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My Country Versus Me: The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused of Being a Spy

Overview

Wen Ho Lee, a patriotic American scientist born in Taiwan, devoted most of his life to science and to helping improve U.S. defense capabilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then, in January of 1999, everything changed and he was accused of espionage by members of Congress and portrayed as the most dangerous traitor since the Rosenbergs. He was even told that their fate?execution?might well be his own. For the first time, Dr. Wen Ho Lee chronicles his experiences before, during, and after his ...

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Overview

Wen Ho Lee, a patriotic American scientist born in Taiwan, devoted most of his life to science and to helping improve U.S. defense capabilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then, in January of 1999, everything changed and he was accused of espionage by members of Congress and portrayed as the most dangerous traitor since the Rosenbergs. He was even told that their fate—execution—might well be his own. For the first time, Dr. Wen Ho Lee chronicles his experiences before, during, and after his imprisonment. He takes you inside Los Alamos, describes the false charges leveled against him, and tells how his career and life were threatened and his civil rights taken away. A riveting true story about prejudice, suspicion, and courage, My Country Versus Me is a vitally important book for our time.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist who was falsely accused of being a spy for the Chinese government, now tells his side of the story. Dr. Lee takes the reader inside the Los Alamos complex, showing how national security violations were constant there. Also, he talks about his role in combating communism -- a role that allied him with the FBI itself. A spellbinding tale of courage in the face of prejudice and injustice.
Santa Fe New Mexican
Engaging work.
New York Times
Today, the crime . . . remains unsolved . . . the government was driven by fear that he had given up the nation's deepest atomic secrets.
Publishers Weekly
In a story that would seem fantastic even if it were fictional, the Taiwan-born Lee relates his traumatic saga of being accused by the government of the high crime of espionage, detailing his life before, during and after the accusation. Lee, a "patriotic" American scientist who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, helped develop our national defense capabilities and also assisted the FBI to help protect U.S. nuclear secrets. He was shocked to find himself the subject of scrutiny. Nevertheless, based on nothing but hollow government allegations, apparent racism and the need for a scapegoat, Lee explains how Congress' and the national media's portrayal of him as a traitor more dangerous than the Rosenbergs resulted in ruining his life and reputation. Though not convicted, he spent nearly a year in 1999 shackled and chained in prison. Now that his case has been settled, he is free to tell his story, and Stella's reading of it is superb. He chose to avoid an obvious Chinese accent, opting instead to deliver the text using only the stiffness associated with someone whose first language is not English. This makes for a performance that is so convincing, it is shocking to hear his voice sans this effect when he reads Zia's acknowledgements at the book's end. Simultaneous release with the Hyperion hardcover. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
For more than nine months, the world saw Wen Ho Lee as a person under arrest on the television news. An atomic scientist working at the highest level, he had downloaded technical information onto his insecure personal computer. Was he a spy, sending critical nuclear secrets to China, or was he a loyal U.S. citizen who just did what others with similar rank were doing routinely, an act not in any sense treasonous? To quote him: "The reason I downloaded these files was very simple and mundane: I wanted to protect them from loss in the event that LANL changed the computer operating system again or experienced a computer crash—both had occurred in the past, causing serious problems for me. During those incidents, I lost some important computer codes that I had written. ...There was nothing clandestine or hidden about my files or tapes." Ho Lee saw himself identified with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and other spies of the McCarthy era. Were there political motivations, and possibly racial ones, for targeting him? Ho Lee believes so. For a time, he believed he would be sentenced to long-term incarceration under severe conditions. When the courts finally affirmed his innocence, he felt the need to tell the American people his side of the story, and this book is the result. Working with writer Helen Zia, this is a well narrated, disturbing account of an investigation gone awry but eventually set right. He tells of his fight, aided by friends, family, and unexpected supporters, who believed in him. Born in an adobe house in Taiwan, the brilliant scientist-to-be studied at Texas A&M University; he became a U.S. citizen in 1974. Is there a twinge of anger, of bitterness? Yes, but when readers arethrough reading his account, they will come away convinced that justice was done when Ho Lee walked out of the prison doors a free man. Ho Lee, who knows that a similar accusation in other countries would have cost him his life, remains a loyal U.S. citizen. An excellent choice for classes studying the legal system, the history of espionage, and civil liberties. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Hyperion, 332p. illus., Boardman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786886876
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 1/8/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Wen Ho Lee lives with his wife in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Helen Zia, an award-winning journalist and author of Asian American Dreams, has covered Asian American communities and social and political movements for more than twenty years. Born in New Jersey and a graduate of Princeton's first co-educational class, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

