August 25, 1999


“Operation Kindred Spirit,” the code name for the Department of Energy's effort to convict alleged Chinese “spy” Wen Ho Lee (of something, anything) is coming unraveled – and, with it, the show trial so eagerly anticipated by the Hate China crowd. The case that was compared by interventionist conservatives to that of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a dramatic reenactment of the Cold War spy hysteria of the fifties, turns out to be nothing but an episode of the Keystone Kops. For once, the truth is beginning to come out in spite of the War Party's best efforts – much to the chagrin of the warmongers in both parties.


The startling news that the Department of Justice security chief, John Dion, is recommending against the prosecution of Lee was followed by even more startling news: the resignation of Mr. Notra Trulock, the Department of Energy official who led the witch-hunt against Lee. This capped a week of new developments in this long-simmering case, during which none other than respected former Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH), now serving on the President's Federal Intelligence Advisory Board, weighed in on the side of the beleaguered Lee. Rudman authored a scathing report that lambasted the investigation, derided the lack of any evidence that Lee had passed on any information, and raised a vital point: Why focus on Lee when the information he is alleged to have stolen was available in so many other places? With more than two dozen other possible sources of the security leak, why did Trulock – who has three other grievances filed against him by Department of Energy employees – home in on Lee, a Taiwan-born ethnic Chinese?


This question was trenchantly answered by Robert Vrooman, former counterintelligence chief at the Los Alamos Laboratory, where Lee worked, who declared that the case against Lee “was built on thin air.” Vrooman verified what we have been maintaining in these pages all along, and what Lee said on Sixty Minutes: the Feds are scapegoating Lee because he is ethnic Chinese. Their whole case is based on ethnicity. Who else are the alleged “kindred spirits" here, but that traitorous Chink and his Commie masters?


Although fired from a job he held for decades at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, Lee has not been charged with any crime and stoutly maintains that he is not guilty. Although his name has been dragged through the mud by government officials, including Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, it looks like he may never get his day in court. His big chance to prove his innocence may only come if he turns the tables and takes the government to court – a distinct possibility.


The embarrassing truth, for both the administration and its Republican enemies like Rep. Chris Cox, is that there is simply no evidence that Lee ever spied for China, or for anybody else. Secretary Richardson has vehemently denounced Lee and defended his firing, on the grounds that Lee transferred technical data into his secure home computer: but there is no evidence that Lee transmitted anything to the Chinese or that the information ever left his secured computer – one that was so secure that Lee complained that even he sometimes had difficulty gaining access to it. Even the New Mexico district federal prosecutors, who are chomping at the bit to go after Lee, are stumped as to what charge to hang on him, aside from “mishandling” classified information. But what kind of a punk rap is that?


The Clintonians are rightly afraid to indict Lee on this arcane charge, or any other – not because they are guilty of conspiring with Beijing to deliver nuclear secrets in exchange for campaign contributions, as some of the more rabid Sinophobes claim, but because ex-CIA chieftain John Deutch was just caught “mishandling” some very highly classified information far more egregiously than Lee. It turns out that Deutch, now retired, used to routinely cart home Top Secret files in his suitcase. For this transgression, exposed at the height of the spy hysteria, Deutch had his security clearance revoked. Will they dare to prosecute Lee for the same infraction, and go for jail time, while Deutch goes free?


Although the arrogance and cruelty of this administration is for all intents and purposes limitless, they do have some tactical sense. Federal officials say that the reason for their lack of enthusiasm for a trial is that it would reveal too much about the sources and methods of U.S. counterintelligence operations – but don't you believe it. The real reason, as is always the case with this administration, is politics. Such a trial would radically alienate the Asian-American community during an election season when they could very well be the swing vote in the pivotal states of Washington and California. Instead, the Democratic strategy is to let the Republicans play the role of the heavies – and let them pay the political price.


As usual, the chumps are falling for it. Governor Pete Wilson having already succeeded in alienating many California Hispanics, the state GOP is going two for two with party Vice Chair Shawn Steel's enthusiastic endorsement of the hate campaign against Wen Ho Lee and Chinese-American “subversion." As an official of a party which is already fractionalized and rapidly becoming politically marginalized, Steel has not only signed on as a cosponsor of David Horowitz's crazed crusade against the Yellow Peril, but somehow finagled the financially-strapped California party into paying for 3,500 copies of Horowitz's pamphlet, The Art of Political War. Now, if Horowitz is really smart, he will market his anti-Chinese manifestos to the Democrats. No doubt the Gore campaign would be interested in buying up a bunch of them to distribute, especially in California – if they haven't already.


The irony of The Art of Political War, which is supposed to be a “how to win” manual for Republicans, is that with the help of Horowitz and the China-Haters, the burgeoning Bay Area Chinese-American population will continue to be safely contained within the Democratic ranks – this in spite of the blatant and unrelenting hostility to China and all things Chinese which is a tradition in the Big Labor wing of the Democratic Party. Among the most ardent China-haters in Northern California is none other than San Francisco's own Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi – Democratic stalwart, kneejerk liberal, and perhaps China's most vocal and persistent congressional critic.


As an ex-New Leftist and red diaper baby-turned professional China-baiter, Horowitz should really write a book on “The Art of Political Warmongering," for surely he is an expert on the subject. For years he has been beating the bushes, drumming up whatever remnants of support there were for restarting the Cold War: for him the Wen Ho Lee case and the Cox Report were like manna from heaven. Without waiting for such minor details as evidence or facts, the perpetually hysterical Horowitz early on declared Wen Ho Lee guilty of espionage:


“In keeping with its relentless defense of a suicidal policy, the Clinton Administration has failed to prosecute the very spies who have been identified as being responsible for the most critical thefts of American military secrets. . . Wen Ho Lee, the man responsible for the most damaging espionage, is known to have downloaded millions of lines of computer code revealing the designs of our most advanced nuclear warheads. But Wen Ho Lee today is a free man.”


