ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. A Los Alamos scientist fired a month after failing an FBI lie-detector test told a supervisor he “may have accidentally” passed information on American nuclear weapons to a foreign country, a lab official testified yesterday.
Richard Krajcik, deputy director of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s nuclear weapons division, testified that Wen Ho Lee visited him in his office after taking the test in February.
“He indicated that he did not intentionally pass on information to a foreign country,” Mr. Krajcik said. “He said he may have accidentally passed on information to a foreign country.”
Mr. Krajcik’s testimony came on the second day of a hearing on Mr. Lee’s request that a federal judge reconsider whether the Taiwan-born scientist should remain behind bars without bail until trial. U.S. District Judge James Parker was expected to decide whether to grant bail later in the week.
Mr. Krajcik said the polygraph questioning involved the W-88, the United States’ smallest and most sophisticated nuclear warhead. Mr. Krajcik didn’t give the exact date of the February test and didn’t say whether Mr. Lee had identified the country that may have gotten the information.
He said the two questions Mr. Lee failed were whether he had passed information to a foreign country or passed classified codes to a foreign country.
Mr. Krajcik also said that he was present March 5 when the FBI interviewed Mr. Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and that he appeared “deceptive and evasive.” Mr. Lee was fired March 8.
“My reaction was that Mr. Lee was not being candid and truthful in his response to the questions,” Mr. Krajcik said.
On cross-examination, Lee attorney Mark Holscher asked Mr. Krajcik whether it was possible that when Mr. Lee said he may have passed on information he was referring to articles he had written that had been reviewed and approved by the lab.
“That did not appear to me to be the issue,” Mr. Krajcik replied. “We did not talk about publications or publication records.”
The judge asked Mr. Krajcik whether Mr. Lee could be released safely under numerous restrictions, including electronic monitoring, 24-hour FBI surveillance, limited visitation and the removal of all communication devices from his home, except for a monitored telephone.
Mr. Krajcik told the judge there were still ways for Mr. Lee to communicate with others, notably through a third party, such as his wife.
Paul Robinson, president of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, also urged caution. “This court faces a you-bet-your-country decision,” he told the judge.
Mr. Lee, 60, has pleaded not guilty to the 59 counts against him. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
He has sued the government, claiming he has been the victim of a smear campaign labeling him as a spy for China.
The indictment does not accuse Mr. Lee of passing classified information to any foreign government. He is accused of transferring classified material from secure to unsecure computers and to computer tapes, seven of which remain missing. The defense contends the tapes were destroyed.
FBI agent Robert Messemer testified that Mr. Lee was not arrested immediately because authorities hoped to recover missing computer tapes through additional surveillance.
“It was determined that the national security interests outweighed the successful criminal prosecution of this case,” Mr. Messemer said. “Today, we have the additional risk of hostile intelligence services knowing that the tapes exist.”
A magistrate denied bond two weeks ago for Mr. Lee. It could be up to a year before his trial begins.