Wen Ho Lee (Chinese: 李文和; pinyin: Lǐ Wénhé; born December 21, 1939) is a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked for the University of California at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He created simulations of nuclear explosions for the purposes of scientific inquiry, as well as for improving the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. A federal grand jury indicted him on charges of stealing secrets about the U.S. nuclear arsenal for the People's Republic of China (PRC) in December 1999.
After federal investigators were unable to prove these initial accusations, the government conducted a separate investigation and was ultimately only able to charge Lee with improper handling of restricted data, one of the original 59 indictment counts, to which he pleaded guilty as part of a plea settlement. In June 2006, Lee received $1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations as part of a settlement of a civil suit he had filed against them for leaking his name to the press before any formal charges had been filed against him. Federal judge James A. Parker eventually apologized to Lee for denying him bail and putting him in solitary confinement, and excoriated the government for misconduct and misrepresentations to the court.
Wen Ho Lee
|Born||December 21, 1939|
|Residence||Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.|
|Alma mater||National Cheng Kung University|
Texas A&M University
|Known for||Nuclear proliferation with Chinese nuclear program|
Mathematical work in Nuclear explosion and in fluid dynamics
|Institutions||Los Alamos National Laboratory|
Texas A&M University
University of California
Wen Ho Lee was born on December 21, 1939 to a Hoklo family in Taiwan during Japanese rule. He graduated from Keelung High School in the northern part of the island in 1959, after which he attended National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering in 1963.
In My Country Versus Me, Lee describes life as being harsh. His father died when Lee was very young. His mother suffered from asthma and eventually committed suicide so that she would not 'burden' the family. He was a young boy in Taiwan when Republic of China (ROC) forces violently suppressed the February 28 Incident of 1947. Taiwan was placed under martial law; his brother died when he was a conscript and his commanding officers allegedly wouldn't allow him to take medicine. Lee, however, overcame these odds. He had what he describes as a wonderful teacher in the 6th grade who encouraged his intellectual abilities. Eventually he made his way to university, where he became interested in fluid dynamics and studied mechanical engineering at the university.
Lee came to the United States in 1965 to continue his studies in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University. He received his doctorate in mechanical engineering with the specialization in fluid mechanics in 1969 and became a U.S. citizen in 1974. He was employed at industrial and government research firms before he moved to New Mexico in 1978. He worked as a scientist in weapons design at Los Alamos National Laboratory in applied mathematics and fluid dynamics from that year until 1999. He created simulation software for nuclear explosions, which were used to gain scientific understanding and help maintain the safety and reliability of the US nuclear weapons arsenal.
Lee was publicly named by United States Department of Energy officials, including Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, as a suspect in the theft of classified nuclear-related documents from Los Alamos. Richardson was criticized by the Senate for his handling of the espionage inquiry by not testifying in front of Congress sooner. Richardson was less than truthful in his response by saying that he was waiting to uncover more information before speaking to Congress.
On December 10, 1999, Lee was arrested, indicted on 59 counts, and jailed in solitary confinement without bail for 278 days until September 13, 2000, when he accepted a plea bargain from the federal government. Lee was released on time served after the government's case against him could not be proven. He was ultimately charged with only one count of mishandling sensitive documents that did not require pre-trial solitary confinement, while the other 58 counts were dropped.
President Bill Clinton issued a public apology to Lee over his treatment by the federal government during the investigation. Lee filed a lawsuit to gain the names of public officials who had leaked his name to journalists before charges had been filed against him. It raised issues similar to those in the Valerie Plame affair, of whether journalists should have to reveal their anonymous sources in a court of law. Lee's lawsuit was settled by the federal government in 2006 just before the Supreme Court was set to decide whether to hear the case. The federal judge who heard the case during an earlier appeal said that "top decision makers in the executive branch...have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen."
After an intelligence agent from the People's Republic of China (PRC) gave U.S. agents papers which indicated that they knew the design of a particularly modern U.S. nuclear warhead (the W-88), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started an investigation codenamed "Operation Kindred Spirit" to look into how China could have obtained that design.
In 1982, Lee was recorded on a wiretap speaking with another Taiwanese-American scientist who had been accused of espionage. Lee offered to the scientist to find out who had turned him in. When confronted by the FBI about this incident, Lee said he did not know the scientist, until the FBI demonstrated proof of the conversation. Despite some evidence that could have kept the case open, the FBI closed this file on Lee in 1984.
