Notra Trulock was head of intelligence for the Department of Energy when the investigation was conducted into whether Los Alamos staffer Wen Ho Lee had given American nuclear secrets to the People's Republic of China. In Code Name Kindred Spirit,Trulock offers his account of the investigation.
PW: What motivated you to tell your side of the Wen Ho Lee story [Code Name Kindred Spirit]?
Notra Trulock: I got tired of reading the distorted portrayals of the behavior and motives of people who were engaged in the espionage investigation. The Department of Energy's intelligence division had made a whole series of agreements with the FBI and other agencies, which they didn't live up to, and when Congress began to investigate, everybody wanted to walk away from the mess and blame it on us. Not just me, but people who worked for me, honorable guys with unblemished careers until this happened. So I wanted to get what I consider the truth of the situation out and on the record.
PW: You write that despite charges of racism, you actually didn't set out trying to get Lee, though he had been identified as a security risk more than a decade earlier.
NT: Unbeknownst to any of us. The FBI did not share that with us at any time before 1996.
PW: What did you think of his memoir?
NT: It's what I've come to understand as vintage Lee. As the FBI first said in 1984, unless Lee's confronted with hard evidence, he won't tell the truth. His book is full of distortions, half-truths and embellishments.
PW: Reviewers and booksellers were supposed to get their first look at your manuscript at the beginning of the summer, but the government intervened. What happened?
NT: The non-disclosure form I signed when I got my security clearance, over 30 years ago, required me to submit any manuscript I wrote about my experiences to the government for approval. It's supposed to be a 30- to 40-day process. I submitted the manuscript to them in February, and things just got stalled. They refused to return phone calls. It wasn't until we got Mark Zaid, a lawyer in Washington who specializes in security clearance cases, that the government began to move on it, and even then we couldn't really send it to the publisher until October. It was just a terrible, unfair process.
PW: You mention in the book that you were prevented from publishing several facts that had already appeared in the press.
NT: There was material that had appeared in the New York Times and in GQ they didn't want me to use because, they said, my position in the intelligence community would imply that information which had been inadvertently disclosed was correct. We had to compromise a little bit on that material. But I also used a lot of information from government documents that had been through the official declassification process and released to the public, and they didn't want me to use any of that, either. We just pushed back on that and said "absolutely not."
PW: Your depiction of the government's inability to treat a potential espionage threat with the full gravity it deserved raises unsettling suggestions about whether we missed the warning signs for September 11.
NT: I wanted to stay focused on my story in the book, but there are certainly parallels between the Lee case and the events leading up to September 11. The FBI's failure to get a search warrant on Zacarias Moussaoui's computer, for example. We had the same problems trying to get them to look at Lee's computer. Although, oddly enough, they didn't seem to have the same restrictions when they wanted to seize my computer. They just came right in and took it. I finally got the computer back recently, although they destroyed the hard drive. The tower makes a nice end table, anyway.