Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK

World: Americas

FBI relaunches nuclear spy probe

The US is finding it difficult to improve security at its nuclear labs

By BBC Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds

The FBI will relaunch its investigation into allegations of nuclear spying by China.

The United States remains convinced that China got a hold of its nuclear secrets, in particular details of the latest miniature nuclear warhead, and previously, the FBI had focused its efforts on one Taiwanese-born scientist, Wen Ho Lee.

But the investigation of Mr Lee netted nothing conclusive. Mr Lee had worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, but he was fired in March for security violations.

Mr Lee allegedly moved classified files from a secure computer to an unclassified, unsecured computer that could be accessed through the Internet.

Starting over

[ image: Scientist Wen Ho Lee says he was singled out because of his ethnicity]
Scientist Wen Ho Lee says he was singled out because of his ethnicity
The FBI will now have to virtually start over with the investigation.

US Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh agreed to add resources to the newly widened investigation, according to a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The move to broaden the investigation seems an implicit admission that the earlier focus on Mr Lee was wrong.

The investigation uncovered no hard evidence that Mr Lee provided China with any classified weapons information.

Mr Lee and others have criticised the investigation, saying he was singled out because of his ethnicity.

Tightening security

With pressure from Congress, the Department of Energy, which oversees the nation's nuclear weapons programme, is trying to tighten security after a Congressional report uncovered security leaks at the national labs.

But some changes are being criticised inside and outside of the Energy Department.

A plan to subject the 12,000 scientists nuclear scientists to "lie detector" tests is being criticised by scientists at the national laboratories and polygraph experts.

One scientist said it would drive top scientists out of the weapons development programme, and an FBI specialist said it would lead to false accusations.

The problems indicate just how difficult security has become in the nuclear laboratories.

By a vote of 93-5, the Senate passed a measure on Wednesday to reorganise the Energy Department, which has oversight of the nation's nuclear laboratories.

The measure would establish a semi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department, called the National Nuclear Security Administration, to supervise security for weapons development.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

03 Sep 99 | Americas
Sex with spies worries US

06 Aug 99 | Americas
Nuclear spy probe 'flawed'

23 Jun 99 | Americas
Senate slams nuclear lab security

21 Jun 99 | Americas
Lie detector tests for US nuclear scientists

07 May 99 | Americas
US nuclear scientist denies spy allegations

22 Apr 99 | Americas
China rejects nuclear spying charge

Internet Links

US Department of Energy

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Federal Bureau of Investigations

Report on Chinese Espionage

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

From Business
Microsoft trial mediator appointed

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

From Entertainment
Taxman scoops a million

Violence greets Clinton visit

Bush outlines foreign policy

Boy held after US school shooting

Memorial for bonfire dead

Senate passes US budget

New constitution for Venezuela

North Korea expels US 'spy'

Hurricane Lenny abates

UN welcomes US paying dues

Chavez praises 'advanced' constitution

In pictures: Castro strikes out Chavez

WTO: arbitration in EU-Ecuador banana dispute

Colombian army chief says rebels defeated

Colombian president lambasts rebels