Wen Ho Lee (b.1939) is a Taiwanese American nuclear physicist and former employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In 1996, the FBI launched Operation Kindred Spirit after compiling rudimentary intelligence that a Chinese spy had obtained design plans for America’s most advanced nuclear warhead – the W-88. Lee was racially profiled as the sole suspect during the investigation despite there being no conclusive evidence indicating he was a spy, or that he had given away nuclear secrets.
On March 6, 1999, details of the investigation were leaked to the New York Times; an article was published entitled “BREACH AT LOS ALAMOS: A special report.; China Stole Nuclear Secrets For Bombs, U.S. Aides Say.” Two days later, the Times released Lee’s name to the public, inciting a media frenzy and immense public outcry against Lee for his alleged crimes.
On December 10,1999, Lee was arrested and placed in solitary confinement; however, the FBI’s case crumbled due to lack of evidence, and soon the organization came under scrutiny for their handling of the investigation. Lee eventually won his freedom, but the case provoked larger discussion around racial profiling in law enforcement as well as the media’s role in facilitating sinophobia and defaming Lee via premature reporting.
This collection contains a bound compilation of news articles regarding the Wen Ho Lee case, including the impetus New York Times article, curated by former A/P/A Graduate Archives Scholar, Dylan Yeats.
The Wen Ho Lee Media Collection is housed on site at the A/P/A Institute, located at 20 Cooper Square, third floor, New York, New York 10003. If you would like to access the collection, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.