On the last day that I was shackled and chained, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico apologized to me.

After 278 days of solitary confinement without benefit of a trial, on September 13, 2000, I was finally being freed. I had spent the previous winter, spring, and summer in "pretrial detention," the government's impersonal way of saying that I was such a menace to society that I should be jailed even though I was presumed to be innocent. The terrible offense I was suspected of committing: the high crime of espionage. I was not officially charged with spying, but my accusers spoke through government leaks and innuendo in the media and in Congressional hearings. According to the government officials who hoped to imprison me for life — from members of the President's Cabinet and Congress to local prosecutors — I was so dangerous that I had to be locked away under the most severe conditions they could devise.

Judge James Parker, the federal judge who presided over my "theft" of the "crown jewels" — our most critical nuclear secrets — said in his deep and authoritative voice, with America as his audience: "I have been misled by our government."

I remember that as I stood before him and the hushed crowd of family, friends, court watchers, and reporters, I noticed how brilliant the New Mexico sun was, streaming through the high windows of the Rio Grande courtroom at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque.

Judge Parker reviewed the terms of my release under a plea bargain agreement. I pled guilty to one of the 59 counts the government brought against me: I said that I had used an unsecure computer in the Theoretical Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory to download national defense information onto a tape, which I retained. In exchange for my plea, all other 58 counts were dismissed — including the 39 counts that each carried a life sentence for violating the Atomic Energy Act and for stealing nuclear secrets with the intent to harm my country. My sentence in exchange for the plea: 278 days in prison, the exact time I had already served.

Then, in his calm baritone voice, Judge Parker spoke to me slowly and deliberately. Throughout the many court hearings, his faint Texas drawl had always reminded me of my graduate-school days at Texas A&M, and on this day it filled the huge courtroom:

I believe you were terribly wronged by being held in custody pretrial in the Santa Fe County Detention Center under demeaning, unnecessarily punitive conditions. I am truly sorry that I was led by our executive branch of government to order your detention last December.

Dr. Lee, I tell you with great sadness that I feel I was led astray last December by the executive branch of our government through its Department of Justice, by its Federal Bureau of Investigation, and by its United States attorney for the district of New Mexico, who held the office at that time.

I could feel a stifled gasp from the packed gallery behind me, followed by complete silence. I wasn't sure if I was really comprehending judge Parker's sincere words, so I glanced at my lawyers, Mark Holscher and John Cline, who stood on either side of me. Throughout the toughest moments of my case, when the power and might of the federal government seemed overwhelming, Mark and John and the other lawyers who defended me were as steady as the Jemez mountains. But now Mark was tilting his Boy-Scout-looking face just a bit, and though John's tall frame hovered nearly a foot over mine, I noticed that one of his eyebrows lifted by a fraction.

News reports say that judge Parker spoke for another thirty minutes as he explained the reasons for his apology. To me, his words were a surprising but welcome end to these most horrible two years of my life. I could see the blue sky and bright sunlight from the courtroom, but as a prisoner I had rarely been out in the fresh New Mexico air, and I so missed fishing and hiking in the desert wilderness. During the whole of this year, my main "outdoor" experiences took place on court appearance days. That's when my armed escort of federal marshals picked me up from the Santa Fe jail in the early morning light to drive me the 60 miles to Albuquerque, right past some of the places I fished and hiked. I had a friendly, conversational relationship with several marshals because we spent so many hours riding in a car together on Interstate 25. Still, it was hard to forget that they carried not only the keys to my wrist and ankle shackles, but loaded handguns and an automatic rifle as well, ready to shoot me in case my dangerous spy nature emerged.

