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Former Energy Official Denies Suspecting Lee Due to Ethnicity

By Judy Pasternak
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

A former Energy Department intelligence official publicly denied Sunday that he singled out Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Wen Ho Lee as a possible spy for China because of Lee’s ethnicity. The official also charged that a Clinton administration partisan blocked him from giving information about the case to Congress.

Notra Trulock, who resigned six days ago as Energy’s deputy director of intelligence, said on two news talk shows that Lee’s name was on a list of 12 people, including two others of Asian origin and nine Caucasians, working at various federal facilities who had access to information about American nuclear warheads and the neutron bomb that China might have stolen.

China has denied engaging in espionage.

Trulock said he did not know at the time that Lee had previously cooperated with the FBI and the CIA and that Lee’s wife had been an FBI informant. But it was the FBI, he said, that focused on Lee as the prime suspect.

Trulock said he quit because the Energy Department inspector general did not confirm his claim that a Clinton political appointee, Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth A. Moler, told him in 1997 that she did not want him to talk to Rep. Porter J. Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Moler “told me directly,” Trulock said on “Fox News Sunday,” that “the reason she did not allow me to brief the Hill on this case was that congressional Republicans ... were only interested in hurting the president on his China policy.”

Moler, who has left the department, could not be reached for comment.

Trulock also said he was blocked by “senior officials” from informing then-Energy Secretary Federico Pena about his investigation. “Some are gone, some are still there,” he said on Fox.

Asked why higher-ups would resist pursuing allegations from when George Bush was president, Trulock answered that after the resignation of Clinton’s first Energy secretary, Hazel O’Leary, “we got a new cast of characters, and that group of people just, I believe, did not have the stomach for dealing with the issues that we were confronting.”

A two-month inspector general’s probe of Trulock’s claim of partisan interference was inconclusive, stating that 82 interviews “were not able to reconcile ... conflicting information.” Trulock said on ABC’s “This Week” that the inspector general’s report “trivializes such a serious issue (to the extent) that I decided the time had come for me to leave.”

Trulock has been criticized by some Democratic lawmakers and Energy officials who question his assessment that U.S. security was heavily damaged by Chinese spying.