. The government agreed to pay $900,000 and the news outlets $750,000.
In his memoir, “My Country Versus Me,” Lee argues that his arrest and treatment were related to his ethnicity. No matter how hard Asian Americans work and no matter how smart they may be, he argues, they will never be accepted by American society. Asians will always be considered foreigners in America, he writes, adding that the U.S. government owes him an official apology for his ordeal.
Since Lee’s case, several other Chinese Americans have been accused of espionage, but the cases lacked concrete evidence. According to Justice for New Americans spokesman Roger Hu, Lee’s case highlights the reality that mainstream society still discriminates against ethnic minorities and holds them under suspicion – even now, seven years after his case. Despite shifts in international politics and governmental policies, immigrants still find it difficult to identify with America, he said, because they continue to face discrimination here.
Justice for New Americans President Cecilia Chang formed the organization WenHoLee.org in October 1999 in order to respond to the allegations made against Lee. The organization now educates new immigrants about their basic civil rights in the post-Sept.11 world.