Forwarded from: Jei <jeiat_private> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52000-2002Jan15.html 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 execution." 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 treaty. 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." - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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