Lee did not get the attention of the FBI again for 12 years until 1998. The FBI had lost the file on Lee from the 1983 and 1984 meetings with him, and had to reconstruct the information. In 1994, a delegation of Chinese scientists visited Los Alamos National Laboratory in an unannounced capacity for a meeting. One of the scientists visiting was Dr. Hu Side, the head of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics. He also was credited with the design of the small, W88-like weapon. However, despite the visit being unannounced, Lee showed up to the meeting uninvited.
This alarmed LANL officials who contacted the FBI, which opened up another investigation of Lee. On December 23, 1998 Lee was given a polygraph test by Wackenhut, a DOE contractor. He was not told of the reason why, other than that it involved his latest trip to China to escort his nephew. During the questioning, he admitted that he had, in fact, met with Dr. Hu Side in a hotel room in 1988 and that Side had asked him for classified information, which he refused to discuss.
Lee admitted that he failed to report this contact and approach by individuals requesting classified information as required by security regulations. He was told that he passed the test, but was stripped of his Q clearance to the LANL's classified X Division section. Although he questioned the action against him, Lee went along, deleting the classified information he held on his computers, and moved to the T (unclassified) clearance zone. He was later subjected to three more polygraph tests before being told by the FBI agents that re-evaluation of the test results showed that Lee had failed all of them.
In January, The Wall Street Journal ran an article on the investigation, headlined "China Got Secret Data on U.S. Warhead -- Chief Suspect Is a Scientist at Weapons Laboratory of Energy Department," without naming a suspect. On March 6, The New York Times published an article on the W-88 case, "China Stole Nuclear Secrets for Bombs, U.S. Aides Say," again without naming the suspect. Government officials had requested the newspaper delay publication, and The New York Times held back publication for one day, saying it would consider a further delay if asked personally by the F.B.I. director, who did not act on the request.
The F.B.I. interviewed Dr. Lee on March 5, and he consented to a search of his office. On March 8, 1999, Lee was fired from his job at Los Alamos National Laboratory on accounts of failure to maintain classified information securely. However, FBI investigators soon determined that the design data the PRC had obtained could not have come from the Los Alamos Lab, because it related to information that would only have been available to someone like a so-called "downstream" contractor, meaning one involved in the final warhead production process, and this information was only created after the weapon design left the LANL.
Even though this left Wen Ho Lee apparently in the clear, the FBI continued its attempt to find evidence to implicate Lee in committing espionage for the PRC. There were 60 agents and more assigned to Lee's case, working to prove that he was a spy. The FBI conducted a search of Lee's house on April 10, seizing any item related to computers or computing, as well as anything that had notations written in Chinese. The FBI and the Department of Energy then decided to conduct a full forensic examination of Lee's office computer. The examination of Lee's computer determined that he had backed up his work files, which were restricted though not classified, onto tapes, and had also transferred these files from a system used for processing classified data onto another, also secure, system designated for unclassified data.
After the FBI discovered Lee's transfer, they revoked his badge access and clearance, including his ability to access the data from the unclassified but secure network. Lee then requested from a colleague in another part of Los Alamos to be allowed to use his computer, at which time he transferred the data to a third unclassified computer network. The government then retroactively redesignated the data Lee had copied, changing it from its former designation of "PARD" (Protect As Restricted Data), which was just above the "Unclassified" designation and contained 99 percent unclassified data, to a new designation of "Secret" (which was treated on a higher security level than PARD), giving them the crime that the government needed for a formal charge.
The Department of Justice constructed its case around the only real evidence of malfeasance, the downloading of the restricted information. It ultimately employed an unusual strategy of trying to prove that in addition to illegally handling information, Dr. Lee had an "intent to injure" the United States by denying it the exclusivity of the nuclear information. Lee was indicted on 59 counts, 39 of which were for mishandling information under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and 20 of which were for lesser violations of the Espionage Act. (The original Atomic Energy Act, a.k.a. the McMahon Act, was passed in response to the case of Cambridge physicist Alan Nunn May after he confessed to giving Manhattan Project secrets to the USSR.) Janet Reno confirmed with CIA Director George Tenet and FBI Director Louis Freeh that if the presiding judge rules that the government must reveal in open court what specifically was on the tapes, the prosecution would have to plea out the case or risk jeopardizing state secrets.
