SPY CASES - UNITED STATES

Wen Ho Lee

March-April 1999

 

Materials presented in chronological order.

Pincus, Walter. "Suspect in Probe of China Atomic Spying Fails Polygraph." Washington Post, 7 Mar. 1999, A19. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"A Taiwan-born American scientist, who is suspected of turning over to China design information about a key U.S. nuclear missile warhead 10 years ago, failed a polygraph test last month, according to administration sources."

ITN. "Suspected Chinese Spy Fired by US Department." 9 Mar. 1999. [http://www.itn.co.uk]

Wen Ho Lee, a Chinese-American computer scientist who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, "has been fired by the United States Energy department on suspicion of stealing nuclear secrets." Reuters, 10 Mar. 1999, quotes a Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesman as stating that the last time the laboratory "fired a scientist over espionage allegations was in the mid-1940s when a Russian immigrant named Klaus Fuchs was discovered to be passing secrets to the Russians." See also, Walter Pincus, "Spy Suspect Fired at Los Alamos Lab," Washington Post, 9 Mar. 1999, A1.

Risen, James. "U.S. Fires Nuclear Scientist Suspected of Spying for China." New York Times, 9 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 5 March 1999, the FBI began questioning Wen Ho Lee "in an attempt to determine whether he had passed American secrets to the Chinese. The questioning continued through" 7 March 1999, "but Lee failed to fully cooperate," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said. "FBI officials acknowledged last week that they did not have enough to arrest Lee then, but hoped their questioning would lead to a break. While he agreed to talk with investigators and nuclear experts, his failure to fully cooperate has apparently still left the investigators without enough evidence to prosecute. But Richardson believed he had sufficient evidence to dismiss Lee."

Brooke, James. "The Scientist Who Is the Talk of Los Alamos." New York Times, 10 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 8 March 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson fired Wen Ho Lee from the Los Alamos National Laboratory for security breaches. "One scientist in Washington who is familiar with Lee's work said that in the late 1980s, he began working in the area of nuclear weapons design that looks at the triggering mechanism of thermonuclear bombs -- how the primary bomb triggers the secondary, thermonuclear, bomb."

Risen, James. "Los Alamos Scientist Admits Contacts With Chinese, U.S. Says." New York Times, 16 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"During three days of interviews with the [FBI] beginning on March 5, Wen Ho Lee ... admitted that he had failed to report his contacts with Chinese scientists to his supervisors at Los Alamos, as government regulations required, several officials said. His admissions helped cement the decision by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to fire him on March 8, the officials said. Lee's statements did not provide enough evidence to lead to his arrest, however."

Eckholm, Erik. "China Says Scientist Told No Secrets About Warheads." New York Times, 23 Mar. 1999.

According to a report issued on 21 March 1999 by the New China News Agency, Wen Ho Lee "attended two scientific meetings in China in the 1980s." However, "Chinese scientists vehemently deny that Lee gave away plans for making advanced American warheads."

Risen, James. "Suspect Scientist Led Key Los Alamos Program." New York Times, 24 Mar. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

In 1997, Los Alamos National Laboratory chose Wen Ho Lee, "who was already under investigation as a suspected spy for China[,] to run a sensitive new nuclear weapons program.... Once in the new position, in charge of updating computer software for nuclear weapons, Lee hired a post-doctoral researcher who was a citizen of China, intelligence and law-enforcement officials said."

Pincus, Walter, and Vernon Loeb. "FBI's Spying Probe Proves No Easy Task: 'Staleness' of Case at Weapons Lab Cited." Washington Post, 28 Mar. 1999, A20. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh "in recent testimony before House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees provided the first authoritative on-the-record description ... from the administration's perspective" of what has been going on with regard to accusations that China obtained weapons secrets from U.S. nuclear labs.

Loeb, Vernon, and Walter Pincus. "FBI Searches Home of Scientist Suspected of Spying for China." Washington Post, 11 Apr. 1999, A11. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 10 April 1999, FBI agents searched the home of Wen Ho Lee, "the prime suspect in an espionage investigation into whether China obtained secret information about U.S. nuclear warhead design in the mid-1980s."

Pincus, Walter. "FBI Aided by Los Alamos Scientist's Wife: Before Spying Probe, Sylvia Lee Supplied Data on Chinese Visitors." Washington Post, 26 Apr. 1999, A4.

The FBI used Sylvia Lee, the wife of then-Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee, as an informant from 1985 to 1991. Mrs. Lee, "who worked at Los Alamos in an administrative position and helped arrange tours for visiting Chinese delegations, was used as an 'informational asset' by the FBI.... That meant she volunteered what she considered useful information about Chinese visitors but was not given assignments by the FBI, intelligence sources said."

Risen, James, and Jeff Gerth. "U.S. Says Suspect Put Data on Bombs in Unsecure Files." New York Times, 28 Apr. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

Wen Ho Lee "improperly transferred huge amounts of secret data from a computer system at a government laboratory, compromising virtually every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal, government and lab officials say."

Loeb, Vernon, and Walter Pincus. "Los Alamos Security Breach Confirmed." Washington Post, 29 Apr. 1999, A1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 28 April 1999, "[t]he Clinton administration acknowledged" that Wen Ho Lee "transferred secret nuclear weapons data from a classified computer network to an unclassified system vulnerable to outsiders. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson called the data transfer, between 1983 and 1995, 'a serious security breach that is unconscionable.' But he stressed that FBI agents have yet to determine whether the highly sensitive data ... have been pilfered from the unclassified computers by foreign countries."

Risen, James, and Jeff Gerth. "China Spy Suspect Reportedly Tried to Hide Evidence." New York Times, 30 Apr. 1999. [http://www.nytimes.com]

According to U.S. officials, Wen Ho Lee "tried to hide evidence that he had transferred nuclear secrets out of a computer system at a Government nuclear weapons laboratory two days after he failed an F.B.I. polygraph examination in February.... The scientist ... deleted more than 1,000 files containing millions of lines of classified computer codes related to nuclear weapons from the computer system at Los Alamos National Laboratory after the lie detector test in February."

Forward to Wen Ho Lee May-August 1999

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