- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Philip Gold's otherwise useful review of Wen Ho Lee's memoir, "My Country vs. Me," perpetuates one of the ugliest myths about the government's investigation of Lee that racism was somehow a factor in this case. Lee's defense team formulated this "get out of jail" card for Lee as a tactic to deflect attention away from his misdeeds that stretched back nearly two decades. That the tactic worked so well makes its repeated use down the road nearly inevitable. And that could render us helpless against Chinese espionage, or espionage by any other nation that enjoys a large, activist community in the United States and a powerful lobby in Washington.
Lee's lawyers played the race card to great advantage. Through an astute public relations strategy, playing the race card helped them mobilize public opinion, particularly in the Asian American community, raise money through the Wen Ho Lee Defense Fund, and gave them a "villain" to demonize. Playing the race card provided a sensational news angle for the media that drew attention away from the larger issues involved in this case. Forgotten were the most serious allegations of espionage since the Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project, the FBI's inexplicably inept investigation, the National Laboratories' abysmal record of security, the Energy Department's repeated management failures that invited espionage, and the Clinton administration's undue deference to the "sensitivities" of the People's Republic of China (PRC). More than once, as reported by Bill Gertz of this paper, the Clinton Justice Department declined to pursue espionage allegations against Energy Department national laboratory scientists out of fear of offending the PRC government.
But the Clinton administration knew full-well that racism was never a factor in the Wen Ho Lee case. In a Justice Department report issued in May 2000 but hidden away by government classification rules, a senior federal prosecutor and his team reviewed 42,000 classified government documents and interviewed nearly 175 participants in the Lee investigation. The conclusions of that report could have helped the Lee prosecution rebut the race card strategy, but were completely ignored by government prosecutors. When a federal magistrate from Virginia's Eastern District forced the Justice Department to finally release the document in August 2001, its conclusions on racism couldn't be clearer. The review "found no evidence of racial bias" and concluded that a full counterintelligence investigation of Wen Ho Lee "was warranted" by his own actions that stretched back nearly 20 years.
If you don't trust the Reno Justice Department, then how about the Senate Judiciary Committee? Senator Arlen Specter issued a report in December 2001 that came to the same conclusion as the Justice report: "Allegations that Dr. Lee was targeted for investigation and prosecution as a result of 'ethnic profiling' are unfounded. The repeated investigations of Dr. Lee resulted from reasonable suspicions raised by Dr. Lee's own conduct." That report goes on to point out the recklessness of Lee's prosecutors, the Justice Department, and the administration's failure to address the race factor head on. "Because these charges have not been rebutted, the public may have been left with the impression that Dr. Lee's allegations were correct, and that the government acted out of racial or ethnic prejudice. Any such impression is injurious to the public's trust in the institutions which are charged with enforcing the nation's laws and must be properly addressed."
If that's still not enough, then how about Wen Ho Lee himself? I sued Lee for slander and defamation and the case is currently on appeal. When finally forced to testify under oath, Lee admitted that he didn't think he was indicted because he is Chinese American, that he had never told his lawyers to allege that he was investigated because he is Chinese American, that he didn't agree with allegations that he was singled out due to this ethnicity, and that he had never experienced racism. Other depositions taken from nearly all the key players in the Energy Department's initial inquiry into Lee confirmed that there wasn't a whiff of racism or racial profiling in this inquiry. The other defendants in the case could produce no eyewitnesses nor a shred of evidence of racism; one of them had already admitted under oath during congressional testimony that there were "no documents" to verify his slanderous claims. Inexplicably, the Justice Department and CIA Director George Tenet intervened at the eleventh hour on behalf of a convicted felon, Wen Ho Lee, and stopped the case from being heard by a jury.
Beyond setting the record straight, refuting these ugly allegations of racism is important for combating future espionage, involving particularly the People's Republic of China. Fear of being labeled "racist," coupled with official Washington's blind spot on China, have already derailed sustained efforts to comprehend the scope of China's penetration of our centers of military science and technology. Whatever its faults, the Cox Report raised serious issues about China's acquisition of U.S. defense technologies and nuclear secrets. Yet the Cox Report was dead-on-arrival, thanks in part to a flawless White House strategy to make it so and congressional failures to follow through on its recommendations.
But worse yet, what future counterintelligence officer in his right mind will pursue allegations of espionage by the Chinese or others knowing full well that his government will abandon him at the first hint of "racism" or ethnic profiling? That the tactic worked so well, and is perpetuated by otherwise astute commentators like Philip Gold, should make us all worry.

Notra Trulock is associate editor of AIM Report at Accuracy In Media.

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