A largely Asian-American crowd of 250 filled the ARCO Forum last night to hear Alberta Lee speak in defense of her father Wen Ho Lee, a former Los Alamos scientist accused of compromising national security.
In her remarks, Lee said her main purpose in speaking was to counteract the widespread negative image of her father.
"What most people don't know in America is what my father is like in person--he's been painted as a very sinister man," Lee said. "I hope to humanize him or at least let you know that he's not all he's cracked up to be."
The two hour-long forum touched on many issues surrounding the case, including the media's role in spinning information and the pressure on the prosecution to convict.
The most frequent topic was whether Wen Ho Lee's ethnicity played a role in his prosecution.
The government accused the Taiwanese-American scientist of being a spy for China and charged him with 59 counts of mishandling classified information last December. While he pled guilty to and was convicted of one charge, the government dropped the other 58.
Wen Ho Lee was released after nine months in jail and in his final remarks, Judge James A. Parker apologized for Wen Ho Lee's unfair detention.
Lee compared her father's experience to that of the World War II interment of Japanese-Americans. In both instances, she said, the rights of ethnic minorities were taken away as a precaution against threatened national security.
She also spoke of how FBI agents tapped communication lines, camped outside her family's home and monitored them continuously, sometimes using as many as 12 cars to tail her on a trip to the grocery store.
But perhaps the most difficult experience, Lee said, was visiting her father in jail.
"He was wearing a red prison suit, the ones for murderers and rapists, the worst kinds of people, and he was shackled... He was being treated like an animal," Lee said.
She added the experience has opened her eyes to the prevalence of racism in the United States, an issue introductory speaker Philip Heymann, Barr professor at Harvard Law School (HLS), touched on earlier in the discussion.
During the allotted question and answer period, many audience members applauded Lee and shared their own experiences and thoughts on discrimination.
Last night's forum, the first at Harvard concentrating on the Wen Ho Lee case, comes after a failed attempt last year to organize a forum at the Institute of Politics (IOP) about the case.
"There was a reluctance [on the IOP's part] to get involved because the issues were less clear then," said event organizer Sophia M. Chang, a third-year HLS and Kennedy School of Government (KSG) student.
"They also weren't sure we could get a large enough audience to fill the forum, and there was concern about this being a primarily Asian-American issue that wouldn't appeal to a larger audience," she said.
Last year's intended forum on the Wen Ho Lee case turned into one discussing the Japanese-American internment, an issue Chang said was thought to apply to a broader audience because of its World War II context.
While Chang and Ethan Yeh '03, who helped organize the forum, said they were pleased with the discussion and with the crowd diversity, some audience members said they wished more persons of non-Asian descent had attended the event.
"I came because I've been interested in this case for a long time, but I also wanted to see how much interest Harvard and the K-school have in this event," said second-year KSG student Ken Choi.
"It seems to me that only the Asian-American community is interested and I don't think this event got as much attention as it deserved," he added.
Kiri J. Mah '02, who said she also noticed the demographics of the audience, said the forum has made her wonder about the building of coalitions.
"I'm wondering how the Asian-American community can mobilize to address issues having to do with individual ethnicities," Mah said. "The forum confirmed what I felt before--that Wen Ho Lee was a victim of racial profiling."
Chang said that last night's discussion has raised a new series of questions she would like to see addressed.
"Why has no one besides Judge Parker apologized? How can we prevent things from happening again?" she said. "These are issues for a follow-up forum."