Wen Ho LeeWen Ho Lee
) is a Chinese American
scientist who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory
and was falsely accused of stealing secrets about the design and construction of the U.S's nuclear arsenal after the U.S. discovered that the People's Republic of China
had obtained some data on a particular warhead. It was soon determined that the specific data the PRC had obtained could not have come from Los Alamos Lab, because it related to information that would only have been available to someone like a so-called "downstream" contractor, meaning one involved in the final warhead production process, and this information was only created after the weapon design left the Lab. However, this determination was not enough to save Lee from being made a scapegoat by the many governmental and other organizations who were in need of someone to blame for their current scandal.
After an intensive forensic examination of Lee's office computer, it was determined that he had backed up his work files, which were not classified at the time, onto tapes, and had also transferred the files from a system used for processing classified data onto another, also highly secure, system designated for unclassified data. With this in hand, the government then retroactively redesignated the data Lee had copied, changing it from its former designation of PARD (Protect As Restricted Data) to a new designation of Secret, giving them the crime they needed for a formal charge. Lee was arrested in December 1999 but freed in August 2000 when he accepted a plea bargain from the federal government. Faced with the cost and the risky uncertainty of a jury trial at a time when the government and the media had effectively demonized him, Lee chose the safer option, and pled guilty to one felony count of improperly downloading classified data. In return, the government released him from jail and dropped the other 58 counts of illegally downloading classified data from the computers at the Los Alamos weapons lab. The judge assigned to hear the case apologized for Lee's nine months of incarceration.
Born in Nantou, Taiwan, Lee got his B.S in mechanical engineering from Cheng Kung University. He received a Ph.D from Texas A&M University in 1969.
See also: Taiwanese American
- Wen Ho Lee and Helen Zia, My Country Versus Me: The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused of Being a Spy, Hyperion, 2003, ISBN 0786886870.
- Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman, A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the Politics of Nuclear Espionage, Simon & Schuster, 2002, ISBN 0743223780.