Who Is Wen Ho Lee?

  • Don Marshall waited until late last Tuesday night, when the media army had abandoned its post outside Wen Ho Lee's house, to visit his neighbor. He found Lee, the suspected nuclear spy for the Chinese, bewildered but stoical. "He said he was going to leave it in God's hands," Marshall recalls. "He doesn't believe he's done anything wrong and doesn't understand why he's been singled out. It's as if whatever the Fates decree, that's what has to happen."

    Neither Marshall nor his wife Jean, both computer programmers in Los Alamos, N.M., who have lived next door to Wen Ho and Sylvia Lee since 1980, believe their friend is capable of doing what the U.S. government suspects: passing to China some of the most damaging nuclear secrets in U.S. history. "I've gone from shock to compassion to outrage," Jean says. "This just doesn't jibe with anything I know about Wen Ho."

    As the Marshalls describe him, Lee has lived a life of middle-class bliss in White Rock, 10 miles east of Los Alamos. He likes to fish, cook and tend his backyard garden, according to the Marshalls. He has been, they say, an ideal neighbor--outgoing and never happier than when working in the sun. Says Jean: "He's the sort of person who, when he paints his house, will say, 'Do you want me to come over and paint yours?'" Most of all, the Marshalls say, Lee has been committed to the education and welfare of his two children, now in their mid-20s, and other young members of the Chinese community. He obsessed over his kids' SAT scores and college work and established a local Chinese-language course. "He told me once that he was the local 'Dragon,'" Don says. "He was the welcoming committee."

    Now Lee's tranquil life may be gone forever. "Their daughter came to visit us last Christmas," says Jean. "I remember her talking about how much her father was looking forward to retiring in December." Jean doesn't bother to ask what will happen to those plans now.