Chinese American Studies Term Paper

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Chinese-American Studies: Wen Ho Lee Case

United States of America is a melting pot of various communities who have been residing in the country for generations. They feel assimilated into the American culture where many of them have been born and brought up in the U.S. And hence have remote connections with the country of their ancestors. As a result, they feel very much a part of this country and believe they have the rights of a citizen. This is why they feel that they do not deserve to be discriminated against on the grounds of their origins. Therefore such communities protest if situations arise, where they feel they have been discriminated against in some or the other. Though United States confers all rights of citizenry to its nationals, there have been cases in the past where the U.S. government has discriminated against a person or a group on the basis of their origins. One such event occurred within the Chinese-American community when Wen Ho Lee was terminated from employment in March 1999 from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a bureau, which is under the administration of and is thus funded by the United States Department of Energy and operated by the University of California. LANL is responsible for the research, design, development and safe keeping for around 85% of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. LANL is located within the State and District of New Mexico. LANL is further divided into many departments or divisions. One such department, named X Division needs special mention in the Wen Ho Lee case. The X Division at LANL has responsibility for the research, design and development of thermonuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Thus the X Division has been allocated the highest level of security of any division at LANL. Wen HO Lee, a resident of New Mexico was assigned to this X Division at LANL as a hydrodynamicist/engineer in 1980. He stayed here till December 23, 1998 when was transferred from the X Division to an unclassified area within another division at LANL. While employed at LANL in the X Division, Wen Ho Lee, a Chinese-American, was assigned a Q. clearance. This allowed him complete access to Top Secret information and Restricted Data information. Restricted Data, as defined in the 42 U.S.C. 2014(y), means all data related to the design, manufacture or utilization of atomic weapons, to the production of special nuclear material or the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy. Restricted Data is further categorized into Secret Restricted Data (SRD) and Confidential Restricted Data (CRD). Secret Restricted Data (SRD) and Confidential Restricted Data (CRD) apply to all those types of information whose unauthorized disclosure could bring serious harm to national security. Hence SRD information is the most closely guarded type of information within the X Division at LANL. It were the unauthorized transfer of these SRD and CRD files that Dr. Wen Ho Lee was charged with in 1999. The Grand Jury charged him with 59 counts on the following allegations (


The government stated that in 1993 and 1994, Dr. Lee collected SRD and CRD material contained in classified files on the Secure network. He then arranged the SRD and CRD material into TAR files and then transferred the SRD and CRD TAR files to one of his Open green directories on the CFS within the green partition. Moreover Dr. Lee transferred some files from red to green partitions, and then assembled the TAR file in the open network on a green machine, and later saved it to the green CFS. "TAR File" is actually an archive folder where files are arranged by the file creator. Open Green, Red etc. are references to security partitions in the LANL computing environment which require different level of handling by the employees of the LANL department. LANL consisted of four security partitions, with each partition having an assigned associated color. The four partitions were the Open (green), the Administrative (blue), the National Security (yellow), and the Secure (red). Hence the words green and red mean the Open and Secure partitions respectively. The Open partition is used only for normal access where users are not required to have a security clearance. The Secure partition allowed both classified and unclassified computing, but only by personnel with Q. clearances. The Common File System (CFS) refers to a single archival data storage system, which constitutes the partitions. CFS includes an Open (green) system and a Secure (red) system on separate networks where it works by allowing lower classification level work to be performed in higher security partitions while preventing files with higher classification levels from being accessed on the Open partition.

Dr. Lee was charged with the specific transfer of classified files from the Secure red partition to the Open green partition. Furthermore between January 20, 1999 and February 10, 1999, Dr. Lee deleted over 360 files that he had maintained in his green partition directories on the Open CFS. Among these files were the 19 previously designated SRD and CRD TAR files that he had moved from the Secure red partition to the Open green partition, or arranged on the Open green partition after transfer from the Secure red partition. Moreover, Dr. Lee was also charged with transferring SRD material to cassette cartridges ( short, "a grand jury issued a 59-count felony indictment that charged him with tampering, altering and concealing classified information, as well as with removing secret weapons files from the Los Alamos addition, 7 of 10 high-volume tapes Lee [was] accused of filling with nuclear computer codes [were] still missing" (, the FBI was concerned over the probable idea that Lee had leaked information about the W-88 warhead. However after solitary confinement which lasted for nine months, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, the Taiwanese-born U.S. nuclear weapons scientist was freed on September 13, 1999, by a Court in Sante Fe, New Mexico, after pleading guilty to one charge of mishandling classified information. The remaining 58 charges against him were dropped (

Dr. Lee's case, and the unjust conditions of his captivity had attracted huge attention in the U.S. And internationally, and especially within the Chinese-American community who believed that the grounds of Dr. Lee's arrest were racial prejudice. In the beginning, the U.S. Energy Department, Justice Department, and the FBI, all stated that Dr. Lee was involved in a criminal activity by refusing to "to tell investigators the location and intended destination of classified material copied onto missing computer tapes." However with the end of the case, the official statements had pretty much changed. For instance, U.S. District Court Judge James Parker said that he believed Dr. Lee was " terribly wronged by being held in custody pretrial in the Santa Fe County Detention Center under demeaning, unnecessarily punitive conditions." Judge Parker's apology was followed by President Clinton's statement who said that he "always had reservations" about the claims that were presented against Dr. Lee. However, the Chinese-American community, by then had become quite suspicious of the government and its motives; as henry Tang, President of the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American Group campaigning for Dr. Lee's release stated. Despite the official apologies, he maintained that "efforts to find out if there is ethnic profiling at the labs should continue," voicing concern of the Chinese-American community (

Chinese-American and/or Asian-American Community and Its Involvement in the Case

The Chinese-American or Asian-American community has reacted angrily to the Wen-ho Lee episode. The Taiwanese born scientist suspected by the U.S. government of transferring American nuclear secrets to China, has mobilized an outrage against what the Asian-Americans claim has been a racial discrimination (,( against the U.S. government is more visible in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, where Chinese-American scientists make up the 70% of the total. Hence the leaders of this community have demanded more than a mere acquittal for Dr. Lee. They believe that the Lee's career and reputation have been ruined and that a mere dismissal of charges will not bring it back. Furthermore the Asian-American community across the United States is demanding that since the Justice Department could not prove the charges made against Lee, they should investigate and prosecute those who were responsible for putting Dr. Lee in such a position. They feel it is the only way that things can be set right for the Los Alamos scientist against the injustice and the consequent humiliation he has suffered which the Asian-Americans will never forget. As a result of the Asian-American reaction to the case, the government has gone back on its charges filed against Dr. Lee. Moreover the Justice Department security chief John Dion claims that he had earlier on warned his superiors not to proceed with prosecuting Lee due to lack of evidence. The acquittal of Dr. Lee was also followed by the resignation of Notra Trulock, deputy director of intelligence in the Department of Energy…[continue]

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