- NEW YORK (Reuters) - Los Alamos National Laboratory chose Wen Ho Lee (pictured),
a scientist who was already under investigation as a suspected spy for
China, to lead a sensitive nuclear weapons program in 1997, several senior
government officials told the New York Times on Wednesday.
- Lee then hired a postdoctoral researcher
who was a Chinese citizen and who has since disappeared, intelligence
and law-enforcement officials told the newspaper.
- The Taiwanese-born Lee was fired earlier
this month amid allegations that he leaked nuclear secrets to Beijing
from the New Mexico nuclear laboratory.
- He remains a suspect in the FBI's continuing
investigation of allegations that China stole nuclear secrets from U.S.
weapons laboratories, the newspaper said, citing senior government officials.
- China has denied the allegations, and
the issue has cast a shadow over U.S. relations with China and raised
doubts about security at U.S. weapons laboratories.
- Although the FBI had said a wiretap on
Lee would enable the agency to keep a close watch on the computer expert,
the bureau never received approval from the Justice Department for electronic
monitoring, officials told the newspaper.
- In September 1997, FBI Director Louis
Freeh told senior Energy Department officials that the bureau did not have
enough evidence to arrest Lee and there was no longer any investigative
reason to keep him in a sensitive position, law-enforcement officials told
- Earlier this week on NBC's "Meet
the Press," U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson denied reports that
the FBI had said there was no reason to keep Lee on the job. The FBI did
not comment on Richardson's statements.
- Clinton administration officials told
the New York Times that Lee's new position had been approved in part because
it was believed his access to information would be "controlled."
- Lee's job was to update the programming
codes for the weapons labs' "stockpile stewardship" program,
an initiative to make sure the American nuclear weapons inventory could
be safely maintained without further nuclear testing.
- The FBI is trying to find the research
assistant to question him in connection with the Los Alamos case.
- At one point, the agency investigated
the assistant, who had studied at the University of Pittsburgh, and did
not conclude that he had any intelligence connection.
- The assistant worked with Lee from about
May through September 1997, the newspaper reported. Officials told the
newspaper they were not sure if the student was still in the United States.
- After congressional prodding, the Energy
Department gave Lee a lie detector test in December 1998 and he appeared
to pass. The FBI gave him a second test in February and officials said
he was found to be deceptive.