Part 1- ATTENTION! (…) broader view of what is going on with the DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE and the reorganization of FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, resulting in HUGE top-level power consolidation.



Ho Wen Lee

  • This guy was under investigation by the FBI after the Chinese obtained classified nuclear secrets.
    • After an intelligence agent from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) gave U.S. agents papers which indicated that they knew the design of a particularly modern U.S. nuclear warhead, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started an investigation codenamed Operation Kindred Spirit to look into how China could have obtained that design.
  • He lied to the FBI several times.
    • In 1982, Lee was recorded on a wiretap speaking with another Taiwanese-American scientist who had been accused of espionage. Lee offered to the scientist to find out who had turned him in. When confronted by the FBI about this incident, Lee said he did not know the scientist, until the FBI demonstrated proof of the conversation. Despite some evidence that could have kept the case open, the FBI closed this file on Lee in 1984.
  • FBI leadership acted very strangely. Closed the case.
  • Lee did not get the attention of the FBI again for 12 years until 1998. The FBI had lost the file on Lee from the 1983 and 1984 meetings with him, and had to reconstruct the information.

In 1994, a delegation of Chinese scientists visited Los Alamos National Laboratory in an unannounced capacity for a meeting.

  • One of the scientists visiting was Dr. Hu Side, the head of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics, essentially the head of the Chinese nuclear program. He also was credited with the design of the small, W88-like weapon. However, despite the visit being unannounced, Lee showed up to the meeting uninvited. Side and Lee clearly knew each other and were friendly.
  • This alarmed LANL officials who contacted the FBI, which opened up another investigation of Lee. On December 23, 1998 Lee was given a polygraph test by Wackenhut, a DOE contractor. He was not told of the reason why, other than that it involved his latest trip to China to escort his nephew. During the questioning, he admitted that he had, in fact, met with Dr. Hu Side in a hotel room in 1988 and that Side had asked him for classified information, which he refused to discuss.
  • Lee admitted that he failed to report this contact and approach by individuals requesting classified information as required by security regulations. He was told that he passed the test, but was stripped of his Q (classified) clearance to the LANL’s classified X Division section. Although he questioned the action against him, Lee went along, deleting the classified information he held on his computers, and moved to the T (unclassified) clearance zone. He was later subjected to three more polygraph tests before being told by the FBI agents that re-evaluation of the test results showed that Lee had failed all of them.
  • There were 60 agents and more assigned to Lee’s case, working to prove that he was a spy. The FBI conducted a search of Lee’s house on April 10, seizing any item related to computers or computing, as well as anything that had notations written in Chinese. The FBI and the Department of Energy then decided to conduct a full forensic examination of Lee’s office computer. The examination of Lee’s computer determined that he had backed up his work files, which were restricted though not classified, onto tapes, and had also transferred these files from a system used for processing classified data onto another, also secure, system designated for unclassified data.
  • After the FBI discovered Lee’s transfer, they revoked his badge access and clearance, including his ability to access the data from the unclassified but secure network. Lee then requested from a colleague in another part of Los Alamos to be allowed to use his computer, at which time he transferred the data to a third unclassified computer network. The government then retroactively redesignated the data Lee had copied, changing it from its former designation of “PARD” (Protect As Restricted Data), which was just above the “Unclassified” designation and contained 99 percent unclassified data, to a new designation of “Secret” (which was treated on a higher security level than PARD), giving them the crime that the government needed for a formal charge.
  • The Department of Justice constructed its case around the only real evidence of malfeasance, the downloading of the restricted information. It ultimately employed an unusual strategy of trying to prove that in addition to illegally handling information, Lee was trying to injure the United States by denying it the exclusivity of the nuclear information. Lee was indicted on 53 counts of mishandling information. Janet Reno confirmed with CIA Director George Tenet and Louis Freeh that if the presiding judge rules that if the government must reveal in open court what specifically was on the tapes, the prosecution would have to plea out the case or risk jeopardizing state secrets.

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  • The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI.
    • The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve. We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it. We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.
    • Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure—privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before. We shouldn’t drift to a place—or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices—because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time.

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