One thing I did know, more than anyone else, was that the judge and the nation were indeed terribly misled. I knew — and the other nuclear weapons scientists who watched this elaborate show knew — that the "nuclear secrets" I was falsely accused of stealing were not really secrets but were available in the open literature. Also, the files I had downloaded as part of my job as a nuclear code developer were not the state-of-the-art weapons codes that the government wanted everyone to believe. Euphemistically known as "legacy codes," they were in fact far older, more decrepit, and more flawed than the space station Mir. Had we gone to trial, these were points my attorneys would have argued. In his remarks to me, Judge Parker noted that he had seen evidence that my attorneys had not yet received — evidence that would be helpful to my case if we had gone to trial instead of taking a plea. I felt certain that I would be proven innocent if we went to trial. But that process would take many more months and cost hundreds of thousands — even millions — more dollars in additional legal expenses. The strain on my family was already too great. When the attorneys reached an acceptable plea agreement, I took it.

I have no idea how long Judge Parker actually spoke, because the moment took on a slow-motion quality in my mind. As he explained what happened in his court, it seemed that the judge was trying to make some sense of this ordeal for me, for the public, and perhaps for himself. He talked about the laws of this country that protect people from being jailed until there is a trial and a conviction — and how the accused are denied bail only in exceptional circumstances. One by one, he referred to Janet Reno, Bill Richardson, and even Bill Clinton and Al Gore as the parties in the executive branch who were responsible for the deception that led to my imprisonment. He didn't list them by name, but by title: the United States Attorney General, the Secretary of the Department of Energy, the President, and the Vice President.

Judge Parker also cited John Kelly, referring to him as "the former United States Attorney of the New Mexico District, who vigorously insisted that you had to be kept in jail under extreme restrictions because your release pretrial would pose a grave threat to our nation's security." John Kelly most certainly made me out to be a monster — I will never forget those days in court. Kelly started his prosecution of me like a vicious attack dog, and then quit his job as U.S. attorney in order to run for Congress. Maybe I was meant to be the high-profile case that would boost his campaign, but he lost the election anyway. His deputy, Robert Gorence, the son-in-law of U.S. senator Pete Domenici, enthusiastically took up where Kelly left off. Then Gorence had to step down from prosecuting me.

Some journalists reported that a personal indiscretion led to Gorence's demotion. I don't care to discuss this in my book, but there has been plenty of self-righteous hypocrisy thrown at me, from inside the courthouse and inside the Washington Beltway, by those who would condemn me, no matter what the facts showed, for a capital crime that I didn't commit. Gorence and Kelly had ordered the shackles and chains, the solitary confinement, and the other treatment I received in jail with the full knowledge and approval of Janet Reno, FBI director Louis Freeh, Bill Richardson, and, most likely, the White House.

