[ISN] Los Alamos Scientist Criticizes FBI in Book

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jan 17 2002 - 23:09:13 PST

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    Forwarded from: Jei <jeiat_private>
    By Walter Pincus
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, January 16, 2002; Page A08
    Former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee maintains he was selected for
    prosecution because of his ethnic background and asserts that the
    computer tapes he downloaded, which were the basis of his guilty plea,
    were not the "crown jewels" of nuclear weapons building, but "largely
    the crown junk."
    In his newly published autobiography, "My Country Versus Me," written
    with the help of Helen Zia, Lee acknowledges that his downloading of
    computer tapes was a security violation. But he blames the multi-year
    FBI investigation of his activities and his jailing in solitary
    confinement for nine months on espionage charges partly on Washington
    hysteria and spineless bureaucrats.
    Most of all, the Taiwan-born Lee writes, "Had I not been Chinese, I
    never would have been accused of espionage and threatened with
    Lee's book, however, does not totally explain why he downloaded
    computer codes associated with nuclear weapons designs in 1993-94, and
    again in 1997. In fact, he focuses his attention on the earlier
    download and not at all on those of 1997.
    As he did in earlier interviews, he said in his book that the
    downloading in the 1993-94 period was done "to protect my files, to
    make a backup copy." He adds, as he did just before his guilty plea to
    the surprise of his own lawyers, that he had "made more than one
    backup copy, actually." Why more than one backup? Because, he writes,
    "there were no lab rules against making copies -- most prudent people
    keep copies of their important documents."
    He also said he had "lost some important codes before, when the [Los
    Alamos computer] operating system changed, and I didn't want that to
    happen again."
    But, as Los Alamos senior scientists testified at Lee's trial, and
    another newly published book on the Lee case, "A Convenient Spy,"
    repeats, Los Alamos scientists in the highly classified X Division
    where Lee worked were repeatedly offered opportunities to copy their
    own work in case of computer failure, "day by day, even computer
    stroke by computer stroke," one said recently.
    Reporters Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman provide another reason for Lee's
    downloading. He might have wanted to use the data in a future job,
    either with a Taiwan company called Asiatek, which has close ties to
    that country's defense ministry, or some other company.
    As for the computer codes themselves, called the "crown jewels" of the
    nuclear weapons business by one of the nuclear lab's senior
    scientists, Lee called them "the crown junk" and "the biggest nuclear
    weapons secret that [Los Alamos National Laboratory] and the
    government have to hide.
    "The cornerstone of nuclear deterrence," Lee writes, "is to scare the
    rest of the world into thinking that our weapons are bigger, stronger,
    faster, and far more destructive than theirs." And while saying that
    statement is true, Lee goes on to say, "the science of nuclear weapons
    hasn't progressed much" since the end of the Cold War and the test ban
    He says scientists like himself still at the U.S. weapons labs "spend
    their time figuring out what to do with rusty, old nuclear bombs." The
    stockpile stewardship program, "fixing old bombs and digging up old
    test data" in trying to keep U.S. nuclear weapons safe and reliable,
    is "like eating leftovers for dinner, [but] it's better than nothing."
    Much of the preliminary testimony and motions in court went Lee's way,
    particularly because of the work of his two lead lawyers, John Cline
    and Mark Holscher.
    But when the decision came before trial to accept an agreement that
    included pleading guilty to one count of mishandling classified
    information, Lee writes that Cline and Holscher told him he had a 95
    percent chance of winning "if it goes to trial, but a five percent
    chance that we could lose. If we lose, you could face life in prison.
    Are you willing to take that risk?"
    Saying "it was not worth the risk of spending the rest of my life in
    prison," Lee said he agreed, since losing the right to vote, own a
    gun, run for public office or serve on a jury was "less of a sacrifice
    . . . than to risk a prison sentence."
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