Dr. Lee spent nine months incarcerated in solitary confinement with limited access to family. His treatment, which included constant shackling, was inconsistent with treatment of other prisoners at the Santa Fe County detention facility, and became a source of great controversy for the DOJ. In September 2000, Judge Parker ruled that the government was required to disclose the information on the tapes. According to Louis Freeh and Janet Reno, they were left with no option but to plea out Dr. Lee in order to find out where the missing tapes were, and not risk sensitive government information by bringing it to trial. Dr. Lee was freed, and at plea he admitted to having made copies of the tapes which he later destroyed, according to his book My Country Versus Me, and other sources.
Lee pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegal "retention" of "national defense information." In return, the government released him from jail and dropped the other 58 counts against him. Judge Parker apologized to Dr. Lee for the unfair manner in which he was treated. The judge also regretted being misled by the executive branch into ordering Dr. Lee's detention, stating that he was led astray by the Department of Justice, by its FBI, and by its United States attorney. He formally denounced the government for abuse of power in its prosecution of the case. Later, President Bill Clinton remarked that he had been "troubled" by the way Dr. Lee was treated.
Lee is now retired and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife. He also has two grown children - a son, and a daughter, Alberta, who at one time was an intern at Los Alamos Laboratory. In 2003, he wrote a memoir, My Country Versus Me, in which he describes his love of classical music, literature, poetry, fishing in the mountains of New Mexico, and his dedication to organic gardening. He also charges that his Asian ethnicity was a primary factor behind his prosecution by the government. As evidence of such racial profiling, he cited cases of several scientists of non-Han Chinese ancestry who were responsible for similar security transgressions but were able to continue their careers. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh categorically denied these charges.
Lee was awarded a $1.6 million settlement from the U.S. federal government and five news organizations for privacy violations. A condition of the United States portion of the settlement, $895,000, is that it is to be applied only to lawyer's fees and the taxes on the media's payments, since the government insisted that they would not pay anything that would be perceived as damages to Lee.
He has published an applied physics textbook that he started writing while still in prison. He began to write a second physics textbook and would like to teach, but no institutions to which he has applied have responded to his requests.
The 2007 play Yellow Face by Asian-American playwright David Henry Hwang places this incident in the context of a greater number of cases dealing with racial profiling against Asians, particularly the Chinese during the 1980s.
Brian Sun is an American trial lawyer and partner of the law firm Jones Day in the Los Angeles office. His areas of practice are white collar criminal defense, LA-based entertainment litigation, and political sagas, and has been involved in high-profile criminal trials.Cherylene Lee
Cherylene A. Lee (June 13, 1953 – March 18, 2016) was an American actress and writer.
She was born and brought up in Los Angeles of Chinese ethnic background.
She started out as a child actor, appearing in television shows Playhouse 90, with her sister Virginia Lee on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Gene Kelly Show, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show, Bachelor Father as Blossom, the niece of Peter (played by Sammee Tong), McHale's Navy, Kentucky Jones, My Three Sons, with Virginia on Art Linkletter's House Party, voice in The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, and M*A*S*H and others.
In 1962 Cherylene also played Sen Yuen in the TV series, Dennis the Menace, season 4 episode 1 where she won the hearts of many with her mannerisms and politeness. She appeared in the movies The Seventh Sin, Stagecoach to Dancer's Rock, Flower Drum Song with sister Virginia, Donovan's Reef, and A Letter to Nancy and others. She went on to become a writer, and had some success as a playwright. Her plays include The Legacy Codes about the Wen Ho Lee affair and Carry the Tiger to the Mountain about the death of Vincent Chin.
In 2015 Cherylene published her personal memoir "Just Like Really" An Uncommon Chinese American Memoir.
On March 18, 2016, Cherylene died in her sleep with her two sisters at her side.Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) is a San Francisco-based advocacy organization. Founded in 1969, its initial goals were equality of access to employment and the creation of job opportunities for Chinese Americans. The group broadened its mission in the subsequent decades. As of 2007, its stated mission is "to defend and promote the civil and political rights of Chinese and Asian Americans within the context of, and in the interest of, advancing multiracial democracy in the United States"Committee on Human Rights of Scientists
The Committee on Human Rights of Scientists of the New York Academy of Sciences "was formed in 1978 to pursue the advancement of the basic human rights of scientists throughout the world. The Committee intervenes in cases where scientists, engineers, health professionals and educators are detained, imprisoned, exiled, murdered, "disappeared," or deprived of the rights to pursue science, communicate their findings with their peers and the general public, and travel freely in accordance with established policies of The International Council for Science (ICSU)."