Copyright (c) 2001 Wen Ho Lee

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Introduction

Introduction
On the last day that I was shackled and chained, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico apologized to me.After 278 days of solitary confinement without benefit of a trial, on September 13, 2000, I was finally being freed. I had spent the previous winter, spring, and summer in "pretrial detention," the government's impersonal way of saying that I was such a menace to society that I should be jailed even though I was presumed to be innocent. The terrible offense I was suspected of committing: the high crime of espionage. I was not officially charged with spying, but my accusers spoke through government leaks and innuendo in the media and in Congressional hearings. According to the government officials who hoped to imprison me for life-from members of the President's Cabinet and Congress to local prosecutors-I was so dangerous that I had to be locked away under the most severe conditions they could devise.Judge James Parker, the federal judge who presided over my "theft" of the "crown jewels"-our most critical nuclear secrets-said in his deep and authoritative voice, with America as his audience: "I have been misled by our government."I remember that as I stood before him and the hushed crowd of family, friends, court watchers, and reporters, I noticed how brilliant the New Mexico sun was, streaming through the high windows of the Rio Grande courtroom at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque.Judge Parker reviewed the terms of my release under a plea bargain agreement. I pled guilty to one of the 59 counts the government brought against me: I said that I had used an unsecure computer in the Theoretical Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory to download national defense information onto a tape, which I retained. In exchange for my plea, all other 58 counts were dismissed-including the 39 counts that each carried a life sentence for violating the Atomic Energy Act and for stealing nuclear secrets with the intent to harm my country. My sentence in exchange for the plea: 278 days in prison, the exact time I had already served.Then, in his calm baritone voice, Judge Parker spoke to me slowly and deliberately. Throughout the many court hearings, his faint Texas drawl had always reminded me of my graduate-school days at Texas A&M, and on this day it filled the huge courtroom: I believe you were terribly wronged by being held in custody pretrial in the Santa Fe County Detention Center under demeaning, unnecessarily punitive conditions. I am truly sorry that I was led by our executive branch of government to order your detention last December.Dr. Lee, I tell you with great sadness that I feel I was led astray last December by the executive branch of our government through its Department of Justice, by its Federal Bureau of Investigation, and by its United States attorney for the district of New Mexico, who held the office at that time.I could feel a stifled gasp from the packed gallery behind me, followed by complete silence. I wasn't sure if I was really comprehending Judge Parker's sincere words, so I glanced at my lawyers, Mark Holscher and John Cline, who stood on either side of me. Throughout the toughest moments of my case, when the power and might of the federal government seemed overwhelming, Mark and John and the other lawyers who defended me were as steady as the Jemez mountains. But now Mark was tilting his Boy-Scout-looking face just a bit, and though John's tall frame hovered nearly a foot over mine, I noticed that one of his eyebrows lifted by a fraction.News reports say that Judge Parker spoke for another thirty minutes as he explained the reasons for his apology. To me, his words were a surprising but welcome end to these most horrible two years of my life. I could see the blue sky and bright sunlight from the courtroom, but as a prisoner I had rarely been out in the fresh New Mexico air, and I so missed fishing and hiking in the desert wilderness. During the whole of this year, my main "outdoor" experiences took place on court appearance days. That's when my armed escort of federal marshals picked me up from the Santa Fe jail in the early morning light to drive me the 60 miles to Albuquerque, right past some of the places I fished and hiked. I had a friendly, conversational relationship with several marshals because we spent so many hours riding in a car together on Interstate 25. Still, it was hard to forget that they carried not only the keys to my wrist and ankle shackles, but loaded handguns and an automatic rifle as well, ready to shoot me in case my dangerous spy nature emerged.One thing I did know, more than anyone else, was that the judge and the nation were indeed terribly misled. I knew-and the other nuclear weapons scientists who watched this elaborate show knew-that the "nuclear secrets" I was falsely accused of stealing were not really secrets but were available in the open literature. Also, the files I had downloaded as part of my job as a nuclear code developer were not the state-of-the-art weapons codes that the government wanted everyone to believe. Euphemistically known as "legacy codes," they were in fact far older, more decrepit, and more flawed than the space station Mir. Had we gone to trial, these were points my attorneys would have argued. In his remarks to me, Judge Parker noted that he had seen evidence that my attorneys had not yet received-evidence that would be helpful to my case if we had gone to trial instead of taking a plea. I felt certain that I would be proven innocent if we went to trial. But that process would take many more months and cost hundreds of thousands-even millions-more dollars in additional legal expenses. The strain on my family was already too great. When the attorneys reached an acceptable plea agreement, I took it.I have no idea how long Judge Parker actually spoke, because the moment took on a slow-motion quality in my mind. As he explained what happened in his court, it