- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

Counterintelligence experts say they still suspect that convicted nuclear weapons designer Wen Ho Lee was involved in Chinese espionage on U.S. nuclear laboratories.
The experts were reacting to portions of a once-secret Justice Department report on the Lee case made public this week. The heavily censored report criticized the FBI and the Energy Department for their handling of the case, but it did not provide answers to many of the questions about the nuclear espionage case, which began in 1995.
Paul Moore, a former FBI intelligence analyst and specialist on Chinese spying, said the Justice Department's report "missed the point."
"The problem with Wen Ho Lee is that he is like flypaper," Mr. Moore said. "He was doing things that were suspicious and lying while doing them. Either you become more suspicious when you encounter that, or you get out of the [counterintelligence] business."
"'What are the odds?' is the question you should ask," Mr. Moore said. "What are the odds that you run across somebody who is propositioned in a hotel room in China to commit espionage and he has not reported it [to security officials]."
Mr. Moore said the same Chinese nuclear officials who met Lee in China during visits there in 1986 and 1988 later came to the United States and met with Lee.
One senior Chinese nuclear official, Hu Side, embraced Lee at a reception and was overheard by an FBI informant to have said Lee made a major contribution to China's nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. officials close to the case.
This was one of numerous pieces of evidence gathered by the FBI over several years, before the formal investigation of Lee over the loss of nuclear warhead secrets began in 1998.
Other information included Lee's request to have a Chinese national who was a student in Pennsylvania become a research assistant for him at Los Alamos, where Lee was involved in classified weapons research.
"When you are doing odds, you have to multiply, not add," Mr. Moore said. "You get all these different things, and he's lying to you. And all these things happened before he made copies of the nuclear codes. The record is very clear: Wen Ho Lee is a liar and a thief. The question is: Is he taking the information he's stolen and giving it to a foreign country? I don't see any proof that he did so. But he may have been preparing to do so."
The report by federal prosecutor Randy Bellows also said that Lee, a Taiwanese-born nuclear weapons designer who pleaded guilty in September to mishandling nuclear data, was not singled out for investigation because of his racial or ethnic background.
The Justice Department report is only a small portion of an 800-page "top-secret" report on the case, and the documents released this week have been redacted. Additional material is expected to be made public in the next several weeks, although officials said that material also will be heavily censored.
The report was made public by a judge as part of a lawsuit filed by former Energy Department counterintelligence chief Notra Trulock. Mr. Trulock says two Energy Department investigators defamed him by contending that Lee was targeted because of his race.
Mr. Trulock said in an interview that he felt "vindicated" by the report because it shows racism was not a factor in the Lee investigation.
As for the rest of the report, Mr. Trulock said it is a "glass half-full."
"I think the public deserves to see the rest of the story, and I hope the Justice Department will keep its promise to release it," Mr. Trulock said. "The rest of the story will describe the FBI's role in the Kindred Spirit investigation."
John Martin, a former Justice Department spy prosecutor, also said he still has suspicions.
"We know Los Alamos and the other national labs were penetrated by the Chinese, and God knows who else," Mr. Martin said. "You have to start with a basic premise: The FBI didn't have a Chinese counterintelligence program, they did not competently handle the loss of W-88 [warhead] secrets and they focused too soon on Wen Ho Lee."
Mr. Martin said the case shows "massive ineptitude" stretching to the top of the FBI and the Justice Department.
U.S. officials said the 1995 Energy probe concluded that 12 Energy officials, including Lee and his wife, Sylvia, who was working secretly for the FBI, should be investigated by the nation's top law enforcement agency. However, the FBI did not act right away on the matter.
U.S. intelligence officials have said Lee first came under suspicion by the FBI in 1982 when he contacted another Chinese spy suspect who had been dismissed from Lawrence Livermore laboratory. In an intercepted telephone call, Lee told the suspected spy that he would try to find out who in China had disclosed the spying activity.
Lee then traveled to China in 1986 and 1988 and met secretly with Chinese nuclear weapons scientists but did not report the meetings until 1998, when he had come under suspicion of passing nuclear warhead secrets to China.
Lee, 60, pleaded guilty in September to one count of mishandling classified information. Fifty-eight other mishandling charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. He was charged with downloading large quantities of testing codes used in developing nuclear weapons through computer simulations. Six computer tapes containing information never were recovered.
Energy intelligence officials and the FBI had suspected that he was the source who disclosed to China classified U.S. nuclear weapons information on the W-88 warhead, the most powerful modern warhead in the U.S. strategic arsenal.
The CIA concluded later in a report that China had obtained U.S. warhead secrets through espionage.
U.S. officials close to the case said one reason the FBI may not have been aggressive in pursuing Chinese nuclear spying in the late 1990s was that the agency was trying to persuade Beijing to allow the FBI to open an office in China. A Chinese espionage probe would have made it all but impossible for that to happen, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Intelligence officials also said China warned the Clinton administration not to deal harshly with an earlier Chinese spy, Peter Lee, and that senior Clinton administration officials may have intervened to quietly derail the Wen Ho Lee case.
Larry Wortzel, a former Pentagon intelligence official and specialist on Chinese spying, said the main question left over from the Lee case is the missing tapes.
"What was he downloading that information for?" said Mr. Wortzel, now with the Heritage Foundation.


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