Nuclear scientist refused bail

December 30, 1999 - BBC News

A former scientist, Wen Ho Lee, who is facing trial on charges of stealing US nuclear weapons secrets, has been denied bail by a court. US District Judge James Parker said the government had shown evidence that if Mr Lee was freed he could damage national security.

Mr Lee, who has denied any wrongdoing, was an employee at the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico state when the alleged offences took place. He is charged with 59 counts under the Atomic Energy and Espionage Acts but has not been charged with passing secrets to a foreign power. The charges allege transfer of classified material from secure computers to computer tapes. Seven of the tapes remain missing and the judge said they had the potential for "enormous harm".

At the bail hearing Judge Parker expressed concern at the "extreme restrictions" placed on Me Lee while he has been in custody. But he said: "The government has shown convincing evidence that there is no clear set of circumstances that would guarantee the safety of the community ... and that the danger presented by the missing tapes has potential for enormous harm." Mr Lee, 60, said he destroyed the tapes after losing his security clearance at Los Alamos.

Mr Lee, a Taiwan-born computer scientist, was the prime target of an FBI investigation involving alleged theft of nuclear secrets by China. But the charges he faces do not allege that Mr Lee worked for the Chinese authorities. The trial is expected to take place late next year and if convicted Mr Lee faces life imprisonment.

  • Return to Wen Ho Lee Page