seemed that the judge was trying to make some sense of this ordeal for me, for the public, and perhaps for himself. He talked about the laws of this country that protect people from being jailed until there is a trial and a conviction-and how the accused are denied bail only in exceptional circumstances. One by one, he referred to Janet Reno, Bill Richardson, and even Bill Clinton and Al Gore as the parties in the executive branch who were responsible for the deception that led to my imprisonment. He didn't list them by name, but by title: the United States Attorney General, the Secretary of the Department of Energy, the President, and the Vice President.Judge Parker also cited John Kelly, referring to him as "the former United States Attorney of the New Mexico District, who vigorously insisted that you had to be kept in jail under extreme restrictions because your release pretrial would pose a grave threat to our nation's security." John Kelly most certainly made me out to be a monster-I will never forget those days in court. Kelly started his prosecution of me like a vicious attack dog, and then quit his job as U.S. attorney in order to run for Congress. Maybe I was meant to be the high-profile case that would boost his campaign, but he lost the election anyway. His deputy, Robert Gorence, the son-in-law of U.S. senator Pete Domenici, enthusiastically took up where Kelly left off. Then Gorence had to step down from prosecuting me.Some journalists reported that a personal indiscretion led to Gorence's demotion. I don't care to discuss this in my book, but there has been plenty of self-righteous hypocrisy thrown at me, from inside the courthouse and inside the Washington Beltway, by those who would condemn me, no matter what the facts showed, for a capital crime that I didn't commit. Gorence and Kelly had ordered the shackles and chains, the solitary confinement, and the other treatment I received in jail with the full knowledge and approval of Janet Reno, FBI director Louis Freeh, Bill Richardson, and, most likely, the White House.As the judge talked about these things, I realized that I never paid much attention to the differences among the three branches of government, not even when I took the examination to become an American citizen back in 1974. Before all this, I never really needed to. But Judge Parker made the importance of the distinctions very clear: The executive branch has enormous power, the abuse of which can be devastating to our citizens. The second branch of our national government is the legislative branch, our congress. Congress promulgated the laws under which you were prosecuted, the criminal statutes. And it also promulgated the Bail Reform Act, under which, in hindsight, you should not have been held in custody. The judicial branch of government, of which I am a member, is called the third branch of government.The top decision makers in the executive branch, especially the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy and locally . . . have caused embarrassment by the way this case began and was handled. They did not embarrass me alone. They have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it.At the prosecution table, George Stamboulidis, the U.S. attorney in charge of prosecuting me after Gorence was demoted, took issue with Judge Parker's statement. At one point Stamboulidis objected, but the judge glared at him in silence until he sat down. The one person at that table who remained expressionless was Robert Messemer, the supervising FBI agent in my case. In his zeal to put me away as a spy, he had misrepresented and distorted the truth to Judge Parker on two separate occasions, exaggerating the "grave danger" I posed. Also on the prosecution side of the courtroom was Norman Bay, the Chinese American prosecutor who was appointed U.S. attorney for New Mexico after Kelly resigned. To me it was hardly a "coincidence" that Janet Reno would appoint a Chinese American to prosecute me.Some reporters described my defense as a David and Goliath battle. And it was: An accused person faces a monumental uphill struggle, especially when all the "evidence" can be hidden behind classified and secret files whose existence and access is controlled by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). My attorneys ultimately exposed the lies, but it was a painfully slow process to get me out of jail. The government had fought my release up until the very last minute, even as their case against me had fallen apart.Judge Parker was not yet done with his message to me, which he said for the whole world to hear:I am sad for you and your family because of the way in which you were kept in custody while you were presumed under the law to be innocent of the charges the executive branch brought against you.I am sad that I was induced in December to order your detention, since by the terms of the plea agreement that frees you today without conditions, it becomes clear that the executive branch now concedes, or should concede, that it was not necessary to confine you last December or at any time before your trial.I might say that I am also sad and troubled because I do not know the real reasons why the executive branch has done all of this. We will not learn why, because the plea agreement shields the executive branch from disclosing a lot of information that it was under order to produce that might have supplied the answer.I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner you were held in custody by the executive branch.Then the judge adjourned the court, and I was moments away from freedom. I leaned over to Mark Holscher and asked him, "Is it common for a judge to talk like this?"Mark replied, "No, Wen Ho. This is very, very rare."Behind me, a cheer sounded and the whole courtroom erupted into a loud buzz. The members of my defense team surrounded me to hug and congratulate me on finally getting out of jail and reaching the end of this criminal prosecution. It had been a very long and bumpy road up until the bitter end. My attorneys were drying their eyes: