SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
June 29, 2001

GAO: FBI MISLED CONGRESS ON WEN HO LEE

Testimony presented to Congress by FBI Assistant Director Neil J. Gallagher about the Wen Ho Lee case was "inaccurate and misleading," according to an investigation by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

Mr. Gallagher assured Congress in 1999 that the FBI had full confidence in the initial Inquiry which asserted that design secrets of the W-88 nuclear warhead had been compromised at Los Alamos and which identified Wen Ho Lee as an espionage suspect.

But such confidence was unwarranted. The GAO found that Mr. Gallagher "should have known that the FBI's Albuquerque Field Office had concerns about the ... Inquiry."

A January 1999 communication from the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, which spells out the defects in the Inquiry that launched the Wen Ho Lee prosecution and which was in Mr. Gallagher's possession, remains classified.

In response to the GAO review, Mr. Gallagher acknowledged that his testimony was incomplete, but denied that it was inaccurate or misleading.

The new GAO review was first reported by Vernon Loeb in the Washington Post today. The text of the GAO review is posted here:

Several other assessments of the Wen Ho Lee case remain outstanding. The Justice Department's "Bellows report" on the investigation up through March 1999 is still under declassification review.

An FBI Office of Professional Responsibility report is being withheld in its entirety as "law enforcement information," even though it was initiated, in part, to respond to public concerns about the conduct of the case.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility review, which commenced nine months ago, is still "in its preliminary stages," according to Robert B. Lyon, Jr. of OPR. "It would be premature to estimate when it will be completed," he said June 18.


CONGRESS CALLS FOR SENSIBLE SECURITY AT DOE

Congress is singing a remarkably new tune about security at the Department of Energy. Congressional appropriators now caution DOE to make sure that its security procedures are cost-effective and not counterproductive.

In a new report, the House Appropriations Committee sets the stage by observing that "The Department's safeguards and security programs seem to careen from one incident to another -- alleged loss of nuclear weapons secrets, misplaced computer hard drives with classified information, and alleged discriminatory actions toward visitors."

The modest reference to an "alleged" loss of nuclear weapons secrets is a significant retreat from the past insistence by the congressional Cox Committee and others that China simply "stole" the nation's "most sophisticated nuclear weapons technology," including classified information on "every currently deployed thermonuclear warhead in the U.S. ballistic missile arsenal."

The congressional furor over stolen nuclear secrets in 1999 led to an indiscriminate ratcheting up of security at U.S. national laboratories, including new restrictions on contacts with foreign scientists, polygraph tests for thousands of lab employees, re-review of millions of historical documents that had already been declassified, and so forth.

But now Congress implicitly acknowledges that the security frenzy it inspired has exceeded reasonable boundaries.

"The Committee urges the new Administration to review the underlying basis for each of the Department's security practices to determine if current procedures result in excessive costs without commensurate protection for employees, facilities, and national security programs."

This is an invitation to revisit and perhaps reverse some of the more disruptive security policies that DOE has adopted under congressional pressure in the last two years.

See excerpts on security policy from the House Appropriations Committee report on the Energy and Water Appropriations Act (House Report 107-112, June 26) here:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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