"Throughout its history, the committee has intervened in numerous cases to ameliorate the restricted conditions of individual scientists and to secure for them the protections of the rule of law. Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov and Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi made their first U.S. appearances at the Academy and credited the committee for coordinating the international pressure that led to their releases. The committee marshaled the scientific community on behalf of Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese-American scientist accused of mishandling classified information, and Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, a Cuban economist jailed for her human rights activities. Other countries where the committee has recently taken action are Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Palestinian Authority, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Vietnam." Cox Report
The Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, commonly known as the Cox Report after Representative Christopher Cox, is a classified U.S. government document reporting on the People's Republic of China's covert operations within the United States during the 1980s and 1990s.James Risen
James Risen (born April 27, 1955) is an American journalist for The Intercept. He previously worked for The New York Times and before that for Los Angeles Times. He has written or co-written many articles concerning U.S. government activities and is the author or co-author of two books about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a book about the American public debate about abortion. Risen is a Pulitzer Prize winner.Jeff Gerth
Jeff Gerth is a former investigative reporter for The New York Times who has written lengthy, probing stories that drew both praise and criticism. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for covering the transfer of American satellite-launch technology to China. He broke stories about the Whitewater controversy and the Chinese scientist Wen Ho Lee.John C. Browne
John C. Browne (born July 29, 1942) is an American physicist.
He was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania as the fifth child of Charles I. and Mary Agnes (Titzer) Browne. He received a B.S. in Physics from Drexel University (1965). He received a Ph.D. in Physics from Duke University (1969). His thesis was titled "Fine Structure of Analog States in 61,63,65-Cu".
After teaching at Duke University (1969–70), he joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, where he did research in basic and applied nuclear physics at a 100-MeV electron linac, including studies in nuclear fission and nuclear astrophysics.
He joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1979 as head of Group P-3, the neutron physics group in the LANL Physics division, helping to start a new research effort in weak interaction physics. He became Physics Division Leader in 1981, succeeding George A. Keyworth, who became President Ronald Reagan's science advisor. In 1984, he was appointed Associate Director for Experimental Physics by Lab Director Donald Kerr. When Siegfried Hecker became Lab Director in 1986, he appointed Browne to a series of posts. In 1986, Browne became Associate Director for Research with responsibility for programs and divisions associated with the research funded by the DOE Office of Energy Research. He then served as Associate Director for Defense Research and Applications (1986–91) where he was responsible for programs funded by the Department of Defense and the Intelligence community. In 1991, he became Associate Director for Computational and Information Sciences. In 1993, he took over responsibilities for the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility, changing its name to the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE), reflecting its mission change to neutron science for materials science and for fundamental and defense-related neutron studies.
In 1997, he was appointed by the University of California to be the Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. During his tenure, he strengthened the science-based stockpile stewardship program, created in the mid 1990s by Victor H. Reis of the DOE, which emphasizes computational study of nuclear weapons in the absence of nuclear testing. During Browne's tenure, the Wen Ho Lee spy investigation by the FBI erupted onto the national scene, particularly after release of the Cox Report by the US House of Representatives in 1999. Having started in the early 1990s, the controversy eventually culminated in Lee's release from prison.Also during Browne's tenure, the laboratory experienced growth in nuclear weapons research, counter terrorism, and intelligence research programs, including two new buildings (Non-Proliferation and International Security Center and Nicholas Metropolis Supercomputing Center). He was also instrumental in creating support for the non-profit Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, founded in 1997 to enhance the vitality of northern New Mexico through investing in education, learning, and community development. In January 2003, Browne resigned as Laboratory Director during a controversy surrounding thefts of government property by several employees and accusations regarding the adequacy of administrative controls. The controversy prompted Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham to say: "... taken together, these problems have called into question the University of California's ability to run the Los Alamos National Laboratory." The University quickly installed Pete Nanos as succeeding director.
Browne is retired from Los Alamos and serves on a number of non-profit boards. He was appointed a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1987 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2000.Lars-Erik Nelson
Lars-Erik Nelson (October 15, 1941 – November 20, 2000) was an American journalist, political columnist and author best known for his syndicated column in The New York Daily News.Ling-Chi Wang
Ling-Chi Wang is a civil rights activist and Professor Emeritus of Asian-American studies and ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been called the "Asian Martin Luther King" for his four decades of activism. Wang was born in Xiamen, Fujian in 1938 and emigrated to the United States in 1957 at the age of 19.