Nancy Hollander, so tough with my jailers, gave me a watery smile. So did K. C. Maxwell, whom I had thought too young to be a lawyer, and even Richard Myers was wiping his eyes-he, the muscle man I first assumed to be a security guard. Barbara Bond and Ann Delpha, the legal assistants who worked day and night on my defense, were laughing and crying. Brian Sun, who filed a lawsuit on my behalf against the government for violating my privacy with its continual leaks about me, flashed me a thumbs-up.In the crush of the courtroom, I found the faces of my family: My wife, Sylvia, smiled as I hadn't seen her do in a long time. Chung, my steady son who had had to struggle through his first year of medical school while I was in jail, was beaming, his happy face reminding me of the first time he caught a fish as a small boy, and not the 6-foot, 2-inch young man he is now. Alberta, who had transformed herself from my little girl into a strong, articulate woman, had tears streaming down her face. She had crisscrossed the country without regard to her own well-being-against my wishes, initially-to tell everyone who would listen about my innocence. My younger brother Wenming and his wife, Patty, had flown in from California, as had my youngest sister, Angela. We were the youngest of ten siblings who had found the way to America from our rural farming village in Taiwan. My niece Chia Huei and her husband, Carlos, had even traveled to Albuquerque with their young baby. I felt so fortunate to have the love and support of my close-knit family, from across the United States and Taiwan.I saw many of my friends and neighbors and coworkers in the courtroom, rooting for me. To my surprise, there were also lots of people whom I had never met but who had supported me because they believed, as Judge Parker concluded, that there was something terribly wrong with the government's case against me. And then there were the reporters. So many! Some of them were wiping tears from their eyes, too.The joy of my family and friends made me yearn all the more for home. I wanted to check on the vegetable garden that I had so carefully tended for so many years. There were my fruit trees and the lawn, all neglected, and while imprisoned, I worried about the roof leaking. I yearned to cook a real, fresh meal for myself, from vegetables I grew myself and fish that I caught in pure mountain streams, with fresh food and spices that had been part of my daily diet until I was jailed-and had never, ever found their way to the Santa Fe prison. I looked forward to seeing my friends and former coworkers from the lab, all my neighbors in the White Rock and Los Alamos communities who had watched out for my wife while she was alone during my long months of incarceration.But I also knew that my home of twenty years would be very different now.Once I had been a trusted member of the elite scientific corps at Los Alamos National Laboratories, where the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal is designed and maintained, where the atomic bombs that ended World War II were created. I lived and worked for more than twenty years high atop the Los Alamos mesas in the foothills of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My friends and neighbors were also my colleagues and coworkers, and we raised our children together in one of the friendliest and most close-knit communities in America. Like other people who lived "on the hill," 7,600 feet above sea level, I was a nuclear scientist and a soccer dad, an outdoorsman, an active participant in this special scientific world.That part of my life was over, a distant memory of another lifetime-the time before my government and the news media accused me of committing espionage, before I was imprisoned without benefit of a trial or even a fair hearing. Before I learned to distrust my government and just about anyone who works for it, especially the FBI. Before I learned that no one should ever talk to FBI agents without an attorney or at least a trusted witness present. Before I was branded a spy and an enemy agent-a disloyal, lying traitor, one of the most base and awful labels imaginable. I can tell you this, because I know.For the first time, I walked out the front door of the courtroom, with my attorneys by my side. This time I wasn't led through a back door to change out of my suit into my prison clothes. No federal marshals came to shackle my wrists and ankles and to chain them to my waist. In these 278 days, no journalists or members of the public were permitted to see me with my chains and shackles on. From the moment that the government leaked my name to the New York Times back in March 1999 as "the worst spy since the Rosenbergs," they carefully manipulated the image they wanted to project of me and my so-called crimes.Finally I could be reunited with my family. We gathered in a separate room-just us-for a few minutes, away from the pandemonium outside, our first real time together in nine months without FBI agents watching us. We didn't say much, we just laughed and cried at the same time, all hugging and holding each other at once. Then my defense team joined us. I met a few more of the people who had worked hard on my case but whom I had not been able to meet while I was jailed in isolation. People like Stacy Cohen, who looked much too young to run her high-powered public relations practice, but who had been able to counter some of the damage done to me from leaks made by the FBI, the DOJ, and the Department of Energy (DOE) at the highest levels. Heather Hersh was one of Brian Sun's associates who was working on my Privacy Act lawsuit, filed to hold the government accountable for the leaks and misinformation they used to lynch me in the media. Between my family and legal team, it seemed as if two dozen of us were crammed into the little conference room-and I wanted to thank each one personally for all they had done.Before I could leave for home, I had one more task. Reporters from the national and international news media were waiting for me in the sunny plaza outside