Nuclear expert denies spying

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WEN HO LEE, the Taiwan-born scientist suspected of passing US nuclear secrets to China, broke three months of silence yesterday to issue a strong denial of any wrongdoing.

A statement from his lawyer said Lee had never spied for China and never "given any classified information to any unauthorised persons". The statement added: "Dr Lee will not be a scapegoat for alleged security problems at our country's nuclear laboratories."

Mr Lee was dismissed last month from his job as a weapons designer at the top-secret nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos in New Mexico after failing a a lie-detector test, and "stonewalling" questions, according to FBI officers. The FBI said there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

Information leaked this week from the plethora of investigations in progress into the alleged theft of nuclear secrets from Los Alamos claimed that Mr Lee transferred hundreds of pages of highly classified information from his secure computer to a non-secure computer. The leak spawned accusations and counter-accusations about the tardiness with which Mr Lee, a 20-year veteran of Los Alamos, was investigated and the fact that he retained his security clearance despite more than a decade under suspicion.

Mr Lee's denial coincided with the release yesterday of a long-awaited Senate report on China, which said US security interests could have been harmed by technical information transferred during the launch of US satellites in China and that China may have tried to influence the last US presidential election through financial contributions to party campaigns.

But it found "no direct evidence" of any attempt to influence a particular member of Congress, and said little of a pounds 200,000 contribution originating in Peking found its way into Democratic Party coffers.