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Scientist won’t be freed soon

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ALBUQUERQUE — To Wen Ho Lee, the question is crucial: When will the nuclear scientist jailed on charges of mishandling U.S. secrets be released on bail?

It may not be immediate.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys met Tuesday to iron out any differences they may have over U.S. District Judge James Parker's proposed conditions of release for Lee.

If prosecutors appeal the final order, Parker could allow a delay while the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether to hear an appeal. Even if all goes smoothly and there are no appeals and no delays, Lee probably would not be released Tuesday.

One condition proposed by Parker, for example, would require the FBI to search Lee's home in the Los Alamos suburb of White Rock. That could not be done until after the release order was finalized.

Another condition: Computers, cell phones and all other electronic means of communication — except a single federally monitored telephone — would have to be removed from Lee's home and an electronic monitoring system would have to be installed.

Defense attorneys Mark Holscher and John Cline declined comment Monday when asked when Lee might get to go home. The FBI and Justice Department also had no comment.

Lee, 60, has been jailed since his arrest Dec. 10 on 59 counts alleging he transferred restricted data to unsecured computers and tape at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was twice previously refused bail, including once by Parker last December.

But last Thursday, Parker said the case for holding Lee in jail pending his November trial is no longer as compelling and agreed to release him on $1 million bail.

An FBI counterintelligence agent, Robert Messemer, acknowledged some errors in his December testimony on which Parker had relied in refusing bail. And the defense produced some respected scientists who disputed the secrecy value of the material Lee is accused of downloading.

Under Parker's proposal, Lee would have to remain at home under electronic monitoring unless accompanied by his attorneys to court or the lab to help with his defense. Federal authorities also could inspect his mail and monitor the movements of Sylvia Lee, his wife.

On the Net:

Supporters of Lee: www.wenholee.org

Department of Justice: www.usdoj.gov

Los Alamos National Laboratory: www.lanl.gov/worldview