Washington Post, Jun 2006: U.S., Media Settle With Wen Ho Lee

Wen Ho Lee, the U.S. nuclear scientist once identified in news reports as the target of a spying investigation, will receive more than $1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations, including The Washington Post, to settle allegations that government leaks violated his privacy.

The United States will pay Lee $895,000 to drop his lawsuit, filed in 1999, which alleged that officials in the Clinton administration had disclosed to the news media that he was under investigation for spying for China while working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

His suit sought the names of the anonymous officials who revealed information about him to reporters, in violation of a federal statute that prohibits the government from releasing protected information from employees’ personnel files. Lee’s case was strengthened after two federal courts ruled that reporters could be held in contempt if they refused to disclose their sources.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer had threatened stiff sanctions against reporters who refused to name their sources, starting with fines that the reporters would have to pay out of their own pockets.


Lee’s attorney, Betsy Miller, said: “Our aim was never to target or punish journalists. It was to vindicate the injury suffered by Dr. Lee because of the unlawful leak by government officials against him.”

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Slate, June 2006: Wen Ho Ho Ho Lee Gets Last Laugh

Conversations between reporters and editors about what anonymous sources belong in news stories should also be in the offing. Critics of the coverage of the Wen Ho Lee investigation argue that the government used confidential leaks to the press to intimidate him. Indeed, before Lee’s December 1999 indictment, anonymous government sources gave the media damning information that pointed to his guilt, evidence that did not hold up. At the risk of being branded a journalistic pariah, the Lee settlement will be worth every penny if it prevents reporters from convicting suspects based on calculated anonymous leaks.

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Freeh’s case against Spanier focusses on two incidents, one in 1998 and the other in 2001. On May 3, 1998, Sandusky took an eleven-year-old boy, whom he had met through the Second Mile, to a Penn State gym. They wrestled and then showered together. The boy’s mother was disturbed by the events and reported them—first to a psychologist and then to the police. After an investigation, the district attorney declined to prosecute Sandusky. On June 9, 1998, Schultz e-mailed Spanier that the investigators “had met with Jerry on Monday and concluded that there was no criminal behavior and the matter was closed as an investigation. He was a little emotional and expressed concern as to how this might have adversely affected the child. I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us.”

Spanier’s memory of the 1998 incident:

I have no recollection. I am aware, as I said in my letter to the board of trustees, that I was apparently copied on two e-mails. I didn’t reply to them. The first e-mail that I saw didn’t mention anybody’s name. It simply said something to the effect of “The employee will be interviewed tomorrow,” something like that, no name mentioned. Then, about five weeks later, I think it was, I was copied on another e-mail that said, “The interview has been completed, the investigation has been completed, nothing was found, Jerry felt badly that the kid might have felt badly,” I’m not quoting directly, of course—“And the investigation is closed and the matter is behind us.”

Spanier had seen the e-mails after the investigation broke, in 2011. His response when asked if he had any independent memory of the 1998 events:

I have no memory, and I still don’t today. I can’t even swear that I saw those e-mails. Because first of all, back in that era, every so often, maybe once a month, our I.T. folks would say, “All the e-mails today have been lost, if you were expecting any you need to write people and tell them to resend them because the system went down.” Honest to goodness, I had no recollection of 1998, didn’t in 2001, have no recollection now, what I’m telling you I’m only for the sake of not wanting people to think that I’m hiding something. I apparently was copied on those two e-mails, but it obviously didn’t raise any awareness in my mind to the point where I went back and said, “Who are we talking about? What’s the issue? Is there a problem with somebody, do we need to push further?” I don’t recall any conversations, and it was also obviously not on my radar screen when, in 2001, something popped up again.

Washington Post Nov 1996: Reno Asked FBI For Atlanta Inquiry

Attorney General Janet Reno asked the FBI to investigate whether its agents had mishandled the Atlanta bombing probe after top Justice Department officials in Atlanta and Washington raised concerns about whether suspect Richard Jewell’s constitutional rights had been violated.

Following a conversation Reno initiated with FBI Director Louis J. Freeh on Sept. 27, the two agreed to open an internal inquiry to determine whether Jewell had been questioned improperly, a senior federal official said.

Reno disclosed at her weekly news conference Thursday that she had inquired about Jewell’s interrogation. Asked why the FBI internal inquiry was necessary, she said, “If there are any questions raised, then we try to pursue them to make sure we are held accountable; that if something wrong was done, we know who did it and try to take appropriate action.”

