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News Briefs I

Physicist Pleads Guilty To Passing Secrets to China

Los Angeles Times

A physicist with access to sensitive nuclear intelligence pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to charges that he passed classified secrets to Chinese scientists during a 1985 visit to mainland China and lied to a government agency about his foreign dealings following another visit earlier this year.

Peter H. Lee, 58, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., "wanted to help the Chinese government and the Chinese scientists and to do something to advance what he considered to be a poorer, less technologically advanced scientific community," said one law enforcement source.

In the mid-1980s, Lee, considered an expert in laser energy, worked on U.S. government projects aimed at using lasers to simulate nuclear detonations.

In January 1985, while an employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, he traveled to China, authorities said. While there, Lee admitted in court Monday, he met with Chinese scientists and gave them "detailed information" about laser technology that he knew to be classified at that time, authorities said.

Much of the material has since been declassified, according to prosecutors.

Reno Declines to Release Memo

The Washington Post

Attorney General Janet Reno Monday failed to comply with a congressional subpoena for a confidential memorandum in which FBI Director Louis J. Freeh argued in vain for her to seek an independent counsel in the campaign finance scandal, a House committee said.

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which has called Reno and Freeh to appear at a hearing Tuesday, sought the memorandum as part of its inquiry into Reno's handling of the independent counsel issue. Reno declined to surrender the document, citing the need to protect an ongoing investigation and to preserve the confidentiality of the decision-making process within the Justice Department.

Justice Department officials said Reno advised committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., in a letter that she considered it inappropriate to provide a congressional committee with a confidential document that includes information and analysis from an ongoing investigation.

The committee wanted the memorandum because "we just wanted to find out why there was strong differences between the head of the FBI and Janet Reno," Burton said on "Fox News Sunday." Burton suggested that references to grand jury testimony and other sensitive investigative matters could be blotted out.

Reno said Freeh joined her in declining to produce the document because of "the need to protect the confidentiality and independence of an ongoing investigation and our prosecutorial decision-making."

Witnesses Says McVeigh Didn't Mention a Nichols' Role

Los Angeles Times

Defense lawyers for Terry Lynn Nichols tried Monday to distance their client from Timothy McVeigh by presenting witnesses who said McVeigh tried to recruit others for a terrorism campaign against the government - but never mentioned Nichols' involvement.

Steve Hodge, a boyhood friend of McVeigh's from Pendleton, N.Y., who did not testify in his trial earlier this year, recalled the last of 66 letters McVeigh sent to him while drifting around the country in the years before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

"Blood will flow in the streets. Good versus evil," McVeigh wrote Hodge 10 months before the bombing. "I pray it is not your blood, my friend."

Defense attorneys are hoping to show that the conspiracy could involve many others aside from those accused, and to suggest that Nichols was not involved.

The government's case detailed close ties between McVeigh and Nichols in obtaining bomb ingredients and doing other activities in preparation for the April 1995 blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others. McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to death.