AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCEFebruary 29, 2000
Directorate for Science and Policy Programs
1200 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
The Honorable Janet Reno
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Room 4545
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Madame Attorney General:
I write on behalf of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science concerning the matter of the continued denial of bail and the conditions of pre-trial incarceration of Dr. Wen Ho Lee. The AAAS is the world's largest multi-disciplinary scientific organization. The Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility is charged by the Association to, among other things, address issues related to the human rights of scientists.
Our purpose is to inquire into the reasons for the extraordinarily restrictive conditions to which Dr. Lee has been subjected. Our disquiet with the government's treatment of Dr. Lee does not extend to the issue of his guilt or innocence, which will be decided by our courts on the basis of the evidence. Our concern stems from the possibility that Dr. Lee is being maltreated and may have been the target of special scrutiny because of his ethnic background.
This case has had an adverse impact on many of our colleagues and could damage our national labs as a result of the hemorrhaging of skilled scientists through resignation or attrition, falling recruitment and a decline in the international collaboration that are so vital to the success of DoE programs. There is some evidence that such losses are already occurring.
Our concerns relate to the following:
In sum, we believe it important that the scientific community be given some assurances on these issues. Otherwise, we worry that serious damage could be done to the U.S. scientific enterprise and to this nation's future prosperity and security if the government is perceived by scientists as treating Dr. Lee unfairly and relying on unfounded claims regarding threats to national security.
- We have been informed that the original conditions of detention were -- and remain -- harsh in the extreme. He is confined to his cell 23 hours each day and was, until recently, kept completely indoors. When moved about within the confines of the prison, his arms and legs are shackled. His weekly meetings with family members are curtailed and monitored and, early on, he was required to speak English. He has no access to TV and, at first, was denied newspapers. While we understand that these conditions are now slightly modified, we are concerned that continuing restrictions not only serve as intimidation, but may inhibit his ability to prepare his defense and place an enormous emotional and physical burden on him, his family and his attorneys. From our perspective, Dr. Lee's pretrial treatment appears to be exceedingly cruel. Court records and prosecution documents give the distinct impression that many measures were imposed simply because he has Chinese associates and speaks Chinese. AAAS believes very strongly that place of birth or ethnic background should never be used to impugn the loyalty of scientists.
- The justification for continued incarceration is that Dr. Lee, if released, is likely to pose a grave threat to our national security. In judging the merits of such a serious contention, we hope that you will consult with a few of the many informed independent weapons specialists and national security experts who no longer serve in government, and who therefore may provide an objective assessment of the risk. Should the Justice Department wish to seek such expert counsel, an appropriate source would be the National Academy of Sciences.
Irving A. Lerch
Chair, AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility
The Honorable Bill Richardson
Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
Dr. Neal Lane
Assistant to the President for Science & Technology
Dr. Bruce Alberts
President, National Academy of Sciences