'Incorrect' FBI Testimony Against Wen Ho Lee

BySue Major Holmes

A L B U Q U E R Q U E, N.M., Aug. 18, 2000 -- An FBI agent whose testimony lastDecember was a key in denying bail to a fired Los Alamos scientistaccused of downloading restricted files has acknowledged that someof his testimony was incorrect.

Attorney Mark Holscher, representing jailed scientist Wen HoLee, tried Thursday to impeach the earlier testimony of AgentRobert Messemer.

Messemer testified on two separate occasions last year that Leetold another scientist he wanted to use that scientist’s computerto print a resume. He acknowledged Thursday that Lee had told theother scientist he wished to download files.

“My testimony was incorrect,” Messemer said.

UnintentionalThe agent told U.S. District Judge James Parker he did notintentionally mislead the judge. He said it was an honest error andthat he did not believe it was a serious one.

Parker heard a second day of testimony in a defense effort toget Lee released on bail. The Taiwan-born American citizen, jailedsince December, is charged with 59 counts involving downloadingfiles from Los Alamos National Laboratory to unsecured computersand tape. He could face life in prison if convicted at trial,scheduled to begin Nov. 6.

At the end of the day, during which much of the testimony wasbehind closed doors, Parker asked the defense for the declarationsof property that 15 friends and family members of Lee offered toput up as bond. Holscher agreed. The offerings are worth about $2million.

The hearing is scheduled to resume today with more questioningof Messemer.

During Messemer’s testimony Thursday, the FBI agent alsoacknowledged Lee disclosed contacts with scientists from thePeople’s Republic of China in a report to the lab about a 1986conference he attended.

Messemer insisted, however, that under questioning byauthorities Lee did not disclose the full scope of those contacts.

Messemer testified last year Lee initially told authorities onlyabout a Christmas card he had gotten from one Chinese scientist. Heacknowledged that Parker could have inferred from that testimonyLee was lying.

But the agent disagreed with Lee’s attorney that the court couldhave interpreted Messemer’s earlier testimony to mean Lee neverdisclosed correspondence with the scientists.

Other MistakesAsked by Holscher if there were other mistakes in his Decembertestimony, Messemer said he wanted to correct a “minor point” inwhich he said Lee sent letters seeking an overseas job. Messemersaid Thursday the FBI had no evidence one way or the other whetherthe letters were sent.

During a break in the hearing Thursday, Lee’s daughter, who wason her way into the courtroom, said the situation with her fatheris “a nightmare that has gone too long.”

Alberta Lee said her family has gotten tremendous support fromfriends of 20 years-plus to strangers demonstrating on behalf ofher father at the Democratic National Convention.

Part of the afternoon was spent taking closed-door testimonyfrom Los Alamos scientist Richard Krajcik, deputy director of thelab’s top-secret X Division, which does nuclear weapons work.

In open testimony, chief prosecutor George Stamboulidis tookKrajcik through his testimony of last December. Krajcik said hestood by statements he made then that the downloaded documents werea “chilling collection” because of the breadth of classifiedweapons covered and codes to design and analyze nuclear weapons.

‘Very Big Deal’“In my opinion, it’s a very big deal if you know what works,”Krajcik said.

He said the information included source codes — the most usefulform for it to be used elsewhere.

“It appears to me the collection of codes and files was done ina careful way,” he said. “It represents not a random collectionof codes and files but a purpose” with codes that represent thelab’s nuclear capability.

Krajcik conceded the information was not classified secret whenLee allegedly took it, but said only scientists with securityclearances could access it. At the time, it had not been reviewedfor classification.

“It represents the crown jewels of nuclear design assessmentcapability of the United States,” Krajcik said.

The information has since been classified confidentialrestricted data and secret restricted data, but not top secret.

Defense attorney John Cline read descriptions of classificationlevels, which define top-secret information as vital to nationalsecurity and whose dissemination would cause “exceptionally greatdamage.” Secret information, the definition says, does not revealcritical features.

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