Wen Ho Lee was just an Echo in History

So the Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology hits the shelves next week on April 15. Here's a reading of one of the stories in the book:

"In the story By the Time I Get to Arizona, a young man named Mason Wong learns that his father has been incarcerated and accused of spying on the United States. His father, Dr. Benjamin Wong, was a research scientist that helped develop a series of nanotechnology prototypes that gave people superhuman abilities. Mason is sent on a quest by his fathers partner, Dr. Malcolm Eady, to retrieve a weapon before it gets into the wrong hands.

"Peril was partially inspired by the real life case against Dr. Wen Ho Lee. In 1999, Lee, a Chinese American scientist who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory was indicted on 59 counts of espionage, jailed in solitary confinement for several months, and released on time served after the government failed to prove its case against him. He was ultimately charged with one count of mishandling sensitive documents, while the other 58 counts were dropped. In the months leading up to Lee's indictment and release, several media organizations, and top federal officials, had made Lees name public, which exacerbated perceptions that the foreign-born Lee was a threat to national security."

Was Wen Ho Lee Just An Honest Mistake?

I actually had a reader email me regarding Bill Richardson stating, "Do you think his conviction of Wen Ho Lee could have been an honest mistake?"

Here's how I responded:

"An honest mistake? An honest mistake based on prejudice and racial profiling. Forget the fact that Wen Ho Lee immigrated to the US several decades ago and became a US citizen. Forget the fact Wen Ho Lee came from TAIWAN not China. Forget the fact that Wen Ho Lee was literally chained in solitary for 9 months, despite the fact he was a frail old man.

"Of all 59 counts against Wen Ho Lee, not one was espionage. They didn't have enough evidence to prosecute, and the FBI was hoping he would confess to something after being chained up in solitary for 9 months.

"Of all the counts against him, he pleaded guilty to illegal/unauthorized downloading of sensitive material. This downloading IS COMMON PRACTICE among people at the laboratory and among security agencies despite its prohibition under the law. In fact a former head of the CIA was convicted of illegal download around the same time as Wen Ho Lee and that didn't make any headlines.

"If there was a spy at the lab, he or she got away, because the FBI wasted valuable time and energy barking up the wrong tree based on faulty information and prejudice. Even the judge who oversaw the case realized that Richardson and the FBI had misled him and the public as to the validity of their case, and that's why he apologized to Lee."

Wen Ho Lee: An Echo in History

The Wen Ho Lee case is really just an echo of a previous case involving the U.S. government's false accusation of a Chinese American scientist. Ever hear of Tsien Hsue-Shen? Here's a Wikipedia entry on him:

"Tsien Hsue-shen (born December 11, 1911) is a scientist who was a major figure in the missile and space programs of both the United States and People's Republic of China...

"During the 1940s Tsien was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. During the Red Scare of the 1950's, the United States government accused Tsien of having communist sympathies. Tsien and his family were wrongfully imprisoned in an isolated island off of Los Angeles. Stripped of his security clearance, Tsien decided to go back to China.

"After being under house arrest for 5 years from 1950-55, Tsien was released in exchange for the return of US pilots captured during the Korean war. Notified by U.S. authorities that he was free to go, Tsien immediately arranged to go back to China in September of 1955... He returned to China and led the Chinese rocket program, and became known as the 'Father of Chinese Rocketry' (or 'King of Rocketry')."

In other words, Tsien Hsue-shen, a Chinese American scientist who helps the US develop its missile and space program, gets accused as a Communist. So for all his hard work and American patriotism, he and his family get placed under "house arrest" on an ISLAND off the coast of L.A. Then he gets deported back to China, where he essentially fathers the Chinese missile and space program.

Wow, the U.S. government really dropped the ball on that one. Anyway, Aviation Week named Tsien Hsue-shen their "Person of the Year" for 2007:

"China is now at the forefront of space exploration, with two key developments in 2007: a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test and a planetary mission," said Aviation Week & Space Technology Editor-in-Chief Anthony L. Velocci, Jr. "AVIATION WEEK's profile of Tsien discusses these aspects of China's space program in rich detail, and analyzes the far-ranging impact Tsien has had on the global aerospace industry -- indeed, the world -- at large."

"AVIATION WEEK recognizes Tsien as our Person of the Year for his unique contributions to aerospace science in both the U.S. and China -- two of the three nations to successfully develop their own manned space missions. His legacy of research and discovery resonates today," said Tom Henricks, President, AVIATION WEEK, and a former NASA astronaut.

Get Ready for More Echoes:

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