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Los Alamos Scientist Heads to Court

June 26, 2000

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Before the wildfires, before the missing computer hard drives and floppy discs, there was Wen Ho Lee.

The former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist charged with 59 counts of breaching security at the lab was one of the first cases in a series of alleged security lapses reported at the facility _ the latest coming last week.

Lee, who faces charges mostly alleging he transferred restricted files to unsecured computers and computer tapes at the lab, planned to ask a judge Monday to suppress some evidence and order prosecutors to say what foreign nation he allegedly tried to aid.

Lee, 60, was fired last year and arrested in December. He could spend life in prison if convicted and already has spent more than six months in jail without bail. Trial is set for Nov. 6.

Prosecutors do not allege he committed espionage or passed any secrets to anybody. To convict, however, prosecutors must prove he acted with intent to harm the United States or gain advantage for another nation.

Prosecutors have said they need not specify any foreign nation before trial. The defense contends that’s unfair, and want U.S. District Judge James Parker to order the government to reveal whether the alleged would-be beneficiary of Lee’s actions might be China or perhaps his native Taiwan. Lee has been a naturalized U.S. citizen for about 25 years.

Defense lawyers Mark Holscher and John Cline also want Parker to suppress evidence seized with a search warrant that they contend was too broad. Among items seized from Lee’s home, they have said, were the collected short stories of Guy de Maupassant and the plays of Tennessee Williams.

Defense attorneys have said they also hope to raise again the no-bail order that has kept Lee jailed. Cline has said he intended to ask for another bail hearing in early July.

The Lee case grew out of an investigation into a suspected theft of U.S. nuclear secrets by China, but prosecutors have said the allegations against him are separate from that investigation.

Since then, other security lapses have been uncovered at Los Alamos.

As a forest fire burned toward Los Alamos last month, scientists discovered two hard drives with secret nuclear weapons information were missing. The fire ultimately burned more than 200 homes and nearly 40 temporary lab buildings, forcing the town and lab to evacuate and delaying the search for the hard drives by weeks. They were found June 16 behind a photocopying machine at the lab.

Last week, two 10-year-old floppy discs were reported missing at the lab as scientists, criticized in Congress for lax security, mounted an intensive inventory of such hardware. The discs were found a day later, attached to a paper report, and lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold said they were obsolete and virtually unusable anyway. Lab secrecy was not compromised, he said.

Danneskiold said the lab was itemizing all classified data in response to the uproar over the disappearance of the hard drives.

A federal grand jury has been convened in New Mexico to look into the disappearance of the hard drives, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told senators.


On the Net:

Los Alamos National Laboratory: http://www.lanl.gov/external

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