ALBUQUERQUE — Prosecutors have overstated the secrecy of the materials allegedly mishandled by Wen Ho Lee when he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to his attorneys, who for the third time are trying to get him out on bail.
At a court hearing Wednesday, defense witness John Richter testified the files that Lee is accused of downloading would have "no deleterious effect at all on the global strategic balance." The hearing was to resume Thursday.
Keeping Lee locked up is "much more injurious to the reputation of the United States," said Richter, who worked at Los Alamos from 1958 until he retired in 1997.
Numerous supporters of Lee were in the courtroom, wearing green buttons with his name on them.
The Taiwan-born Lee, 60, is charged with 59 counts involving downloading restricted files from the nuclear weapons lab to unsecured computers and tape. If convicted at the trial, which begins Nov. 6, he could be sentenced to life in prison. He was ordered to be held without bail in December.
Prosecution witness Paul Robinson, president of the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, testified that the information could provide guidance to an enemy nation on their own weapons or could help them develop new weapons they could test.
Defense attorneys have also alleged that Lee was a target of racial profiling.
At a separate hearing Tuesday, attorney Mark Holscher gave the court copies of statements of federal investigators acknowledging ethnic profiling and said the government had a duty to explain or justify its actions.
"We know that policy exists based on the statements of those in charge of the policy," Holscher said.
Holscher asked U.S. District Judge James Parker to order prosecutors to turn over a January 2000 Energy Department report on racial profiling, an Energy Department counterintelligence video and any FBI reports concerning profiling. Holscher also sought transcripts from several closed congressional hearings at which the case was discussed.
It is illegal for a federal prosecution to be based on racial considerations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Fashing acknowledged that the FBI, "based on its experience in counterintelligence," maintains that China contacts Chinese-Americans when it wants secret information.
"It's simply saying they're more likely to be approached," she told the judge.