|Release by Assemblymember for California 49th Assembly District
June 5, 2004 – I regretfully cancelled the Assembly Floor ceremony honoring Dr. Wen Ho Lee in order to spare him from an awkward situation arising from the Assembly Republican Caucus’ objection to the presentation. The Assembly GOP Caucus informed our office of their objection to honoring Dr. Lee late Friday afternoon.
I am outraged by the Republican Caucus objection to the ceremony and Howard Kaloogian’s inflammatory remarks in Friday’s Oakland Tribune. Dr. Lee has already been victimized by an overzealous prosecution by the government and I do not want him to be brutally victimized again by unwarranted, racially-charged, inaccurate and irresponsible accusations.
It is my great honor to honor Dr. Lee with an award that celebrates and recognizes an Asian Pacific Islander American individual who has shown tremendous courage in the face of overwhelming odds and inconceivable injustice. Dr. Wen Ho Lee, survived nothing less than a racially charged inquisition by runaway government officials and a justice system that was asleep at the wheel.
Dr. Lee is a 60-year-old Taiwanese American scientist who was unfairly singled out and charged with mishandling restricted nuclear data at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he had been an employee for over 20 years. Contrary to erroneous press accounts and the inflammatory rhetoric, Dr. Lee was never charged with “spying”. Despite a lengthy investigation involving over 1,000 interviews and review of over one million files, the FBI did not uncover any evidence that Dr. Lee passed on classified or restricted information to any foreign agents.
The conditions of Dr. Lee’s confinement were severe for a 60-year old scientist. He was placed in solitary confinement, shackled with leg irons and chains every time he left his solitary cell, he was denied access to daily exercise and showers, and had very limited access to phone calls, visitors, or outside information. Nevertheless, Dr. Lee persevered and justice was eventually served.
Dr. Lee walked out of court a free man on September 13, 2000 after a federal judge repeatedly apologized for incarcerating him for nine months without trial and angrily rebuked the federal government for its handling of a case that “embarrassed this entire nation.” The government dismissed 58 counts against Dr. Lee. In a sworn statement provided as part of the deal, Dr. Lee said that he did not intend to harm the United States and that he had not passed the tapes or their contents to anyone.
In the end, the FBI admitted that it had no evidence that Lee was a spy and he was not charged with espionage.
Dr. Wen Ho Lee’s courage in the face of such overwhelming persecution inspired Asian and Pacific Islander Americans all over the country. His perseverance and dignity during this horrendous ordeal is a beacon for all of us to follow and for that I am proud to honor him with the inaugural API Legislative Caucus “Profile In Courage” Award.
Release Contact: Bill Wong