- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 1999

Former Los Alamos laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee has decided to sue the FBI, Justice Department and Energy Department, claiming they violated his privacy and wrongly portrayed him as a Chinese spy.
Mr. Lee, who was indicted Dec. 10 on charges he improperly removed nuclear secrets from Los Alamos, plans to file the lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Washington, according to people familiar with Mr. Lee’s plans.
The suit will charge the three agencies violated the Privacy Act by making unauthorized disclosures of private information about Mr. Lee, much of which was false or unsubstantiated. The suit will suggest the motive for the leaks was to deflect attention from poor security at U.S. nuclear weapons labs, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
In making a case against the government agencies, the suit will cite recent Associated Press articles that disclosed that the FBI had doubts as early as November 1998 that Mr. Lee was a Chinese spy, but that agents continued to pursue him for many more months amid continued leaks portraying Mr. Lee as a Chinese spy, the sources said.
The indictment eventually brought against Mr. Lee accused him of downloading a wide array of nuclear secrets from Los Alamos computers and illegally removing them from the lab on computer tapes, but it offered no evidence that Mr. Lee gave the information to a foreign government.
Brian Sun, a California lawyer representing Mr. Lee, his wife, Sylvia, and their two adult children, declined to discuss the lawsuit but said yesterday his clients tried months ago to get the federal agencies to stop news media leaks.
“The Lees were very concerned about this biased and unfair media coverage and requested that this activity stop, but they were unsuccessful,” said Mr. Sun, who has represented other prominent Asian-Americans including fund-raiser Johnny Chung.
“It is troubling to any American, much less the Lees, to have a system where government officials can systematically leak for their own purposes and ends and not be held accountable,” Mr. Sun said. “This may be how government officials in Washington operate, but the law does not allow it, and such conduct should not be condoned.”
An FBI spokesman was not immediately available for comment yesterday afternoon, the bureau office said.
The suit will set up a second front for Mr. Lee’s legal attack, allowing him to pursue the agencies in civil court while his criminal attorneys defend against the indictment. And it comes at a sensitive time for federal authorities.
FBI Director Louis J. Freeh persuaded Congress last week not to hold hearings that could divulge government dissension and doubts in the China espionage investigation, fearing they might help Mr. Lee’s defense.
Senate investigators had gathered internal FBI memos, including one addressed to Mr. Freeh, that showed agents doubted more than a year ago that Mr. Lee had leaked nuclear secrets to China. The memos analyze and identify flaws in the original Energy Department investigation that identified Mr. Lee as a suspect.
Senate investigators have been reviewing whether the FBI and Energy Department focused too narrowly on Mr. Lee and the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico during the first three years of the investigation, excluding other possible suspects and sites.
The Associated Press has reported that the FBI’s doubts were fueled in part by an agent’s interview in September 1998 in which Mr. Lee’s boss divulged that an average of 250 workers each year at several federal facilities had access to the W-88 nuclear warhead secrets that the FBI once thought Mr. Lee gave to China.
FBI agents also recently learned that some scientists who participated in the 1996 Energy Department review that identified Mr. Lee as a possible suspect disagreed with its conclusions, officials have said.
The FBI recently refocused its investigation on other labs, facilities and suspects.

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