the courthouse entrance. I had some idea of what to expect, because for the months before I was arrested, the intense media spotlight had already begun, with legions of reporters, photographers, and TV crews camped in front of my house, completely disrupting our quiet neighborhood. But this time was much sweeter: I could speak as a free man without the weight of the entire U.S. government hanging over my head, and, as Judge Parker made clear, this time the government had some serious questions to answer.With my legal team and my family flanking me, we marched past the metal detectors and courthouse security guards into a crunch of reporters and the blazing summer heat, which felt beautiful to me. I waved in appreciation to the hundreds of supporters who had stood by me during these two years and were cheering me on today. A phalanx of microphones and cameras was ready and waiting for me. As a simple man whose life is dedicated to mathematics and science, I've never been one for making big speeches. But I had been waiting to say these words for a very long time: "I'm very happy to go home with my wife and children today. I want to say thank you to all the people who supported me. I really appreciate it very, very much. The next few days, I'm going fishing." At long last, I was on my way home.All the way from Albuquerque to White Rock, news helicopters flew overhead, tracking our progress. The big white rock at the entrance to town was painted with the message, "Welcome home, Wen Ho." My wife told me that my longtime friends and neighbors Don and Jean Marshall were hosting a "welcome home" party for me and all of Los Alamos, it seemed. The way leading to my home was like a carnival, and the police had blocked my street off to allow for the crowds and the huge satellite trucks. A chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" started up. I was truly overwhelmed by the warm and heartfelt welcome, especially when I had been so alone and isolated in prison. Mark Holscher, Richard Myers, and Gregg Fallick, my young and strapping attorneys, made a way for us through the cheering crowds to my front door.Once inside my house for the first time in 278 days, I could see that the FBI searches and seizures had left their mark. There were blank walls where pictures once hung, shelves with empty spaces, in disarray. As I started to rearrange things, my attorneys reminded me of all the friends who were waiting next door to celebrate with me. The one thing I did was to change out of my suit into my favorite fishing outfit: my old green plaid pants and my blue striped polo shirt. I was glad to be back home.I wish I could say that this marked the end of my ordeal, but it didn't. Maybe it was the beginning of the end, or just the end of the beginning. I was hoping to be able to shut the door on the most bizarre and surrealistic experience of my life. But not yet. How will I ever forget this nightmare? To be an ordinary citizen one day, an unassuming engineer and bench scientist, and to wake up the next day with my name and face splashed on headlines across the country as the "spy of the century." To hear powerful politicians in Washington talk about me as though I were worse than a dog, demanding that I be imprisoned or even executed, without a shred of evidence. To see lies, half-truths, and distortions about me leaked to the media from "secret" and "classified" FBI files. Then to see those lies appear unchallenged in the news and repeated as though they were gospel. To see old friends turn away from me, unsure if the government would make them its next targets. And worst of all, to watch helplessly as my wife, daughter, and son became sick with worry and fear for our future. For a naturalized American like me, who has spent a lifetime making my chosen country safe and strong, being called a "China spy" has been devastating.I still can hardly believe what happened to me, and I want other people to know. I want to share, through this book, how I fell into a trap, one slippery step at a time, not even realizing what was happening until it was too late. I want to tell my story as I experienced it.Part I begins on December 23, 1998, when DOE and FBI counterintelligence officials initiated a series of interrogations of me that led to my firing from Los Alamos less than three months later. In particular, I want people to know the science that I devoted my life to, and the nuclear weapons program that I helped build for the safety of my country, but that brought so much trouble into my life. In Part II, I will share how my family and I endured my trial by media and by Congress, an ordeal that began with a front-page New York Times story. I will tell about the downloading of the notorious computer files that were part of my work, and how what really happened stands in stark contrast to what I was accused of doing. Part III includes details of the hysteria surrounding my arrest and imprisonment on December 10, 1999, the extreme conditions of my life in solitary confinement, and the dedicated efforts of my legal team to combat and eventually overcome the full weight of the federal government. I will share stories of my family's times in Taiwan, being born and raised in a poor farming village, losing my mother to illness and suicide, and how my family pulled together-I want America to know the humanity of the people and the communities that were so readily vilified. Most of all, I want everyone to know that if these incredible things happened to me, they can happen again, to any American.Today, when I see a news headline that still describes me as the "spy suspect"-words that seem permanently stuck to me-the bad memories come rushing back. Sometimes I just close my eyes and I try to think of more pleasant things: my family and my kids, Alberta and Chung; the way the desert blooms in the spring; the last time I caught a 27-inch trout from my favorite fishing hole in the New Mexico mountains. And sometimes I think about Judge Parker and his apology.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2007

