No Evidence of Racism?
By Emil Guillermo
For Asian Americans, the Wen Ho Lee case is our hot-button story, our Chandra Levy, our OJ case. Our ears perk up at any development, because Wen Ho Lee is us.
So its understandable that the collective Asian American community may be scratching its head a bit over the so-called Bellows Report named for its author, federal prosecutor Randy Bellows, and not for the fire blowing instrument.
The report does fan the embers a bit in the case.
Highly critical of the FBI, Bellows concludes that the bureau spent years investigating the wrong crime.
The prosecutor wrote that Wen Ho and Sylvia Lee should never have been the sole suspects. Applying the metaphor of a sieve, Bellows says the investigation should have run its course resulting in the identification of a number of suspects. Instead, it all ended up as a funnel from which only Wen Ho and Sylvia Lee emerged.
They were singled out. But the report also says there was no evidence of racism toward Dr. Lee in the handling of the case.
No racism? Could that be? Didnt a federal judge last October scold the prosecution and say that the treatment of Lee had embarrassed the nation?
Well, yes. But was it truly racism or merely colossal stupidity that steered the government down the wrong path?
Were getting down to the atomic truth, where the molecules of veracity make splitting hairs seem like lumberjack work. Expect a lot more of it to come.
Even though the governments case crumbled into nothing last November with no finding of espionage on the part of Dr. Lee, the saga is far from over with civil lawsuits pending. And thats why all you occasional Wen Ho Lee case followers should get to know the name Notra Trulock.
Who is Notra Trulock? Hes the former Energy Department official - once hailed as a whistle-blower - when the train went full speed ahead toward Dr. Lee. That is, until people started blowing the whistle back at Trulock.
Trulock, no longer with the DOE, is now suing Wen Ho Lee for defamation, claiming that Dr. Lee had his supporters falsely charge Trulock with racism. Thanks to Trulocks civil suit now being heard in Virginia, we have the de-classified bits of the still highly classified Bellows Report. A judge forced the release and got it. But can Trulock and his legal team from the conservative watch dog group, Judicial Watch, honestly proclaim exoneration?
Not so fast. A review of the Trulock file is in order.
In 1995 Trulock, then head of the DOEs head of intelligence, heard from one Robert Henson, a Los Alamos physicist who discovered something fishy with Chinas bomb tests that seemed to mirror features that only Americas newly designed W-88 possessed. The conclusion was that someone was passing secrets.
Trulock quickly gathered experts to hear the evidence. Henson ended up getting fired in a staff reduction. His insights and information were all left to Trulock to run with, and run he didwith one man in mind as the spy, Wen Ho Lee.
Trulock ran so hard and fast over Lee that it was a good career move. He won a bonus award of $10,000 from Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
Then the train stopped. And instead of running over Wen Ho Lee, the train started going against Trulock.
In 1999, the case against Dr. Lee started crumbling and a whole string of DOE employees began accusing Trulock of unfairly singling out Dr. Lee.
Robert Vrooman, the fomer chief of counter-intelligence at Los Alamos said that Trulock and other federal investigators singled out Lee because he is a Chinese American. This case was screwed up because there was nothing there-it was built on thin air, Vrooman told the Washington Post.
Then came Charles Washington, DOEs acting director of counterintelligence in 1996. He told Trulock to close the case. Washington, an African American, told the Post in 1999: Trulock used to say, We need one good espionage case to make this program grow. He said, Theres one spy out there, and were going to find him.
Michael Soukup, another physicist at Los Alamos, was another employee who came forward. He told the Post that Trulock drove the investigation and that the suspicion matrix used by investigators was a sham. Soukup said he fit the profile and was never questioned or interviewed.
The claims by the DOE employees shouldnt be discounted as mere utterances by disgruntled employees. Even after the Bellows report was officially submitted last year, two former DOE officials involved in the investigation said, in sworn affidavits, that race was a factor in Lee being singled out.
What can be said is that even though Trulock continues to claim the FBI was sent a list that had at least six Caucasians and three Asian Americans, the fact remains, they were not all treated equally as suspects.
Bellows may not have found evidence of racism, but he did say, Once Wen Ho Lee was tagged'" with the patina of suspicion, the (administrative inquiry) was all but over.
Its clear everyone who touched the investigation has a reason to cover their incompetent butts. But is it based on racism or mere incompetence on the part of Trulock and the FBI?
There certainly were presumptions made by Trulock and the FBI based on race. The Chinese often like to target Chinese Americans. So does that make Dr.Lee a spy? How about when Trulock suspected Mrs. Lee for hosting parties for Chinese nationals, only to find that Mrs. Lee was actually an operative for the FBI.
In a strict legal sense, Bellows may not have found the evidence to prove racism - the kind of egregious discrimination that stems from a systematic hatred.
But to Asian Americans, its plain as day. What explains how the sieve became the funnel? There were just too many faulty assumptions based on race to leave it all to simple indolence, ignorance and stupidity.
Emil Guillermo is host of NCM-TV: New California Media, seen Friday nights on KCSM-TV in San Francisco, and KLCS-TV in Los Angeles. E-mail: emil@amok.