ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge unsealed 20 of 22 documents sought by Asian-American advocacy groups trying to prove racial profiling in the prosecution last year of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee.
The papers unsealed Tuesday by Judge James Parker had been reviewed for national security purposes, and most had been censored to protect classified and sensitive information, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paula Burnett said.
Burnett told Parker the government did not oppose unsealing nearly all the documents, which were referred to in court by number only. Their contents were not immediately disclosed.
Roger Myers, lawyer for San Francisco-based Chinese for Affirmative Action, said he hadn’t had a chance to argue about what was censored.
Parker said if Myers and other lawyers want any of the censored material made public, they could return to court. The judge added, however, that he believed the material would be “of no importance whatsoever.”
The government has denied it engaged in any racial profiling.
One document remained sealed at the request of one of Lee’s attorneys. The judge ordered another document kept secret because of national security concerns.
The 61-year-old Lee, who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 20 years, spent nine months in solitary confinement before pleading guilty in September 2000 to one count of breaching national security.
The government dropped 58 other counts when Lee admitted using an unsecured computer to download a defense document.
At the time, Parker apologized for keeping Lee jailed in the months before the plea deal, saying the Justice and Energy departments had misled the judge and “embarrassed our entire nation.”
The prosecution came after congressional investigations into suspected espionage on behalf of China. There was sharp disagreement within the government, including the FBI and CIA, over whether Lee was a possible spy.
Taiwanese-born Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was never charged with espionage. Asian-American groups believe he was arrested at least partly because of his Chinese ancestry.
“I think this case far more than any other has resonated with the Asian-American community,” said Diane Chin, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action.