Wen Ho Lee release delayed, again...
September 12, 2000 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Wen Ho Lee release delayed, again... as the case falls apart against him, the feds manage to secure a single plea of guilty and arrange Dr. Lee's release after 9 months in solitary confinement. How do you feel about this? Is the an example of the "Evil Empire" scapegoating a minority?
posted by Dean_Paxton (14 comments total)
I look at it as jingoism rather than racism. if we were still embroiled in the Cold War, it would be some white guy accused of giving national secrets to the soviets.

I take it as a measure of our fear of the chinese as a potential rival empire.

posted by rebeccablood at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2000

America transfers a whole lot of technology to China via open channels. Loral, Boeing have had joint ventures with China. At least two American companies use Chinese rockets to put sattelites in orbit.

Singling out Dr. Lee is trying to out a "face" to some "enimy nation." This is just blatant racism. I do not see FBI jailing the CEO of Boeing for technology transfers.
posted by tamim at 11:23 AM on September 12, 2000

What I'm wondering is whether the felony for which he's plea-bargaining is one of the "automatic deport" crimes under the new immigration laws. If so, in theory, the INS should arrest him at the courthouse doors and take him right back to jail (no bail eligibility) pending a one-way trip back to Taiwan...
posted by MattD at 11:45 AM on September 12, 2000

MattD, Isn't he a U.S. Citizen? I don't think they can deport him.

Rebecca, the point is he's not white... that's how we know it's racism.
posted by sudama at 12:01 PM on September 12, 2000

just because something happens to someone who isn't white doesn't make it racism.

in WWII people of japanese descent were put into detainment camps; people of german descent were not. *that* was racism.

in the Cold War, anyone suspected of passing state secrets to the soviets would have been jailed, or maybe killed. black, white, jewish, asian, native american--same for everyone.

in this case, china has the potential to rule the world, just by sheer numbers and the advantage their political system gives them: they can make their populace cooperate no matter what their feelings. in the US you have to at least manufacture consent. they have more people and they have an autocratic rule. do you see the advantages to that in creating or maintaining an empire?

it's an irrelevant circumstance that the chinese are asian. if the soviets were in power and the scientist in question had been soviet (white) the same exact thing would have happened. if botswana was huge and potentially powerful, it would have happened to an african.

race is irrelevant in this particular situation.

posted by rebeccablood at 12:16 PM on September 12, 2000

Except the feds don't EVEN have a case against Lee. You don't have to look very far to see that this case was racially motivated. They had to drop 58 of the 59 charges against him! And now they're keeping him in jail, despite the plea bargain?! As far as I'm concerned, there is no excuse for ignoring such blatant racism.
posted by snakey at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2000

Rebecca, I see your point, but it's clear that he was singled out for suspicion. If there were evidence linking him to any specific transfer, that would be one thing, but there isn't -- they went looking, they even had Chinese documents that we stole that told us what they found out and when, and they still couldn't find anything. What they did find was some sloppy security throughout the nuclear sciences programs and of all the sloppy security they found, they single out one Chinese-American for prosecution.

Now, mind you, I don't actually think there's anything wrong with a) revoking his security clearance or b) firing him for either of these things, though it's probably just as much due to racial profiling. National security is one of those things that's generally more important than the privilege of one individual to work on sensitive projects. But the criminal prosecution is just a hypocritical cover-our-asses maneuver. Remember, John Deutch did almost exactly the same thing, and even surfed porn sites from his "secure" laptop -- or let someone in his house get into it to do that. Was he prosecuted as a criminal? Nope. They had to swallow hard and slap him on the wrist.
posted by dhartung at 12:46 PM on September 12, 2000

I don't actually think there's anything wrong with a) revoking his security clearance or b) firing him for either of these things, though it's probably just as much due to racial profiling.

Of course it's wrong, and of course it's racism -- unless they were to fire everybody who practices sloppy security at that lab. Otherwise, you're not talking about the privilege of one individual to work on sensitive projects -- you're denying the privilege to one individual and granting it to many, on the basis of race.
posted by sudama at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2000

Could be race to be sure, but there is much more here. They had, in Dr. Lee, a scapegoat to draw attention away from Gore due to some shady dealings the executive branch had with China. Election time ya know... Even if that seems to be a stretch, then there's more: Stories of information leaks by American scientists to China, not to mention the series of security blunders that made media news earlier this year at Los Alamos (where he worked) and other places. What better goat than a "Chinese" man. (Who is actually born in Taiwan and a naturalized U.S. citizen).
posted by Dean_Paxton at 1:11 PM on September 12, 2000

Oh, by the way:

Wen Ho Lee became a US citizen 26 years ago. US citizens cannot be deported; the one-strike even-a-misdemeanor-and-you're-out law is aimed at permanent residents, not citizens.

The US could, of course, move to revoke his citizenship (denaturalize). Before 1990, this power was reserved to federal judges, i.e. the flip side of the power to grant citizenship. Since 1990, the Attorney General and the INS by extension have been granted authority under a special proceeding, S 340(a), to retroactively deny citizenship. Over the last couple of years this law has been challenged, but has not been overturned.

Lee has not been charged with treason, but if he were convicted of that, it would be grounds for involuntary loss of citizenship.

Anyway, the usual practice is to jail spies, q.v. Jonathon Pollard.
posted by dhartung at 2:06 PM on September 12, 2000

I still ask: is this *racism* or *nationalism*?

if there were a white man who had originally come from china (or taiwan, as the case may be) would he have been treated differently? would a person originally from any other nation that is perceived as a threat have been treated differently?

posted by rebeccablood at 3:33 PM on September 12, 2000

there's no evidence that Wen Ho Lee did anything more or less than practice the same lax security measures that turn out to be widespread at Los Alamos. he was investigated because of his race.

posted by sudama at 4:10 PM on September 12, 2000

Not only is the pure and simple racism, but it's yet another example of The Law badly mishandling technology people. They have a brutish lack of understanding of technology coupled an overzealous compulsion to attack that which they don't understand. Also on the "dumbass technophobes" list are the lawyers (defense and prosecution), judges and juries. Mix into that the propensity to hate Asians and Indians that are technical or medical professionals and you have Wen Ho Lee in jail for something no one understands. It's not a new kind of racist hatred, the hatred of technology and technical people. Something that I've dealt with and most of you have too. Good thing we aren't up against this...
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:04 PM on September 12, 2000

rebecca, I know you mean well, but jingoism is merely cover here for racism.

sudama, I was talking about the issue of suspicion. There's a difference between being lax to the point of losing a security clearance and committing the crime of espionage. I was making, or trying to make, a distinction between the two. In other words, I'm willing to accept much sloppier standards, so to speak, for losing a security clearance, than for going to jail.
posted by dhartung at 9:48 AM on September 13, 2000

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