Election Section

Wen Ho Lee supporters gather signatures seeking pardon

By Richard Benke, The Associated Press
Friday July 12, 2002

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Supporters of a Los Alamos scientist who was prosecuted for making copies of sensitive nuclear weapons data have gathered 15,000 signatures seeking a presidential pardon. 

The petition was sent to President Bush on July 2 on behalf of Wen Ho Lee and will be sent Friday to the Justice Department, said Cecilia Chang of Fremont, Calif., who launched the petition drive. 

Almost 10,000 signatures were gathered in the last few days of June, Chang said. Lee, a Taiwanese-born naturalized U.S. citizen, issued a recorded statement in Mandarin Chinese thanking his supporters. 

The signatures went to Bush with a cover letter that said Lee was “the only American who has been charged with felonies where there is evidence of security violations but there is no evidence of transfer of classified information to an unauthorized person.” 

The letter said Lee was held unnecessarily without bail and had to plead guilty to get out of jail. 

Lee pleaded to a single count of downloading data to computer tape at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has said he made copies to protect data with backup files. 

The petitions said the case “stands as an example of a miscarriage of justice that should be remedied. His treatment at the hands of our government weighs heavily on his fellow scientists, the national laboratories, and other Americans” and shakes their confidence in constitutional protections. 

Signatures have been gathered over the past two years, but two-thirds of them came in during the last week of June, Chang said. 

As of June 21, she said she had 5,800 signatures with “no chance you’ll get 10,000.”’ 

But she took her appeal to the airwaves. Speaking Cantonese, Chang made an appeal on the Chinese-language Sing Tao Radio and in the Sing Tao newspaper in San Francisco for people to support a pardon for Lee. 

“It must have gotten some message out there. I got 60 calls that one day,” she said. 

Organizers had 10,000 signatures by June 30, she said, and hope to have 30,000 by Labor Day. 

“We don’t have a presidential pardon yet, but so many people putting their names out there — ’We support you, let’s fight to the end, let’s get justice for Wen Ho Lee, let’s get justice for all’ — it’s a powerful thing,” Chang said.