May 23, 2007

What We Have (Not) Learned from Wen Ho Lee

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 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.


Anonymous said...

Of course there will always be those Lab "insiders" that insist they know the inside scoop, and that there is sooooo much more to the Wen Ho Lee story than can be revealed in the media due to the classified nature of the data Dr. Lee had in hand. Yea right! How convenient. It used to be a person was innocent until proven guilty. Now a person is guilty if high level officials, like then DOE Secretary Bill Richardson, says so and/or so long as the accused can't prove his innocence. I today's world you place the accused in shackles, in jail, separated from his family for months on in with no hope of release, and then if you still can't get the goods on him you force him (like they did in the old Soviet Union) to sign a confession of guilt to something (anything) as a condition of release. This is precisely what happened with Dr. Lee. Ironically enough his case basically set a new standard of low, for the level of judicial abuses Americans are willing to tolerate. Perhaps the Guantanamo detainment center should be renamed the Wen Ho Lee advanced justice complex. In other words (for those still too closed-minded to understand) what happened to Dr. Lee is a national disgrace. And the fact that his fellow citizens in this country couldn't see fit to even get the least bit outraged over what has transpired in this case says volumes about how entrenched biggotry remains not only within the ranks at Los Alamos, but in this nation as a whole. The generation that gave rise to the idealism of 60s has now become the without-conscience generation of the new millenium, and they're now running national labs like Los Alamos and running contrived wars on behalf of the oil industry in third world countries. All this brings to mind the movie Apocolyps Now, where Marlon Brando struggles to make sense of a world gone insane, repeatedly muttering under his breath the phrase--"the horror." Indeed...the horror.

Anonymous said...

Try the Bellows Report. Also the Cox Report (both unclassified or redacted for publuc release). Lee really was guilty and the only reason the government chickened was to avoid further bleeding. True fact - like it or don't. Espionage or just plain scientist-like stupidity, coupled with too-dangerous knowledge, who knows? Definitely another example of the failure of the security clearance process.

Anonymous said...

I was tweaked by the fact that when the CIA told "us" that they had discovered the Chinese had one of our warhead designs and they showed it to "us" we discovered design features that would have been added downstream in the design process from "us". The documents produced would not have come from LANL.

Funny thing is, they kept on looking for a Chinese Spy at LANL even after they knew that *THIS PARTICULAR* leak couldn't have come from LANL. That was damn funny (peculier, not ha-ha), especially to Wen Ho Lee.

I know one of the main computer forensics team who built the case against Lee and I trust that they did their work honestly and well and therefore trust that Lee was guilty of the "mishandling" he was accused of...

But that did not make him a spy and given that the FBI was told many ways many times that if there was a spy related to the CIA-provided docs, it was not someone at LANL.

So, yes, Wen Ho and Jessica Q. and others have been caught mishandling and that is a big deal. But it isn't the big-deal it was made out to be by press and congress and public.

Did anyone look into why the witch hunt continued? Clearly they needed to find a witch to justify the hunt. Good thing we had Wen Ho to toss them, otherwise they would probably have had to plant a "throw-down" on someone.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 8:56.... And JQ is correct to ask about others caught "mishandling" information and what has been done about it... Her misfortune was that the "breach" went public because of the meth lab and before LANL could start its spin and internal "mishandling" of the case.

Another questions the JQ case raises is WHY contractors (who are not lab employees) are allowed to work on classified information at all? It's yet another proof of CO-EMPLOYMENT at the LANL.... an issue of handing out work--even classified--to contractors and then never giving them service UC or LANS credit no matter how many YEARS they serve as contractors....

So exactly WHAT is this great dividing line between the 2 classes of employees at the lab?

Why isn't Congress looking at the issue of using CONTRACTORS to do classified work? And why has UC and now LANS been successful in cheating CONTRACTORS out of service credit?

Anonymous said...

Other examples after WHL, not espionage, but proof of management using people as scape goats include disk drives, supposed lost classified media out at DX that, aqua regia incident, laser eye incident, americium incident, the lab shut down and the list goes on and on. In all these cases innocent people got scape-goated and their lives and careers destroyed (and in some cases people were wrongly fired) at the hands of high level officials and Lab Legal trying to find someone to blame instead of getting to the truth becuase the media got ahold of each of these stories and bad press was published.

Anonymous said...

5:24 am:

"JQ is correct to ask about others caught "mishandling" information and what has been done about it... Her misfortune was that the "breach" went public"

"Mishandling??!!" "Misfortune??" Sorry, both she and Wen Ho Lee INTENTIONALLY BROKE THE LAW. In Quintana's case, it was sheer stupidity (obvious from her pathetic TV interview, for which CBS should be sued by her lawyers for portraying her as mentally impaired, even though she probably is). It wasn't "mishandling" by WHL, it was intentional, repeated, covert, and devious acts to steal and hide classified information. Cutting off the classification markings on documents and re-copying them to treat as unclassifed?? Knowingly re-entering his secure workplace (through duping his coworkers into "vouching") after he was told he was banned? Seven copies of tapes containing weapons data still unaccounted for (WHL "can't remember" what he did with them)? Whether he was a "spy" is irrelevant, since no one can agree on the definition. That he did irreparable damage to his country is irrefutable. There are still many WHL apologists at the Lab - too bad since this is prime evidence that we don't "get it" to Congress.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, 5:24 a.m. Best summation of WHL that I've seen on any of these blogs. And the most accurate.

And, regarding the statement "Why isn't Congress looking at the issue of using CONTRACTORS to do classified work? And why has UC and now LANS been successful in cheating CONTRACTORS out of service credit?"

Everyone at LANL is a contractor, whether you work for LANS or not. The only exceptions are the DOE folks (and the odd DOD person), and there aren't many of those.

The defense and DOE complexes are both chock full of contractors, and Congress is well aware of it. Using contractors is a way to reduce the number of Federal employees, and you can rest assured that Congress is behind such an idea.

And, yes, there are categories of classified material that can only be shown to Federal employees, which is how the Feds keep contractors (LANS and others) out of the loop when they don't have a "need to know".