    A reviewer

    Wen Ho Lee's treatment was despicable - how anyone could believe that this schlemiehl was a purveyor of nuclear secrets is beyond comprehension. The Constitution is designed specifically to prevent egregious miscarrioages of justice by the Executive Branch such as this. Moreover, the scum politicians 'like Bill Richardson and Pete Domenici' who shot off their mouths recklessly ought to be subject of their own FBI investigations. Lee's drumbeat about this being totally ethnic driven wears thin, however.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2002

    We are Americans!

    We love this book. As an Asian American, we are always questioned. It is a cliche, however, we can feel his pain. We have friends (Ph.D. plus postdoctorate) who decide not to pursue their career in national labs because of this case. In the national labs, the biggest ethnic group is chinese. It is our country lose. We still remember our medical school days when we were told to show our green card on a daily basis (while the professor knew the fact that we were American citizens by birth). Even today, we are still be questioned by our patients about our nationality. Some of our students whom we teach are not comfortable to the fact that they have to get instruction from a yellow face. Even in emergency room, some patients had requested another physicians at the minute they saw our faces, they would choose our student who we supervised over us. Some people will lose if they continue this attitude. This country will lose if it continues to allow this happen again. This is our country. Our ancesters were here in 1800s. We are Americans! We are more American,in the sense of paying tax, we, Asian American as a group, pay more taxes than average white Americans. By the way, FBI should investigate the Harvard Medical school, because there are too many yellow faces there. FBI's list should also include all the top universities in the country. There is way too much yellow there. This must be a conspiracy.

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