Lee is free because, in a free country, the government needs something called evidence before it can indict, let alone lock up, someone accused of a crime. He may have downloaded technical information, but only into his own computer – a common practice, as we shall see, that extended right up to the top levels of the US government. Horowitz also claims that the Clintonians have been “defending” and “protecting” Lee – by firing him unjustly, smearing him, trying to entrap him, and threatening him with prosecution. I only hope that, some day, someone will “defend” and “protect” Horowitz in a similar manner.


Newsweek speculated that although “prosecutors may never admit they went too far in publicly fingering” Lee, in any event the accused scientist “may be the one hauling the Feds into court." Perhaps Lee's lawyers will also take a look at the virtual cottage industry that has grown up around the thicket of baseless and damaging charges against their client. Hatemongers like Horowitz should be held to account. Does Horowitz have some inside information, unknown to federal prosecutors, that Wen Ho Lee is “the man responsible for the most damaging espionage”? If so, then it is high time he put up – or shut up.


To add insult to injury, Horowitz is not content to convict a seemingly innocent man of espionage without citing a shred of evidence – he must exculpate the crimes of a real traitor in the process! In the midst of his unsupported accusations against Lee, Horowitz has the unmitigated gall to write that:

“Unlike China, for example, the state of Israel is a democracy and a proven ally of the United States. Yet when an Israeli agent named Jonathan Pollard was discovered stealing secrets whose dimensions did not even approach the seriousness of these thefts (no technologies, for example, were involved), he was given a life sentence amidst the most solemn anathemas from the officials of the government he betrayed.”


Attorney Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted Pollard, has a different view: “Pollard ranks among the four most serious cases of national security damage in the history of this country,” said diGenova on This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts [10/25/98]. “Nothing matches what he did in terms of the compromise of the technical intelligence capability of this country and he put at risk human lives.” As noted in the Prather Report, released by the office of that well-known Maoist, Jack Kemp, the so-called “legacy codes” downloaded by Lee were hopelessly outdated, and would be of little technical use to Chinese scientists. Another difference between Lee and Pollard is that the latter was caught, red-handed, and arrested outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, just as he was about to seek political asylum. Not only that, but Pollard never denied his guilt: instead, he boasted about how much material he had handed over to a foreign government and claimed that the US was unfairly persecuting and even attacking Israel by withholding such information. Lee insists on his innocence, while Pollard glories in his guilt. Now, I ask you: what kind of person wants to jail the former without evidence, while freeing the latter in spite of the evidence?


Pollard has become a celebrity among Israeli hard-liners and their American amen-corner, the Mumia Abu-Jamal of today's neoconservatives. These ex-leftists-turned-warmongering “conservatives,” of which Horowitz is the epitome, who no longer have the socialist countries to idealize, seem to have substituted Israel for the late-lamented Soviet Union in their affections. Just as in an earlier time such people signed petitions to free the Rosenbergs and exonerate Alger Hiss, while calling for the jailing of World War II isolationists like Lawrence Dennis for “sedition,” so today their intellectual (and, in some cases, familial) descendants downplay Pollard's crimes, lobby for the commutation of his life sentence – and howl for the blood of Wen Ho Lee.


Lee's martyrdom at the hands of vindictive bureaucrats, vengeful haters, and vaunting politicians of both parties is not just a crime against a single individual, but an assault on a whole people. The effect of the Sinophobic hysteria in Congress and the national security apparatus has been to demoralize and drive out not only Chinese-American scientists working on government and defense-related projects, but also to cast a pall of suspicion on all foreign-born scientists. For if Wen Ho Lee can be demonized as the “kindred spirit” of the “Red” Chinese, without proof or the pretense of fairness, then so can any foreigner working in any government or defense-related research facility. Instead of ensuring a strong America, the crazed campaign to drive out Chinese-American scientists from the government-controlled sector of the scientific community is a big blow to the national defense. Instead of encouraging talented Chinese science and engineering students studying in America to stay, the witch-hunt is driving them back to China – much to the satisfaction of Chinese government, which is trying desperately to stop the continuous “brain drain” to the West.


Now that the truth is coming out – and how I look forward to the trial! – will the professional China-haters and opportunistic politicians apologize to the man they wrongly maligned? No way! Instead, they will go blithely on their way to the next scapegoat, the next hate campaign, the next overseas “threat.” The War Party's work is never done – and, consequently, neither is ours.


My readers may remember the last time I dealt with Horowitz and his outfit [August 11], in which I observed that his Hate China crusade seemed to have fallen on hard times: "From the sad and somewhat abandoned look of the CNLM website – the only thing that has changed beyond the initial postings a month ago is the date – Horowitz's “Hate China” campaign seems to have fizzled out before it ever began. The Spark, as the CNLN calls its online newsletter, has failed to catch fire." Less than twenty-four hours after that column was posted, the CNLM website sprang to life. After over a month of complete inactivity, visitors to the site were suddenly inundated with information about the CNLM's alleged successes: click here and see “Who Has order 100-plus copies of The Art of Political War,” click there and see a color-coded map that purports to show “Where Activists Are Reading It” – all this in addition to a complete list of the people and organizations who have made bulk purchases. Ah, the power of the press is truly awesome to behold. As for Horowitz and the CNLM, their reaction (or overreaction) is not hard to fathom – when you're in the radical wing of the War Party, overkill is an occupational hazard.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).


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