Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

Reno orders review of Wen Ho Lee case

September 23, 2000


— After a private meeting with President Clinton to patch up their differences over the Wen Ho Lee case, Atty. Gen. Janet Reno ordered an internal review of Justice Department actions in the matter.

The White House session came the week after a rare public disagreement, in which Clinton said the nuclear weapons scientist's long detention "just can't be justified." Reno has refused to apologize to Lee or otherwise take blame for what the federal judge in the case called Lee's shameful pretrial detention.

Clinton and Reno agreed that prosecutors' first priority should be finding out what happened to sensitive weapons information Lee admitted mishandling, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said after the 45-minute meeting.

"They both agreed that the most important thing we can do is to try to get to the bottom of this, and that process continues," Lockhart said.

Reno said the internal Office of Professional Responsibility would look at the case. That office routinely reviews cases like this one, in which a federal judge criticizes government action.

A senior Justice official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the internal review would start with criticisms made by Parker and would encompass the whole handling of the case by the Justice Department and the FBI, including Reno's role.

After the meeting, Reno released a toughly worded statement defending prosecutors, and noted that she and FBI Director Louis Freeh will testify in Congress on the Lee case next week.

"Our case against Dr. Lee was critical for national security," Reno said.

"Dr. Lee downloaded nuclear secrets onto unsecured computer tapes and offered no explanation as to why. The United States has an obligation to find out what happened to the information on those tapes."

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