Statement of Senator Fred Thompson on the Indictment of Wen-Ho Lee

(Washington, DC) ? U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, today issued the following statement on the indictment of Dr. Wen-Ho Lee:

“The indictment against Dr. Wen-Ho Lee alleges the mishandling of a stunning amount of some of the most highly sensitive information the United States possesses ? the innermost secrets of our nuclear weapons arsenal. I commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its efforts.

“The fact that seven computer tapes allegedly made by Dr. Lee and packed with vital nuclear weapons design information are now missing is an appalling breach of U.S. national security. Significantly, the information Dr. Lee allegedly mishandled included records of the contours of U.S. warheads ? precisely the sort of information alleged to have turned up in the People?s Republic of China. It is absolutely imperative that every effort be made to ascertain the whereabouts of the seven missing tapes, and to determine whether they were in fact passed to a foreign power.

“Most of Dr. Lee?s alleged crimes took place in 1993 or 1994. Perhaps the most serious criminal activity alleged in the indictment, however, was his 1997 creation of a tape containing “the complete source code for the current version of the most up-to-date Primary weapon design code.” This tape is now missing. It is alarming to think that had the Justice Department approved the FBI?s request in June 1997 for electronic surveillance against him, we might perhaps have prevented the disappearance of this vital tape and prevented a potentially huge loss to U.S. national security.

“As the Governmental Affairs Committee has learned in its oversight hearings on this subject, the Justice Department?s refusal to permit surveillance was apparently the only time in the more than 20-year existence of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that such a request was ever denied.

“The Wen-Ho Lee indictment also offers a window upon the shockingly poor computer security practices that were used at the Energy Department?s nuclear weapons laboratories ? and indeed that may still be used. The Department?s lax policies enabled any computer user cleared for access to weapons design information to “down-partition” any classified files to an open system without accountability or supervision. As the indictment made clear, this process amounted to little more than a national security honor system. I urge Secretary Richardson to immediately adopt security policies that reflect the sensitivity of the information entrusted to his Department.

“The men and women entrusted to use classified information to protect our national security have a very great responsibility. This indictment stands as a warning to those who would consider breaching their obligation to protect our national interests. It should also prompt the government agencies that safeguard classified information and investigate potential security breaches to reexamine the way they perform these duties.”