No Defense: How the New York Times Convicted Wen Ho Lee

No Defense: How the New York Times Convicted Wen Ho

The torment of Wen Ho Lee did not begin with his indictment and
arrest in December 1999, reports Robert Scheer in The
but rather when the New York Times, the most
respected media outlet in the country, presented a tale of atomic
spying that has been proved wrong on virtually every count, and
launched a witch hunt ending in Lee’s incarceration. Lee’s media
nightmare began with The Times’ 4,000-word front-page story
on March 6, 1999, under the shocking headline, ‘Breach at Los
Alamos: A Special Report; China Stole Nuclear Secrets for Bombs, US
Aides Say.’ Written by investigative reporters Jeff Gerth and James
Risen, the story was rife with circumstantial evidence and outright

In an in-depth essay, Scheer untangles the many issues at play in
this nightmarish case, including racial profiling and the American
judicial system’s attempt to prove itself tough on Chinese spying,
a meticulous breakdown of the many falsehoods in the original
Times article, and an excerpt from Lee’s grilling by the FBI
the day before the story broke.

Scheer looks past the Times’ web of underhanded journalistic
half-truths and make-believe stories. He focuses instead on the way
Lee’s neighbors and co-workers responded to his incarceration. ‘It
was the sight of all those neighbors and co-workers from the lab
bringing over plates of potato salad and cold cuts to celebrate his
freedom,’ Scheer writes. ‘These were the people who knew Lee and
the inner workings of the weapons lab, and they had been there to
support him throughout his ordeal, even when established human
rights and civil libertarian groups had remained silent.’
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In a related article on the MediaChannel, the New York Media Circle
discusses the ramifications of the Times’ destructive blunder with
the Wen Ho Lee case on current journalism:
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