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Congressional Record: September 18, 2000 (Senate)
Page S8641-S8642


                               WEN HO LEE

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am here on the floor at this 
particular time to ask the President of the United States who "they" 
are, and I hope the word "they" includes the President of the United 
States. I hope the President of the United States is the chief 
"they." I hope we don't get into a position of debating what the 
definition of the word "they" is. The Constitution is pretty clear--
the President of the United States has all the executive power that 
exists in our Government.
  That is the background for my visiting with you about the Wen Ho Lee 
case, the President's comments last week in regard to the release of 
Wen Ho Lee, and how the executive branch treated this Chinese American.
  This is the latest instance of President Clinton failing to take 
responsibility and refusing to hold himself accountable for the actions 
of his administration.

[[Page S8642]]

  The background of Wen Ho Lee--for those who may not have been 
following this over the last year--is that the Government has recently 
agreed to let this former nuclear scientist at Los Alamos Laboratories 
plead guilty to a relatively minor charge and go home with a slap on 
the wrist.
  I think we all agree that his release is the justifiable thing to do. 
But it was only a short time ago that the executive branch was claiming 
that Wen Ho Lee was such a serious threat to American national security 
that he belonged in solitary confinement and in shackles with 
practically no ability for Mr. Lee to even contact his family. Now, 
after this long period of time in confinement, he gets a slap on the 
wrist and his freedom.
  Obviously, the executive branch of Government couldn't back up its 
allegations with proof or this case would not have settled as it did. 
Despite the dire pronouncements made to the public about Wen Ho Lee, 
the fact is the Government didn't even have a case. It had only 
suspicions. Mr. Lee has, of course, paid a very high price for the 
suspicions of some in the executive branch.
  Maybe because Lee is Asian American, there is not the outcry over the 
loss of civil liberties that there would be had Lee been a member of 
some other minority group. The same people who speak up against some 
minorities being mistreated because of civil liberties evidently don't 
seem inclined to speak up in the case of an Asian American.
  Mr. Lee's treatment has caused widespread public outcry. How can this 
happen in America where we treasure freedom and where the rule of law 
has been the basis for our country's law going back to the setting up 
of the colonies? How could the government damage the reputation of a 
citizen by labeling him as a spy for the Communist Chinese, lock him 
away for 9 months of solitary confinement, and then just simply drop 
the case? Our Government has damaged its reputation by the way it 
handled the Lee case.
  The American people are outraged. Pundits and political observers 
have raised legitimate questions about the abusive way in which Mr. Lee 
was treated by the executive branch of Government.
  In the midst of this justifiable criticism, President Clinton decided 
that it was time for him, as President of the United States, to chime 
in. President Clinton happens to be the Chief Executive Officer of the 
country. He thinks, like the rest of us, that the executive branch of 
Government may have abused its power in the way it went after Mr. Lee 
and kept him confined for such a long period of time.
  What troubles me about President Clinton's comments is that he acts 
as if he, as President of the United States, is just some sideline 
observer who doesn't have anything to do with the way the laws in this 
country are enforced.
  As every high school student learned in their civics classes, the 
executive power of the Government is vested in the President of the 
United States, article II, section I:

       The executive power shall be vested in the President of the 
     United States of America.

  This is pretty simple language and pretty definitive. These words 
means the President is in charge of law enforcement. The President is 
in charge of protecting our national security.
  So, even if the President delegated some of his power to the Attorney 
General, the President is responsible for what happened to Mr. Lee.
  I hope the President can just once before he leaves office, and as 
part of his legacy, say he is responsible for what happened under his 
watch. I would like to have him say: I and the people I appointed are 
responsible for what happened to Mr. Lee.
  But, no. He said in his news conference "they" did this--"they" 
held him; "they" had these charges. It was always "they," "they," 
"they." I happen to think President Clinton is the chief "they." He 
is above all the rest of the "theys."
  It happens that President Clinton seems to think the Justice 
Department is some agency of government outside of his control. Surely 
the President knows better than this. The Washington Post certainly 
does. This past Saturday, the Post editorial page commented on the Wen 
Ho Lee case:

       President Clinton asks us to see him as one more 
     commentator troubled by the case, rather than as the head of 
     the government that brought it.

  In other words, I think the Washington Post is saying the President 
is, in fact, the chief "they;" or he is in charge of all the rest of 
the "theys." Of course, as far as I am concerned, the Washington Post 
is right on this point.
  The nation is waiting for real leadership, not another evasion or 
more misdirection. President Clinton may be an "artful dodger," but 
this is one dodge that just won't work. The American people elected 
President Clinton to be in that office so he could lead, not blame 
  The Constitution is crystal clear that the President has the ultimate 
responsibility of leadership and the ultimate power of our executive 
branch. It is high time for President Clinton to follow the 
Constitution and take responsibility for the sorry actions that took 
place in regard to Mr. Wen Ho Lee during this administration.
  I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kyl). The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. THOMAS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


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