June 2, 2006

US reaches deal with ex-nuclear scientist in spy probe

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former nuclear scientist once
suspected of spying will get $1,645,000 in a settlement reached
on Friday of his lawsuit accusing U.S. government officials of
disclosing personal information about him and the probe.

As part of a settlement filed in federal court, the U.S.
government agreed to pay the scientist, Wen Ho Lee, $895,000 to
cover his legal fees and costs "in full and complete
satisfaction of all claims in this action."

In addition to the money paid by the government, the news
organizations of five reporters who had been held in contempt
for refusing to disclose their sources for stories about Lee
agreed to pay him $750,000, Lee's lawyer said.

Both Lee and the government said the settlement agreement
should not be viewed as an admission by the U.S. government
that the allegations asserted by Lee were true.

Lee was suspected of spying for China while he worked for
the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Lee was fired
in 1999. The government's case against him later collapsed, and
Lee eventually pleaded guilty to one lesser charge.

Lee's lawsuit accused U.S. government officials from the
Department of Energy, the Department of Justice, and the FBI of
violating the Privacy Act by improperly disclosing the

After Lee's lawyers said they had been unable to learn from
government officials who disclosed the information, they issued
subpoenas to journalists about the identity of their sources
and the information they provided.

A U.S. appeals court upheld an order that the journalists
must be held in contempt for refusing to reveal their
confidential sources for their stories.

Lee's lawyer, Betsy Miller, said the journalists would drop
their pending appeal before the Supreme Court, as dismissal of
the case makes their appeal moot.

She said the five journalists involved in the settlement
are Robert Drogin of the Los Angeles Times; James Risen of The
New York Times; Josef Hebert of The Associated Press; Pierre
Thomas, formerly of CNN and now at ABC News; and Walter Pincus
of The Washington Post.