Governor Richardson tells Democracy Now! that he "stands by everything he said and did" in the case of accused Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. Richardson, then Energy Secretary, fired Lee–who was under investigation for espionage. Lee was ultimately cleared of those charges. [includes rush transcript]
We speak with Governor Richardson about the case of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. As President Clinton’s energy secretary, Richardson fired Lee, who was the subject of an espionage investigation. Lee was then arrested and charged with stealing secrets about the U.S’s nuclear arsenal for China. Lee spent almost a year in prison but was ultimately cleared of those charges. However, he did plead guilty to mishandling government documents. Lee is now pursuing a lawsuit against the government claiming that government officials leaked damaging information on him to several reporters. Though he has denied it, Richardson has long been suspected of being one of the sources of the leak.
- Governor Bill Richardson, Democratic Governor of New Mexico, former ambassador to the United Nations and former Secretary of Energy.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Governor Richardson, you were energy secretary during the period of the controversy over the Los Alamos scientist, Wen Ho Lee. As you know, he is now pursuing a lawsuit against the government, and is claiming that officials of the government leaked damaging information on him to several reporters. This is threatening to become another case of oppressed freedom, as the reporters have been ordered to reveal their sources by the courts, and — and your name has been linked at times, although you have said in sworn testimony, that you were not a source of the leak. I’d like to ask you what your sense of — if you can talk about the case at all, and also what your sense is of what’s happening to reporters in terms of the courts ordering them to reveal sources?
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, on that, Juan, because of the pending litigation, there’s hardly anything I can say. I would tell you if I did. But I stand behind everything that I said, and I did before in that case. But I strongly believe that reporters have the right TO have sources, and protect them. I believe what’s happened to Judy Miller of The Times and many other journalists have been jailed I believe is going to threaten not just first amendment issues, but the ability of the public to get information from the press on government officials.
So, I strongly believe that it’s important that we have protections for the press, protections of confidential sources. I suspect this is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court and my hope is that the Supreme Court continues to protect these first amendment freedoms.
AMY GOODMAN: But Governor Richardson, this is not only a case of freedom of the press and journalists protecting their sources, it is also a case of the destruction of the reputation of a man, Wen Ho Lee, who served almost a year in prison. Who, a federal judge has said you last month were the probable source of the leaks. What do you say to the federal judge. You say you stand behind everything that you did in this case. What do you stand by?
BILL RICHARDSON: I stand by that I wasn’t. Secondly, this was a man that was convicted on several counts of tampering with classified information, so —
AMY GOODMAN: But the minorest of counts. It was originally—
BILL RICHARDSON: It was not minor. This is where you are wrong. It is not minor. There were very sensitive nuclear secrets that possibly were compromised, and were improperly taken from his computer. Now, the judgment of the judge, I believe, is speculative. But I stand behind the very strong actions that I took to protect our nuclear secrets.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you say that the federal judge is wrong in saying that you are the probable source of the leaks?
BILL RICHARDSON: Absolutely. He is totally wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: In the case of Wen Ho Lee, though, originally, they said he could be, a reason for the possible — well, like president Bush used in the argument for the Iraq war, he could be the source of a nuclear explosion, a bombing of the United States. And ultimately, when the judge freed Wen Ho Lee, he said he had been egregiously misled by government officials about what Wen Ho Lee was responsible for. He was irate. He was enraged, the judge, I mean.
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, that’s his opinion. I believe that we acted properly in safeguarding our nuclear secrets. He was convicted on several counts. There were some mistakes in that case. It involved the entire federal government, and I stand behind everything that I did.