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A recent item in OC Weekly [Matt Coker's "A Clockwork Orange," Feb. 27] regarding former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, who is suing the U.S. Government for speaking his name during its investigation of him, (1) implies that the congressional committee I chaired in 1997-98 was responsible for the leak and (2) claims that I failed to "apologize" for what happened to him. In fact, Wen Ho Lee's name appears nowhere in either the classified or unclassified version of the committee's report. He was unknown to the members of the committee, who learned his identity when the Clinton administration—seeking a scapegoat for security problems at the national laboratories—first privately and then publicly divulged his name and their charges against him. When Energy Secretary Bill Richardson very publicly discharged Lee from his job, the Washington Post reported my criticizing it as un-American.
Long before it became fashionable to criticize the government for its handling of the case, I warned against a looming "Richard Jewell" problem—that is, trial and conviction in the press. My comments were widely reported in the media at the time, including by the Washington Post and on the CBS Show 60 Minutes. Since information about Wen Ho Lee was never provided by the Clinton administration to members of the staff of the committee, the committee could not have been the source for leaking this information to The New York Times. Moreover, the Times itself, in its March 6, 1999, article "China Stole Nuclear Secrets for Bombs, U.S. Aides Say," explicitly cites "administration officials" as its source. Two U.S. companies, Hughes and Loral, paid the largest penalties in the history of the U.S. Export Administration Act as a result of violations of law uncovered in the committee's bipartisan and unanimous report. President Clinton signed into law a number of important reforms, including the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration, based on committee recommendations. These, and not the administration's Lee debacle, represent the actual work of a committee that, as the National Journal has written, "kept its secrets."Christopher Cox
The archivist responds: Checking our records, it appears this is virtually the same story Cox told us last spring [Letters, May 29, 2003]. The facts of the Wen Ho Lee case haven't changed, and neither should the response we offered then: two months before the Cox Report was published, someone was leaking details toNew York Times reporter Jeff Gerth—someone who would benefit from the suggestion that Clinton administration mismanagement of the Los Alamos weapons lab had aided Chinese spies. That points to the committee's Republican members. Having failed to kill Clinton with Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Monica Lewinsky and talk radio, they zeroed in on allegations of Chinese spying. "We're going to milk this for all it is worth," one Republican staffer promised. Among committee Republicans, Cox had the most to gain from broadcasting the Lee story. He was angling for the job of House speaker and looking toward the VP slot on the Republicans' 2000 presidential ticket; the words "Cox Report" were his credentials. This wasn't lost on Washington insiders. When reporters began fingering Cox as the source of the leaks in May 1999, he told ABC'sThis Week, "Well, the leaks, I'm very unhappy about [them]. And the leaks are coming rather obviously, I think, from the administration." Cox repeats that same line here, but to believe it you'd have to believe the Clinton White House was trying to kill itself—and would chooseNew York Times reporter Gerth to do it. Gerth had spent several years in a vain attempt to bring Clinton down over the Whitewater scandal. And how "unhappy" was Cox about the leaks? Not unhappy enough to investigate their source.
JESUS H. FRIES
As much as I value freedom of the press, I must express my horror at the cartoon included with Rich Kane's article about Chik-fil-A ["You Want Christ With That?" March 5]. The article was distasteful enough—it told us more about the reporter's biases than about the restaurant. However, the cartoon was disrespectful as well as a blatant display of immaturity and poor taste. It is just common human decency to treat cherished symbols of people's beliefs with respect, even when you personally disagree with those beliefs.Donna White
Blasphemous artist Bob Aul responds: Good grief, Donna, you got your horror in myyyy drawing. Either you've made no distinction between the parody and the culture of the parodied, or you must think it's okay to market God as you would a cheeseburger. How can it be even remotely acceptable that the tacky should be used to promote the sublime? I find it hard to believe that Bach or C.S. Lewis could or would have in their own ways so effectively and eloquently expressed their profound faiths in the Almighty on a bumper sticker. All that greasy processed chicken probably would've made them barf, too.