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Albuquerque Tribune
December 10, 2000

One year later, Wen Ho Lee strives for normal life

by Leslie Hoffman

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's taken Wen Ho Lee a year to return to the life he once lived.

He's making trips to the grocery store for his wife. He's been back to his favorite fishing spot. He's again the watchful father checking on his son's progress in medical school and his daughter's life in California.

And this week, Lee, a former computer scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, will take another big step toward returning to his once peaceful and predictable life.

Early this week - soon after the Dec. 10 anniversary of his arrest and indictment accusing him of mishandling nuclear secrets - Lee will spill his guts under oath to federal investigators for what may be the last time.

He agreed to the debriefings as part of his September plea agreement ending his 59-count criminal case.

When Lee walks out of the final two-day debriefing, he'll still be subject to less formal follow-up interviews. But the federal government and its investigators and prosecutors, will no longer be the focal point of Lee's life.

The 60-year-old Taiwanese native is already making plans to speak out about the nuclear weapons information case in both a book and on TV.

He'll finally tell his story - with his words. And he stands to profit from the tale that landed him in solitary confinement until his release three months ago.

He is partnering with California journalist Helen Zia to write his memoirs, expected out next fall. Zia, a contributing editor to Ms. magazine, most recently published the book "Asian-American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People."

The Lee family has also agreed to an ABC-TV miniseries deal about the case, due out next fall.

Zia said Lee's voice will drive the words she writes in the book. "It's his opportunity to talk about what happened, what his contributions have been to our national security systems," she said. "... For the time he's been under investigation and prison, he's been effectively silenced."

Brian Sun, the Lee family's civil attorney who practices in California, continues to work on the family's lawsuit against the Justice and Energy departments for media leaks. A status conference in that case is scheduled for mid-December in Washington. Lee is asking the government to compensate him for damaging his reputation.

For now, Lee is living off his lab pension.

Cecilia Chang, Lee's friend and defense-fund organizer, said she hopes he can live out his remaining active years putting his scientific knowledge to use in private industry. "If he stays in White Rock, I think he can return to his old life," she said.

Supporters say it's still possible for Lee to ultimately exit the public stage, but his case will hardly fade.

Steven Aftergood, a frequently quoted source during the case because of his scientific and government-secrecy expertise, said the Lee prosecution continues to have a chilling effect on national laboratory life.

"The labs and Congress and all of us will have to find a way to create a more positive environment and generate some countervailing influences that will restore the health and vitality of the labs," he said.

Aftergood, who is with the Federation of American Scientists, said aftershocks of the Lee case remain strong. "The case will echo long after it has been formally closed," he said.

Albuquerque Tribune




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