He received a master's degree in Near Eastern studies from the University of Chicago. However, as a response to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Wang switched his interests to Asian American studies.In response to the Wen Ho Lee spying allegations, Wang and an Asian American academic organization instituted a boycott of the two labs run by the University of California, in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He also helped organize a class-action lawsuit against the labs in response to racial profiling allegations.
Wang led a movement expose the involvement of Republic of China (Taiwan)'s government role in the murder of Henry Liu in Daly City, California by Bamboo Union agents.Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos or LANL for short) is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory initially organized during World War II for the design of nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project. It is located a short distance northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico in the southwestern United States.
Los Alamos was selected as the top secret location for bomb design in late 1942, and officially commissioned the next year. At the time it was known as Project Y, one of a series of laboratories located across the United States given letter names to maintain their secrecy. Los Alamos was the centre for design and overall coordination, while the other labs, today known as Oak Ridge and Hanford, concentrated on the production of uranium and plutonium bomb fuels. Los Alamos was the heart of the project, collecting together some of the world's most famous scientists, among them numerous Nobel Prize winners. The site was known variously as Project Y, Los Alamos Laboratory, and Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory through this period.
The lab's existence was announced to the world in the post-WWII era, when it became known universally as Los Alamos. In 1952, the Department of Energy formed a second design lab under the direction of the University of California, Berkeley, becoming the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Since that date the two labs have competed on a wide variety of bomb designs. With the ending of the Cold War, both labs turned their focus increasingly to civilian missions. Today, Los Alamos is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world. It conducts multidisciplinary research in fields such as national security, space exploration, nuclear fusion, renewable energy, medicine, nanotechnology, and supercomputing. The town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, directly north of the lab, grew extensively through this period.
After several reorganizations, the LANL is currently managed and operated by Triad National Security, LLC.Louis Freeh
Louis Joseph Freeh (born January 6, 1950) is an American attorney and former judge who served as the fifth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from September 1993 to June 2001. Freeh began his career as a special agent in the FBI, and was later an Assistant United States Attorney and United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. A Republican, he was later appointed as FBI director by President Bill Clinton. He is now a lawyer and consultant in the private sector.Nuclear espionage
Nuclear espionage is the purposeful giving of state secrets regarding nuclear weapons to other states without authorization (espionage). There have been many cases of known nuclear espionage throughout the history of nuclear weapons and many cases of suspected or alleged espionage. Because nuclear weapons are generally considered one of the most important of state secrets, all nations with nuclear weapons have strict restrictions against the giving of information relating to nuclear weapon design, stockpiles, delivery systems, and deployment. States are also limited in their ability to make public the information regarding nuclear weapons by non-proliferation agreements.The New York Times controversies
The New York Times has been the subject of criticism from a variety of sources. Criticism has been aimed at the newspaper has been in response to individual controversial reporters, along with alleged political bias.The New York Times used to have a public editor who acted as an ombudsman and "investigates matters of journalistic integrity". The sixth and last NYT public editor was Liz Spayd, who contributed her last piece in June 2017.Theodore Olson
Theodore Bevry Olson (born September 11, 1940) is an American lawyer, practicing at the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Olson served as United States Solicitor General (June 2001-July 2004) under President George W. Bush.Timeline of the Cox Report controversy
The timeline of the Cox Report controversy is a chronology of information relating to the People's Republic of China's (PRC) nuclear espionage against the United States detailed in the Congressional Cox Report. The timeline also includes documented information relating to relevant investigations and reactions by the White House, the U.S. Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and United States Department of Justice.W88
The W88 is a United States thermonuclear warhead, with an estimated yield of 475 kilotons (kt), and is small enough to fit on MIRVed missiles. The W88 was designed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1970s. In 1999, the director of Los Alamos who had presided over its design described it as "the most advanced U.S. nuclear warhead". As of 2014, the latest version is called the W88 ALT 370, and the first production unit is scheduled for December 2019. The Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) can be armed with up to 8 W88 warheads (Mark 5 re-entry vehicle) or 12 100 kt W76 warheads (Mark 4 re-entry vehicle), but it is limited to 8 warheads under the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.Yellow Face (play)
Yellow Face is a semi-autobiographical play by David Henry Hwang, featuring the author himself as the protagonist, mounting his 1993 play Face Value. The play's themes include questions of race and of the interaction between media and politics.