- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2000

I recently received an e-mail from a physicist colleague, Gordon Prather, that raises some disturbing questions about the disparity between the Clinton administration's handling of two highly publicized cases involving the alleged mishandling of national security secrets.

Mr. Prather has long experience in the development of nuclear weapons and is intimately familiar with procedures used for protecting our vital security secrets. He became interested in these cases because both of them are related to this administration's failure to vigorously carry out congressional mandates to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the aftermath of the hysteria generated by the selective leaking last spring of the Cox Committee Report on suspected espionage by the People's Republic of China, the Justice Department made the decision to vigorously prosecute Los Alamos nuclear weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee for "massive" mishandling of sensitive classified information. At the same time, it decided not to prosecute former CIA Director John Deutch for having done what appears to have been exactly the same kind of mishandling, or worse.

Mr. Prather writes: "Dear Jack, I just read an article in The Washington Post that states, 'An aide to Attorney General Janet Reno said she [Reno] was deeply concerned about the appearance of inequity in the handling of Deutch and Wen Ho Lee, a former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who faces trial and a possible life sentence for transferring nuclear secrets to an unsecure computer and portable tapes, seven of which are missing.'

"What Lee is alleged to have done is make his own copy on those missing tapes of hundreds of files that reside on a classified computer system at Los Alamos. I say 'allege' because apparently all the countersnoops know is that there are records on the Los Alamos classified computer system of his having downloaded those files onto some computer storage media, and since the downloaded files were not found on the hard disk of the unsecure computer itself, the countersnoops assume that Lee downloaded them directly onto the missing tapes. Despite a thorough search, the countersnoops have been unable to find any such tapes.

"Nevertheless, the basis for the most serious charge against Lee is that since the unsecure computer was connected from time to time to the Internet via modem, those missing tapes could somehow have been been accessed over the Internet by a computer hacker. But if Lee had sent the downloaded files as e-mail to an accomplice, there would have been a record, and there is none. And if the missing tapes had not been accessible by the unsecure computer while it was connected via modem to the Internet, the tapes would not have been accessible to a hacker, either.

"In contrast, Justice doesn't have to speculate about what Deutch did because they found the files he had mishandled on the hard disks of the CIA-supplied, unsecure computers at his two homes and on removable data cards that could be used with all of his computers. Furthermore, Deutch has admitted to having sent some of these files outside of official secure channels over the unsecure Internet as e-mail to the president and others in the White House.

"From an evidentiary point of view, Reno has good reason to be 'deeply concerned.' No charges are contemplated against Deutch, while Lee is currently imprisoned without bail in solitary confinement and faces spending the rest of his life there, according to federal prosecutors.

"If anyone ought to be facing a long jail term, it's Deutch. Justice has hard evidence that Deutch mishandled classified information at home and disclosed it to unauthorized third parties, but to this day can only speculate about what Lee did in his office inside the security fence at Los Alamos and whether any unauthorized third party gained access to classified information. All the best, Gordon."

The prosecution of Mr. Lee appears to have been the "sop" thrown to Congress by the Clinton administration in the wake of the Cox report's assertion that "The People's Republic of China's penetration of our national weapons laboratories spans at least the past several decades, and almost certainly continues today."

That assertion, Mr. Prather concluded in a white paper he authored last year, was not warranted by the evidence and "is almost certainly not true." Mr. Prather concluded that while espionage by the PRC may have occurred, there is no evidence our labs have been penetrated by PRC "moles."

I asked him what could account for Mr. Deutch's behavior as DCI, which based on the evidence gives if not the appearance of illegality at least is certainly indefensible when compared to Wen Ho Lee. And, more importantly, why did President Clinton, knowing all about Mr. Deutch's indefensible behavior as DCI in 1995 and 1996, then appoint Mr. Deutch in 1997 to be co-chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission?

His answers are disturbing. I will report on his response in a future column.

Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America and Distinguished Fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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