2 Affidavits Are Unsealed in Secrets Case At Los Alamos
James Sterngold - The New York Times - September 1, 2000
LOS ANGELES -- A federal court today made public affidavits filed by lawyers for the former
Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee in
which two former intelligence officials said they were aware of instances in which government employees had been caught in serious
cases of espionage but not prosecuted.
The defense has introduced the
statements in its efforts to prove that
Dr. Lee, who has been indicted on
charges that he illegally downloaded
a wealth of nuclear weapons secrets
with the intent of helping a foreign
country, was unfairly singled out for
prosecution because of his race. Dr.
Lee, 60, a naturalized American citizen, was born in Taiwan and, although he is not accused of spying, he
was initially investigated on suspicions he had passed secrets to China.
The defense has previously released statements in which government intelligence officials said that
Dr. Lee had been unfairly targeted
because of concerns that because he
was of Chinese descent he might be
inclined to commit espionage for China. The fact that Dr. Lee was born in
Taiwan, a strident enemy of the People's Republic of China, had been
ignored, they said.
The affidavits released today go
further, though, by providing details
of serious espionage cases in which
admitted spies apparently escaped
criminal prosecution altogether.
Robert Vrooman, the former head
of counterintelligence at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where Dr.
Lee worked, provided one affidavit.
Mr. Vrooman, who has since retired
from Los Alamos and who was reprimanded for not pursuing Dr. Lee
more vigorously, disclosed for the
first time an intelligence investigation code-named "Buffalo Slaughter."
In this investigation, he wrote,
sometime in the late 1980's a person
working at an Energy Department
laboratory was caught after having
passed secrets to a foreign country.
"That individual was granted full
immunity in return for agreeing to a
full debriefing on the information
that he passed," Mr. Vrooman said.
That person, he added, was not of
The second affidavit unsealed today was by Charles E. Washington,
the former acting head of counterintelligence at the Department of Energy. Mr. Washington, who still
works at the department as an international policy analyst, said that
while he was head of counterintelligence he read an administrative report on the investigation of Dr. Lee
and believed it "was wholly lacking
in any support to identify Dr. Lee as
Mr. Washington said that he knew
of a number of department employees who were not prosecuted "for
committing offenses that are much
more serious than the 'security infractions' alleged to have been committed by Dr. Lee."
"I am personally aware of a
D.O.E. employee who committed a
most egregious case of espionage
that cost our nation billions of dollars
and drastically impacted our national defense," he said. "That D.O.E.
employee was not prosecuted."
No further details were provided.
"The department aggressively
pursues all such allegations," said
Natalie Wymer, an Energy Department spokeswoman, but she would
not comment on the specific cases
These affidavits, unsealed today in
Federal District Court in Albuquerque, follow by several days an order
by the federal judge in Dr. Lee's
case, James A. Parker, in which he
gave the government two weeks to
hand over thousands of pages of classified internal documents to determine if there is evidence that Dr. Lee
was a victim of selective prosecution. If the judge finds that that was
the case, the charges against him
could be dropped.
In previous statements, Mr. Vrooman had disputed F.B.I. assertions
that Dr. Lee had been singled out for
investigation because he fit the description of a spy they were searching for. Mr. Vrooman said again in
today's affidavit that dozens of people who also met the criteria, but
who were not ethnically Chinese,
were not pursued. The intelligence
official said that even though he had
investigated Dr. Lee for years, he
considered him "naïve," but not a
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