The Justice Department officially advised Jewell last Saturday that he is no longer a suspect in the July 27 bombing of an Olympic park that left two dead and more than 100 injured. After 88 days in the spotlight, that left Jewell absolved, but now attention has shifted to those who pursued him.

At issue are highly unusual tactics used by FBI agents who questioned Jewell when the security guard was a prime suspect. According to federal officials, the agents allegedly tried to trick Jewell into surrendering his rights to legal counsel and to remain silent by telling him that their interrogation was a kind of make-believe event for use in a “training video.”

“To me the bullies are in the government,” said G. Watson Bryant, Jewell’s attorney, who found Jewell while he was being questioned at FBI headquarters and urged him to get out of the building before the interrogation could be completed. Bryant first publicly discussed the details of the FBI interrogation this week.

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NY Times Aug 2007 : Richard Jewell, 44, Hero of Atlanta Attack, Dies

The heavy-set Mr. Jewell, with a country drawl and a deferential manner, became an instant celebrity after a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in the early hours of July 27, 1996, at the midpoint of the Summer Games. The explosion, which propelled hundreds of nails through the darkness, killed one woman, injured 111 people and changed the mood of the Olympiad.

Only minutes earlier, Mr. Jewell, who was working a temporary job as a guard, had spotted the abandoned green knapsack that contained the bomb, called it to the attention of the police, and started moving visitors away from the area. He was praised for the quick thinking that presumably saved lives.

But three days later, he found himself identified in an article in The Atlanta Journal as the focus of police attention, leading to several searches of his apartment and surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by reporters who set upon him, he would later say, “like piranha on a bleeding cow.”

The investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement officers lasted until late October 1996 and included a number of bungled tactics, including an F.B.I. agent’s effort to question Mr. Jewell on camera under the pretense of making a training film.

In October 1996, when it became obvious that Mr. Jewell had not been involved in the bombing, the Justice Department formally cleared him.

“The tragedy was that his sense of duty and diligence made him a suspect,” said John R. Martin, one of Mr. Jewell’s lawyers. “He really prided himself on being a professional police officer, and the irony is that he became the poster child for the wrongly accused.”

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AP Aug. 2001: Justice Department official rejected recommendation to censure former FBI director Freeh; senator sees ‘good-old-boy’ network

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON {AP} — The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday that belated revelations the Justice Department rejected recommendations to censure former FBI Director Louis Freeh are evidence of a persistent “good-old-boy” network at the bureau.

Stephen J. Colgate, a former assistant attorney general, said that he decided against disciplinary action against Freeh in connection with the FBI’s investigation of its 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge because “I just didn’t think it was necessary.”

“Freeh was a small part of it,” Colgate said in a telephone interview Saturday with The Associated Press. “I stand by my decision.”

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, complained that the decision regarding Ruby Ridge was “shrouded in secrecy.”

“It appears from this that the ‘good-old-boy’ network has been allowed to persist at the FBI,” Leahy said in a statement. “It serves to protect some senior FBI executives from the same scrutiny and discipline applied to rank-and-file agents who are not part of ‘the club.’

“This double standard is unfair and demoralizing, but with strong new leadership at the FBI and some hands-on congressional oversight for a while, I expect this part of the culture to change.”

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Seattle Times Aug 1996: Media Ponder Their Own Ethics

The hero-turned-alleged-prime suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park explosion has now become a classic case study in media ethics.

An Atlanta newspaper’s naming of security guard Richard Jewell in an extra edition three days after last month’s bombing quickly made him an international Exhibit A on television and in newspapers.

But the supposed “focus” of a federal investigation has yet to be charged with any crime. Meanwhile, questions about media and law-enforcement responsibility, First Amendment rights and Jewell’s legal recourse have taken center stage. Some worry that Congress inevitably will step in if and when the public says, “Enough.”

“This is just another nail in the coffin that’s being built for press freedom in this country,” said Dr. Robert Blanchard, who teaches a media-ethics course at Trinity University in San Antonio. “The media rely on a certain public support, and I think it’s just eroding.”

CNN President Tom Johnson, whose all-news network was the first to follow the lead of the Atlanta Journal, said he is “having second thoughts” on what has become a “major journalistic ethical issue.”

“We are guilty of more of a frenzy than is justified,” Johnson said. “I’m hopeful we’ll apply just as much effort now to try to show Richard Jewell is innocent . . . I may choose to put in a policy here where we will not name suspects, period. But we’ll see.”