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A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the politics of nuclear by Dan Stober

By Dan Stober

No espionage case in contemporary a long time has been something just like the Wen Ho Lee affair. As Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman describe in "A handy Spy," an astonishingly inept research of a criminal offense that can by no means have happened resulted in a countrywide shame. A weapons-code scientist at Los Alamos nationwide Laboratory, Lee was once hunted as a secret agent for China, indicted on fifty-nine counts, and held in detention for 9 months as a danger to the complete state. yet after pleading to blame to simply one count number, he went domestic -- with an strange and emotional apology from a federal pass judgement on. Prosecutors' claims that Lee had stolen America's "crown jewels" of nuclear safety easily evaporated. but Lee's explanations have by no means been satisfactorily defined, and his often-repeated excuse that he was once simply backing up his paintings documents doesn't face up to scrutiny. As Stober and Hoffman record, Lee's lies and his unexplained connections to international scientists spanned eighteen years. He was once a safety nightmare. Tapping at his keyboard, he assembled a personal number of the pc courses used to layout America's nuclear guns, then left them liable to hackers and international intelligence providers for years. The FBI's belated discovery that he had additionally placed the codes on transportable cassette tapes introduced a frenzied around the world seek that at last carried brokers to the Los Alamos landfill. And but at the present time, the tapes have by no means been came upon. In 1995, Lee used to be simply one other American, a Taiwanese immigrant striving to help a kin he adored and to make a reputation for himself in clinical circles. Unknown to him, in spite of the fact that, scientists operating within the mystery global of nuclear-weapons intelligence tested purloinedChinese records, studied undercover agent experiences, and questioned: Had China stolen the secrets and techniques of the W88, America's so much complex nuclear weapon? clinical hunches quickly developed right into a felony research aimed toward Lee. He have been overheard by means of the FBI whereas telephoning a secret agent suspect, and he was once warmly embraced by means of a high-ranking chinese language nuclear-weapons respectable whom he wasn't imagined to be aware of. The FBI famous that he used to be "ethnic Chinese." And during this doubtful interval after the chilly warfare, many politicians performed up China as a threatening new enemy. power Secretary and vice presidential hopeful invoice Richardson used to be desirous to hearth Lee and seem decisive in maintaining nationwide protection. during this stormy confluence of intelligence and politics, Lee grew to become a handy undercover agent. yet used to be he in charge? Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman inform the tale of the Wen Ho Lee fiasco dramatically and authoritatively, offering an aim account that no partisan model of the tale can fit.

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DIMBLEBY How did you feel this in reality. I mean, when you were there in Downing Street, trying to make sure that the Thatcher policies were put through. How did you come up against this barrier of the Civil Service? HOSKYNS It’s difficult to put one’s finger on it. What happens is that, at meetings to discuss difficult problems—sometimes on even things as crucial as the Budget, sometimes on legislation—there would be simply people round the table who were saying, you know, we’ve tried all these things before; or, you know, they tried that in 1973 but it didn’t work and they tried, you know, Jenkins tried this in 1968 (or something) and it didn’t work; and so there is never the feeling—which I’ve experienced a lot in business—of excitement; of brainstorming.

At stake was the whole progress of Clarke’s attempts to reform the NHS. For weeks some of his most senior cabinet colleagues had been privately questioning his tactical judgement in taking on the doctors at the same time as he was tackling reform in the hospitals. They feared the wrangle with GPs would derail the reform programme. The anxieties of the cabinet were as nothing compared to those of Tory backbenchers. Under a bombardment of correspondence from furious GPs they were approaching a state of panic.

I think many commentators who bemoan what they see as the decline of the Cabinet as a decision-taker fail to appreciate its significance as the cement which binds the Government together. But the Cabinet is large—with 22 members—and is a bit unwieldy for discussing detailed matters. So most policies are settled through more specialised committees, perhaps with a brief report to Cabinet to keep other colleagues abreast of decisions if that is thought appropriate. There are some topics, of course, where all Ministers are involved and there is no option but to take them in full Cabinet.

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