Beverley Lumpkin: Halls of Justice


At the end of last month the strange saga of former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee took an even stranger turn when officials acknowledged the FBI was preparing to search the Los Alamos landfill in hopes of finding the tapes containing highly classified nuclear secrets that Lee claims to have thrown out.

The story seemed absurd but now there’s an even more amazing turn: the dig has been fruitful; beyond all imagining, tapes have been found!

You’ll recall that when Lee reached his plea bargain with the government, he was required to submit to debriefing sessions during which he was to recount everything he could about his making of the tapes and what had happened to them.

Sources say during those sessions, the last two of which are scheduled for next week, Lee told agents that he had discarded the tapes in the regular Los Alamos lab trash. The sources say he also named the month and year when he had thrown them away; that’s believed to be in 1995.

Well, the Los Alamos landfill has a special section just for lab trash. And the FBI has a bright young agent whose undergraduate degree was in archaeology. So they were able to determine very specifically where the trash from that month in 1995 had been deposited.

They dug down through the layers and, according to two officials, have so far actually retrieved several tapes. The tapes are currently in the FBI lab where experts are trying to determine if they are indeed the coveted Lee tapes. And the agents are still digging, hoping for more.


Leonard Peltier is the American Indian Movement leader who’s been locked up ever since his conviction for the murders of two FBI agents at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, in 1975.

During that time he has managed to convince a huge constituency that he is innocent and was railroaded by corrupt government agents.

Just a few of those who have supported his bid for clemency: civil and human rights leaders Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Amnesty International, entertainers Robert Redford, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Winona Ryder, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

Recently President Clinton said he would give Peltier’s clemency petition “an honest look-see.” This has caused real pain but also some rather intense hysteria at the FBI. Never exactly known as a PR genius, FBI Director Louis Freeh chose to make his plea to the president not to grant clemency by writing letters to Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno that were immediately made public by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The letter to the president, just more than a page in length, briefly urges him to consider that agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler “were grievously wounded during an overwhelming ambush as they searched for a bank robbery suspect. While disabled they were executed at point blank range. Both were shot in the head, agent Williams as he held up his hand in a desperate attempt to shield his face from the blast.”

Freeh goes on to plead that “there is no issue more deeply felt within the FBI or more widely shared within the law enforcement community than the belief that this attack by Peltier was nothing less than a complete affront to our cherished system of government under the rule of law.”

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