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Associated Press
July 23, 2001

Wen Ho Lee book completed, undergoing government review

By Richard Benke, Associated Press Writer

ALBUQUERQUE -- The autobiography of Wen Ho Lee, who spent nine months in solitary detention after illegally downloading nuclear data at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is complete and undergoing government review.

Lee's book, "My Country Versus Me," co-written by Helen Zia, "answers every question that anyone would ever have for him," said Will Schwalbe, editor in chief of Hyperion Books and editor of the Lee book.

"It is being reviewed by the government now," Schwalbe said in a telephone interview Monday from New York.

Government censors have had the book less than two weeks, he said.

"I'm certainly hopeful that they will pass it quickly and without requesting any changes," the editor said.

Lee's legal team reviewed the manuscript before it was submitted for publication, Schwalbe said.

He said he assumes the government is looking for any classified material, but he added: "It's also my assumption that Wen Ho Lee doesn't want to make any disclosures of classified material, so that's why we hope it will be approved quickly."

"There's a huge amount of interest in the book," said Schwalbe. "I found it a remarkably gripping and moving story and one that also forces the reader to examine a lot of assumptions about the government, the media and individuals."

Of co-author Zia, who previously wrote "Asian American Dreams," he said: "She's really helped Wen Ho Lee get his voice on paper. It really is his story, what he thought, what he felt, what he did, and that's one of the things that makes it such a moving book to read.

"It's the story of a very patriotic man who found himself caught up in these incredible events," Schwalbe said.

The story flashes back to Lee's childhood in Taiwan, where he was born in 1939. He emigrated to the United States as a young man, and he is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He and his wife, Sylvia, have lived in Los Alamos since 1978. They have two grown children, Alberta and Chung.

After months of investigation and much public speculation, Lee was arrested and charged in December 1999 with 59 counts of mishandling nuclear data. Prosecutors emphasized that Lee was not accused of espionage, and it later turned out that the materials he was accused of downloading weren't classified secret until after he was in custody.

"In all of this, the voice that has been absent has been Wen Ho Lee's," Schwalbe said. "In this book he really does give readers a complete account of what happened, and it's very, very disturbing as well."

"Rights we take for granted (were) instantly taken away," he said.

Terms of his no-bail confinement barred Lee from having visitors except his immediate family and required that he wear leg shackles any time he left his cell, even while kicking a soccer ball in a small, solitary yard at the Santa Fe County jail.

U.S. District Judge James Parker apologized to Lee at his sentencing for the unfair treatment, saying the Justice and Energy departments had "embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it."

Someday the story may be told on screen as well. A film option unconnected with Hyperion has been purchased, he said.

Last September, Lee pleaded guilty to a single count of downloading restricted data to a computer tape and was released after being sentenced to the nine months he already had served.

The government dropped the other 58 counts against him, and Lee agreed to undergo interrogation under oath over a 60-day period and to hold himself available for followup questions for a year.

It's no surprise the government would want to review Lee's book, said Steven Aftergood, head of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.

"I would expect the government to want to review whatever he writes about classified information and Los Alamos computers," Aftergood said.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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