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Opening Statement
of Dr. John Richter

before the
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee
on Administrative Oversight and the Courts

"A Continuation of Oversight of the Wen Ho Lee Case"

October 3, 2000

I assume that this hearing is to explore whether the case against Wen Ho Lee was conducted properly and whether congressional action is warranted.

In about -- in 1958, about the time that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for atomic espionage, the most recent amendments to the Atomic Energy Act were enacted. Since then, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel and perhaps India have built nuclear arsenals, in addition to those of the U.S. and the USSR. Later, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended. Also ended were such terms as "mutual assured destruction."

In the Lee case, the out-of-date Atomic Energy Act, which included overly harsh criminal penalties, together with unrealistic damage assessments from DOE, spurred the FBI and the prosecution team to actions that a large sector of the public found unacceptable. I urge the Congress to keep volatile laws such as the Atomic Energy Act current and not leave it to the courts.

I'd like to elaborate on some of these views next. I have held various security clearances since 1958, including DOE, military and NSI, and while not a very attractive aspect of employment, security is a condition of employment and I have never willfully violated it. Anyone who finds it onerous to work in a classified environment should seek employment elsewhere.

Regarding the data Wen Ho Lee downloaded on the unclassified computer, there are three categories of information: one, computer codes; two, material properties information; and three, problem setups, which include the W-88. The first are only slightly classified because they describe physics that date back as far as the 17th century.

The source codes I mentioned, they're very slightly classified; the materials properties information, and then the problem setups. The second, the materials properties information, is classified because it contains properties of high atomic number elements like plutonium, et cetera.

The third, the problem setups -- the input decks -- are truly classified because they contain numerical descriptions of some of our nuclear weapons, including the W-88. Let me consider what harm might have accrued to the security of the United States if the subject information had got into the hands of nations not necessarily friendly to the United States.

The U.S. exploded its first nuclear device in 1945, Russia in 1949, the United Kingdom about 1951, France about 1958, China in 1964, India in 1974 and Pakistan in 1998. So clearly, there is a lot of information worldwide regarding nuclear weapons technology. It's been around a long time. We know that the USSR, via Klaus Fuchs, got information on the U.S. We also know that Russia gave China information. And we further know that China mentored Pakistan.

The governments of the majority of the people on Earth know how to build nuclear weapons that could cause serious harm to the United States, and they've known it for a long time.

The problem setup data in question can be compared with a partial cooking recipe. In addition to the recipe, the user must have an adequate kitchen, all of the ingredients, and considerable skill as a chef. If he can already broil a steak, why should he attempt to prepare, say, Chateaubriand from an incomplete cordon bleu recipe? The U.S. built nuclear weapons to maximize the nation's chances for survival in case the Cold War turned hot. Goals were the largest of MIRVed -- multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles -- on a missile, the largest yield together with the utmost safety.

No one now needs to build nuclear weapons the way we did. Indeed, if START III happens, then MIRV will be outlawed. Tens of thousands of ready-to-shoot nuclear weapons are unnecessary now. It would be risky and an expensive folly for another nation to build weapons now the way the U.S. has, and especially without hands-on testing.

We're very concerned about the nuclear weapons of other nations. We look for vulnerabilities, technological surprises, but we do not copy their designs because we know how we prefer to build them. I suggest that other nuclear powers, particularly the more mature ones, have decided how they wish to construct nuclear weapons.

Recent cases similar to Lee's suggest that revocation of a security clearance and termination of employment might suffice for the offense. In another case, the defendant also got a year in a halfway house. Inside the Beltway, leaks to the media can best be described as an ongoing hemorrhage of classified information of all categories, certainly not limited to DOE. Yet there is no attempt to apprehend the perpetrators. This raises the specter of selective enforcement of the laws.

Lee was discharged from the laboratory in March of 1999, but not arrested until December. Indeed, he was under surveillance for this period, but he was free. After arrest, he was held incommunicado, which many felt was cruel and unusual punishment for a person awaiting trial. At the August bail hearing, Lee had been incarcerated for eight months. The judicial "industry standard" is six months for the constitutional, speedy trial.

The almost daily publicity would have made jury selection extremely lengthy, further delaying Lee's day in court from the proposed November trial date. Lee might have spent well over a year in jail before the case was settled. Apparently Judge Parker came to similar conclusions and settled the case. And I salute him.

Thank you.

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