Associated PressWen Ho Lee, the nuclear scientist once investigated as a possible spy for China, was not targeted because of his race, according to a review of the case.
August 8, 2001
Lee Not Targeted Due to Race,By Robert Gehrke
According to Attorney General's Review
The report, prepared for the Justice Department by former federal prosecutor Randy Bellows, criticizes the FBI and Energy Department for numerous flaws throughout the course of the investigation of Lee.
But it says racial bias did not play into investigators' decision to focus on the Taiwanese-born scientist at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico, according to a source who has seen the report.
That finding contradicts assertions by two other government investigators but supports the view of Notra Trulock, the former chief investigator for the Energy Department who led the Lee inquiry.
Former Los Alamos counterintelligence chief Robert Vrooman and Trulock's predecessor, Charles Washington, both said racial profiling led investigators to focus on Lee.
Trulock has sued Vrooman and Washington over their statements and Lee for helping to post the allegations on a Web site.
Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said she could not comment until the report is made public, perhaps Monday. Lee's attorneys also would not comment until they had seen the report.
Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert for the Federation of American Scientists, which has supported Lee, said Bellows' report does not end the question of whether Lee was targeted because of his race.
''Racial prejudice is a very subtle matter and it does not always leave telltale signs that can be documented,'' he said. ''It's safe to say ... that this will not be the last word.''
Lee was indicted on 59 felony counts alleging he transferred nuclear weapons information to portable computer tapes. The charges were the result of an investigation into possible Chinese espionage.
Lee was not charged with spying and denied giving information to China. He eventually pleaded guilty to one felony count of downloading sensitive material.
The judge in the Lee case said he was misled by prosecutors and apologized to Lee for the nine months the scientist spent in solitary confinement. Former President Clinton also said he was troubled by the long imprisonment that ''just can't be justified.''
Lee has sued the government for allegedly leaking information to the media that made it appear he had spied.
Bellows was assigned by then-Attorney General Janet Reno to analyze the Lee investigation. His report was completed in May 2000, but has remained classified because it contains sensitive nuclear weapons information.
The Justice Department, under pressure from the federal judge handling Trulock's case, was scheduled to release a censored version Monday, although it may be postponed.
In addition to the findings regarding racial profiling, the report criticizes the FBI field office in Albuquerque, N.M., for it's ''poor handling of the case.''
Among the problems cited: Two agents sent to New Mexico from FBI headquarters to help in the investigation were reassigned to other matters without notifying Washington officials.
And it said that certain FBI officials were concerned that prosecuting Lee for espionage might hurt the FBI's efforts to open an office in Beijing.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press