- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 1999

After acknowledging to his supervisor that he had just been informed that he had failed an FBI lie detector test in which he was asked if he had ever passed secrets to China, nuclear-weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee told his superior in February that he "may have accidentally" revealed classified nuclear weapons data to a foreign nation, according to the supervisor's startling testimony this week. Federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Lee Dec. 10 on 59 felony counts, charging that he illegally removed U.S. nuclear secrets from a classified computer system and downloaded them into an unsecure computer network at the Los Alamos weapons laboratory, where he worked as a computer scientist before being fired in March. He was also charged with transferring virtually all of those computer files, described as the "crown jewels" of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, to 10 computer tapes, seven of which have not been recovered.

At a hearing to determine whether Mr. Lee should remain in custody before his trial begins, Richard Krajcik, the deputy director at Los Alamos' nuclear weapons division and Mr. Lee's supervisor, revealed that the polygraph questioning involved the United States' most sophisticated nuclear warhead, the W-88, which is deployed on the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile. Mr. Krajcik testified that Mr. Lee failed two questions relating to whether he had disclosed secret information or classified codes to a foreign nation.

Testifying after Mr. Krajcik, FBI agent Robert Messemer said Mr. Lee responded deceptively when questioned about his failure to inform his superiors about contacts he had made with Chinese scientists during two approved visits to China in 1986 and 1988. At the February lie detector exam, Mr. Messemer said, Mr. Lee admitted helping Chinese nuclear weapons scientists solve a problem during his 1986 visit. Mr. Messemer also revealed that Mr. Lee had acknowledged during an earlier polygraph test that he attended a clandestine hotel meeting with Chinese scientists in 1988 at which, he later told the FBI, he had also assisted a Chinese scientist.

Mr. Lee's attorney disputed Mr. Krajcik's interpretation of the February meeting, arguing that the secret information Mr. Lee said he may have inadvertently revealed was disclosed only in a scholarly paper that had been approved by the laboratory. Mr. Krajcik replied that Mr. Lee made no mention of such a paper during the February meeting and that Mr. Lee had later appeared "deceptive and evasive" during a March 5 meeting at which the FBI intensively interviewed Mr. Lee, who was fired three days later.

While Mr. Lee has not been charged with espionage, his indictment did declare that he removed the equivalent of 800,000 pages worth of nuclear secrets "with the intent to injure the United States and with the intent to secure an advantage for a foreign power." For the first time since he was fired, U.S. officials this week have publicly offered information suggesting that Mr. Lee may have revealed secrets to a foreign power.

All of this will be sorted out at Mr. Lee's trial, which is expected to begin in about a year. The issue of the moment is whether he should remain in custody. Noting that the information Mr. Lee downloaded and transferred to tapes could "truly change the world strategic balance," Paul Robinson, the president of Sandia National Laboratory, which develops nuclear weapons, urged caution, cryptically observing, "This court faces a you-bet-your-country decision." With the ultimate disposition of seven of the 10 computer tapes still unknown Mr. Lee's attorneys say that he destroyed them this is clearly a bet that the United States cannot afford to lose.

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