Some excerpts from that session:
You're never going to pass a polygraph. And you're never going to have a clearance. And you're not going to have a job. And if you get arrested you're not going to have a retirement...if I don't have something that I can tell Washington as to why you're failing those polygraphs, I can't do a thing.
Well, I understand.
I can't get you your job. I can't do anything for you, Wen Ho. I can't stop the newspapers from knocking on your door. I can't stop the newspapers from calling your son. I can't stop the people from polygraphing your wife. I can't stop somebody from coming and knocking on your door and putting handcuffs on you....
...I don't know how to handle this case. I'm an honest person and I'm telling you the truth and you don't believe it. I, that's it....
Do you want to go down in history? Whether you're professing your innocence like the Rosenbergs to the day that they take you to the electric chair?...
I believe [God] will make the final judgment for my case.
CBS carried that exchange, which is a part of the public record, while the New York Times, which did so much to raise the specter of espionage and first mentioned the Rosenberg precedent, ignored it. Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin later wrote that agent Covert, who had been asked to take a crash course in hostile interviews before meeting with Lee, "was so upset after conducting the interview that she took three months' sick leave and transferred out of the Santa Fe office."
The Times story contained other half-truths, omissions and falsehoods that helped construct a case against Lee. For example, it erroneously reported that "agents learned that the suspect had traveled to Hong Kong without reporting the trip as required. In Hong Kong, officials said, the bureau found records showing that the scientist had obtained $700 from the American Express office. Investigators suspect that he used it to buy an airline ticket to Shanghai." He didn't: The $700 withdrawal was used to permit his daughter, Alberta, to take a tourist trip to the nearby territories.
Some investigators. Lee's trips to China were made at the suggestion of his superiors at the Los Alamos laboratory, to whom he gave a full report upon his return.
Fortunately, somewhere between the Times attack on Lee and the government's move to indict him, Lee obtained highly competent legal counsel. Soon after the horrendous March 7 interview with the FBI, in which he was threatened with death in the electric chair, Alberta contacted a friend who had gone to Columbia Law School. As a result of that contact, Lee obtained the services of a brilliant former assistant US Attorney, 37-year-old Mark Holscher, who had become a partner in the old-line Los Angeles law firm of O'Melveny & Myers, which agreed to take the case on a pro bono basis with Holscher's bulldog-tough associate Richard Myers II. At the same time, Brian Sun, another former prosecutor with an equally impressive reputation, agreed to represent the family, also pro bono. Sun's contacts in the Asian-American community elicited most of the financial support that was to help Lee with the cost of investigators and other research. It also led to the hiring of an Albuquerque attorney, John Cline, who had extensive experience in national security cases, including a stint as Oliver North's attorney, and Cline's partner, Nancy Hollander, a highly regarded trial lawyer.