WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft defended the Justice Department's decision to withhold a report on its handling of the case against nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, saying Thursday the department is protecting national interests, not stonewalling.
"There are lots of times, especially in international intelligence security matters, when we don't release things because it's not in the national interest to do so," Ashcroft said when questioned about the report before the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. William D. Delahunt (D-Mass.) said the department's withholding of the Lee report and information about other cases indicates both "a government obsessed with secrecy" and "a culture of concealment."
A Washington watchdog group appealed the department's decision this week. The Federation of American Scientists argues the review covers a longer time span than a previous department report and may contain new revelations about professional misconduct by Justice Department and FBI personnel.