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Clinton: Wen Ho Lee case raises questions about pretrial detention

Bill Clinton and Wen Ho Lee
Clinton calls government actions in the Wen Ho Lee case "inconsistent," though Lee has admitted to a "very serious national security violation"  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While emphasizing that fired nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee committed a "very serious" violation, President Clinton said Friday the case raises questions about pretrial detention.

The president said the case "raises a question, not just for Chinese-Americans, but for all Americans about whether we have been as careful as we ought to be about pretrial detention."

"In America, we have a pretty high standard, and we should under our Constitution, against pretrial detention. You have to meet a pretty high bar," he said. However, he added: "I had no reason to believe that bar had not been met."

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CNN's Pierre Thomas says Wen Ho Lee faces a year of further interrogation over still-missing files

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Lee, a former Los Alamos scientist, was accused of downloading U.S. nuclear defense secrets onto 10 tapes he took from the nuclear laboratory. Under a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of mishandling nuclear defense data. He originally faced 59 counts of the same charge. Lee agreed to tell the government what he did with several missing tapes.

Lee served 278 days in solitary confinement before a U.S. District judge accepted his plea bargain. The 60-year-old Taiwan-born U.S. citizen was not charged with espionage.

What happened to the tapes

Clinton said Lee "has admitted to a very serious national security violation and the important thing now is to keep commitment to the government to work hard to figure out what happened to those tapes, what was on the tapes, to reconstitute all the information."

On Thursday, Attorney General Janet Reno said she felt "comfortable" with how the government handled the case, saying the best decision was made "based on the evidence and the law."

Reno said Lee was given an opportunity to explain his actions and he failed to respond to those questions. She said he downloaded "very sensitive" information "over time, taking some 40 hours to do it."

Clinton said his staff has talked to the Justice Department about the case.

"I'm sure I'll have a chance to talk to the attorney general about it," he said. "It would have been completely inappropriate for me to intervene and I don't believe she intervened. This was handled in the appropriate, normal way."



RELATED STORIES:
President Clinton calls Lee case 'troubling'
September 14, 2000
Reno offers no apology for Wen Ho Lee case
September 14, 2000
Nuclear scientist Lee goes home after plea bargain
September 13, 2000
Plea agreement reached in Wen Ho Lee case; hearing resumes
September 13, 2000
Attorneys work on terms of plea bargain for jailed scientist
September 12, 2000
TIME.com: Wen Ho Lee case: More like Dreyfus than Rosenbergs
September 11, 2000
Wen Ho Lee hearing postponed until Wednesday
September 11, 2000
Emergency hearing called in Wen Ho Lee case
September 1, 2000
FBI begins search of Wen Ho Lee's home
August 31, 2000
Judge orders bail for Wen Ho Lee, but U.S prosecutors likely to appeal
August 29, 2000
Hearing underway on details of Wen Ho Lee's release
August 25, 2000
Judge urges mediation in Los Alamos scientist case, sources say
August 25, 2000
Terms of Wen Ho Lee's release to be discussed Tuesday
August 24, 2000
Judge needs more time to decide on release of Los Alamos scientist
August 18, 2000
Scientist charged in nuclear secrets case may have been job-hunting instead
July 7, 2000
Wen Ho Lee sues FBI, other agencies
December 20, 1999
Wen Ho Lee indicted, arrested in Los Alamos case
December 10, 1999

RELATED SITES:
The Trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
WenHoLee.org
U.S. Department of Justice
Los Alamos National Laboratory


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