One day after U.S. District Judge James Parker declared his embarrassment on behalf of all Americans over the government's treatment of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, President Clinton himself made a public statement in the same vein.
Reeling from outrage over the actions of the Cabinet secretaries he handpicked, the president emerged Thursday to offer his first public comments since Lee was released. "This whole thing was quite troubling to me," Clinton said, criticizing both the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy for the way they dealt with Lee and his case. "One day he's a terrible risk to the national security and the next day they're making a plea agreement for an offense far more modest than what had been alleged." Clinton said keeping Lee in jail without bail and then abruptly agreeing to a plea bargain "just can't be justified."
But it appears that Clinton is the only executive-branch official who shares that regret. Attorney General Janet Reno's steadfast refusal to apologize leant an acrid air to her regular weekly press availability Thursday. "I think Dr. Lee, from the beginning, had the opportunity to answer this and I think now he needs to look to himself" rather than expect an apology from the government, she told reporters.
Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh both contend that Lee brought the weight of government's wrath on himself by not revealing what he did with the seven missing tapes he used to store the downloaded nuclear weapons files. "There was no explanation of what the man did with the information that was so sensitive" Reno said, concluding that she is "comfortable" with her department's conduct.