Wen Ho Lee in Solitary
Jude Wanniski
January 10, 2000


Memo To: Sen. Bill Bradley
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Scapegoat in the Hole

Of the major party candidates, Bill, you are the only one who does not have a political interest in seeing Wen Ho Lee kept in federal prison, in solitary confinement, until the November elections are over and done with. The Clinton administration -- and by extension Vice President Al Gore -- would like nothing better than to force Wen Ho Lee into a plea bargain, so it can say it knew all along that he deserved to be perpetually investigated during the past seven years until someone found him guilty of something -- in this case, "mishandling" nuclear secrets. The Republican Party wants to sweep Wen Ho Lee under the rug because it spent so much political capital on PROVING the Beijing government has been stealing nuclear secrets from our nuclear laboratories -- with Wen Ho Lee the likely suspect because he was born in Taiwan. (By the way, the federal prosecutors found so little evidence that Wen Ho Lee did anything wrong in his dealings with the Beijing government that they floated the idea he might have actually been giving secrets to the government on Taiwan.)

Because you have been running for the Democratic presidential nomination, you may not have had the time to keep up with this story, Bill, but it really has become a national disgrace. He was not only indicted on several dozen felony counts that could imprison him for the rest of his life if a jury agrees. He also has been thrown into solitary confinement while awaiting trial, and OUR government -- not the People's Republic of China -- has persuaded the court that he should not be out on bail. They are afraid this 60-year-old computer specialist -- who has spent the best years of his adult life working at the Los Alamos National Laboratories -- somehow will skip the country if he were out on the street -- although the FBI can't decide whether he would flee to the PRC or to Taiwan. Dr. Lee has offered to take a lie detector test on the charges that he did what he did with evil intent. The feds say they have no intention of giving him a lie detector test, because they already know he is guilty as hell, and should remain in solitary until after the November elections.

What did he do? When Energy Secretary Bill Richardson forced the labs to fire him on suspicion that he had given secrets to Beijing -- before discovering that his predecessor, Hazel O'Leary, had already posted all the secrets she could find on the Internet -- federal agents found that he had what looked like secrets sitting around on his desk at Los Alamos. (Of course, since he has been handling classified stuff for 20 years, one might suspect there would be some on his desk, in the most secure sector at Los Alamos.) There is also the question of seven missing tapes, which the feds would not have known about if Wen Ho Lee had not engaged his colleagues in taping them some years back, having since destroyed them. The feds say he acted "clandestinely" because he taped them after business hours. But what kind of a spy would ask his colleagues to show him how to download classified material to a tape? He explained what he was doing, but now the feds need some time to think of how to get around that argument -- keeping him cooking in solitary until he is ready to cop a plea.

Now they have had this guy under surveillance from the earliest days of the Clinton administration, and they say he was twice given lie detector tests. He passed one and he supposedly did not pass a second, although it now turns out the security types who figured him for a Chinese spy actually lied to him about his flunk. You did not read about it in The New York Times or the WSJournal, where some of the editors and reporters seem to assume Wen Ho Lee must be guilty of something. You can read about it in The Washington Post, which has clean hands in this affair and can tell it like it is. Hit the link, Bill, you will find this really hard to believe. If the issue comes up in your contest with Gore, you should be able to question the administration's conduct in this shameful affair. It might help you win California!