The Wen Ho Lee Scandal

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For those of
you watching with interest – perhaps with horror – the Wen Ho
Lee saga as it has been unfolding, there are several bits of pertinent
information that you may not have been given – until now.

  1. Chairman
    Chris Cox – of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security
    and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic
    of China – wants to be Speaker of the House.

  2. DOE Secretary
    Bill Richardson – former representative for New Mexico’s
    3rd District (which includes Los Alamos) – wants to be
    governor of New Mexico.

  3. The Board
    of Regents of the University of California operates – and
    has operated from Day 1 – the Los Alamos National Laboratory
    in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    in California for the Department of Energy.

After completing
most of its assigned work about People’s Republic of China launches
of U.S. satellites, almost as an afterthought, the Cox Committee
listened to some testimony from DOE "counterspooks" about
Clinton administration so-far successful attempts to thwart their
investigation and prosecution of PRC "moles" at Los Alamos
and Lawrence Livermore. Cox took all this testimony at the eleventh
hour from the aggrieved "counterspooks" – who were
not experts on nukes – and as Cox Committee Member John Spratt
later wrote, "The committee did not have time to call the senior
statesmen of the nuclear labs, like Harold Agnew (from Los Alamos)
and Johnny Foster (from Lawrence Livermore) for their perspective.
Partly because of haste, there are statements in the report that
will not stand scrutiny."

Indeed they
would not. The "classified" version of the Cox Committee
report was filed on Jan. 3, 1999, and much of it was promptly leaked.
By the time the "redacted" version of the Cox Committee
Report was made available on March 25, 1999, much of the damage
to the labs and lab scientists had already been done.

Even though
most of the Cox Report was about missile guidance systems and satellite
launches, the media frenzy that developed – after the classified
version was filed, but long before the "redacted" version
was made available to the public – was mostly about the charges
in Chapter II of the "decades long" penetration of the
U.S. nuke labs by PRC moles. The name of one suspected PRC mole
– Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee – was almost immediately
leaked. It was also leaked that the counterspooks had evidence that
Wen Ho had given the secret of the W-88 to the PRC back in 1985.

There were
congressional demands that Wen Ho be fired, and two days later Secretary
Richardson announced that he had fired Wen Ho Lee. Of course, he
had not actually fired him. Wen Ho was an employee of the University
of California and Richardson – as Secretary of Energy had no
authority to fire him. But he could, and perhaps did, threaten to
take away the UC contract to manage Los Alamos if they didn’t fire
him. Which they did, instantly, without due process.

The Cox Committee
Report charged that the PRC had infiltrated Los Alamos and Lawrence
Livermore "decades ago" and had, over a period of time,
stolen the "crown jewels" of the U.S. nuclear weapons
research and development programs. Nevertheless, Chairman Cox said
we should not blame the PRC for its spying, nor did Cox blame –
much to Richardson’s relief – the Clinton administration for
allowing the spying to happen. (In fact, just to show how little
blame Cox attaches to President Clinton and the PRC, Cox voted for
Perpetual Normal Trading Relations with the PRC, a vote that would
appear to be anathema to the Cox Report.) After all, most of the
PRC spying, according to Cox and Richardson, happened under previous
Republican administrations.

So who did
Chairman Cox and Secretary Richardson blame?

The UC Board
of Regents, that’s who. After filing his report, Chairman Cox publicly
demanded – and other congressmen joined in the chorus –
that the contract to manage Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos be
taken away from the University of California. That was just fine
with governor-wannabe Richardson, who has long wanted to take the
contract to operate Los Alamos away from UC and give it to the University
of New Mexico.

So where does
Wen Ho Lee fit into all this? Cox and Richardson were beginning
to look like fools for blaming UC, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore.
The Cox Report charges that Richardson et al. leaked about moles
and nukes, in general, and about Wen Ho Lee, in particular, had
turned out to be groundless.

But wouldn’t
you know it, after Richardson had "fired" Wen Ho, the
countersnoops searched his office and his computer and all his local
area network transactions, and they discovered that Wen Ho had apparently
copied – they can’t find the copies – a huge number of
"legacy" files. None of these so-called legacy files were
classified, individually, but when taken in aggregate, the Richardson
claim is that they amount to a collection of the U.S. nuke "crown

Now, all this
alleged spying by Wen Ho took place on President Clinton’s watch
and there is good reason to blame Clinton nuke policies towards
the PRC for it. Nevertheless, governor-wannabe Richardson and speaker-wannabe
Cox will try to tell you the Wen Ho discovery proves that they knew
what they were talking about – when they were demanding that
the contracts to manage Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore be taken
away from the UC Regents – all along. But they didn’t.

12, 2006

James Gordon Prather [send
him mail
] has served as a policy-implementing official for national
security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency,
the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department
of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department
of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for
national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. –
ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the
Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather
had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory
in New Mexico.

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