Statement of Peter Zeidenberg for DOJ Press Release
Just over a week ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that he believed that Chinese-American scientists all over the United States were covertly gathering intelligence on behalf of China. It is clear that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now waging a war against Chinese-American scientists, driven in large part by ignorance and paranoia. And, as is inevitable in war, there will be many innocent victims. Dr. Chunzai Wang is one of those victims: collateral damage in a recklessly waged war against Chinese born scientists.
First, a little history is in order.
In October 2014, Sherry Chen, a highly-distinguished hydrologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was arrested at her office, in front of her co-workers, and led away in hand-cuffs. The government alleged that Ms. Chen, a naturalized American citizen, had illegally accessed data at the behest of Chinese officials and that she had lied to cover up this “crime.” One week before trial, the government’s case collapsed, and it dismissed all charges against Ms. Chen. Nevertheless, the effects of the arrest were devastating for Ms. Chen who, despite the dismissal, lost her job and has been forced to sue in order to be reinstated.
Six months later, in 2015, Professor Xiaoxing Xi, a world-renowned physicist at Temple University was arrested in front of his wife and children by a dozen armed agents, and similarly taken away in hand-cuffs. He was accused of helping the Chinese by providing them with proprietary materials owned by a U.S. company. The charges were later dismissed after it was established that the materials Dr. Xi sent were completely unrelated to the proprietary information.
Rather than being chastened by these experiences, the Department of Justice is still unfairly targeting Chinese-American scientists. Chunzai Wang is one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change and hurricanes. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he was, by far, the most prolific andsuccessful climate scientist at NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and was named the NOAA Employee of the Year in 2012.
In 2016, Department of Commerce (DOC) Special Agent Andrew Lieberman -- the same agent that investigated Sherry Chen – executed a search warrant at Dr. Wang’s home and office, and, just like in Ms. Chen’s case, interrogated Dr. Wang for an entire day, without counsel and without a food or water break. As a result of the search warrant, the interrogation, and the negative publicity, Dr. Wang felt compelled to resign from NOAA, a position that he loved and where he worked tirelessly for 17 years. With no other work alternative available at the time, Dr. Wang left his family in Miami and found work at Chinese Academy of Sciences in China doing similar research regarding climate change.
Last September, as he returned to the U.S. to visit his family, the government arrested Dr. Wang at the airport. The government alleged that Dr. Wang committed time and attendance fraud when he spoke at scientific conferences in China without first notifying his supervisor, and that he illegally supplemented his income -- Dr. Wang was a Guest Professor at the Ocean University of China and, while he was on annual leave, was paid a small fee per diem for mentoring students and helping them with their research.
On the brink of trial, the government offered Dr. Wang a deal: a plea to a single count of illegal supplementation of income from Changjiang Scholars Program, with a sentence of “time served” (he spent one night in custody when he was arrested); no probation, no fine, no restitution and, most significantly, no crushingly expensive three-week long trial which he could only have afforded by borrowing from his elderly parents and other family in China. The plea meant that Dr. Wang could protect his family from the debilitating stress and immediately return to China and resume his research.
Agent Lieberman and at least four other agents from the Department of Commerce and FBI traveled to Miami to observe Dr. Wang’s change of plea. The judge made her displeasure with this prosecution plain. After hearing the government’s recitation of facts, she stated that she did not want to find Dr. Wang guilty, and did not understand why the case was not resolved by way of a deferred prosecution agreement. In my 33 year career – 22 spent as a prosecutor, the past 11 as a defense attorney – I have never heard a judge similarly chastise the government for bringing a case that, in the court’s view, so clearly lacked merit. Nevertheless, the court accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Dr. Wang to time-served – the one day he spent in jail at the time of his arrest. He was to pay no fine, no restitution and serve no probationary sentence. Instead, he was to go back to China to work.
Despite that a disposition of “time-served” can only be viewed as an embarrassing result for the government; and despite the court’s admonishment that the case should never have been brought in the first place; and after representing that it would not issue any press release regarding Dr. Wang’s disposition, the Department of Justice nevertheless issued a false and misleading press release “touting” their conviction of Dr. Wang which, in contravention of DOJ policy, referenced mere allegations as if they were facts established by the plea. Nothing could be further from the truth. The DOJ press release refers to unproven allegations that the Court dismissed as if they were established facts.
If the government had wanted to inform the public of the unproven allegations contained in the Indictment, it was required to state that the charges were merely accusations, and that Dr. Wang is, and remains, presumed innocent of those dismissed charges. There can be only one reason to issue a false and misleading press release: not satisfied with making Dr. Wang unemployable in the U.S., the government now seeks to vindictively impact Dr. Wang’s job prospects in China. It should disturb all people who believe in the rule of law that the Department of Justice violated its own policies to smear Dr. Wang in order to extract an extrajudicial penalty in a case that the Court believed should never have been brought.
2014 年10 月，美国国家海洋和大气管理局（NOAA）的杰出水文学家陈霞芬在她的办公室，在她的同事面前用手铐被捕。政府声称陈女士作为美国人，曾应中国官员的要求非法获取数据，并称她为掩盖这一“罪行”说谎。但在此案即将进入庭审的前一周，诉讼无法进行下去，检方撤销了对陈女士的所有指控。尽管如此，这次逮捕的后果对于陈女士来说是毁灭性的，虽然最后指控被撤销，但她却失去了工作，并被迫为了复职而起诉政府。
司法部并没有从这些经验中吸取教训，仍然不公平地对待美籍华裔科学家。王春在在气候变化和飓风方面，是世界最权威一流的专家之一。作为一名入籍美国的公民，他是迄今为止NOAA 大西洋海洋和气象实验室最多产、最成功的气候科学家，并于2012 年被评为美国NOAA 年度最佳雇员。
2016 年，商务部（DOC）特工人员安德鲁·利伯曼（ANDREW LIEBERMAN，与调查陈霞芬的为同一人）在王博士的家中和办公室执行了搜查令，就像陈女士的案件一样，在没有律师，没有食物和水并且没有休息的情况下，他询问了王博士整整一天。由于搜查、审讯和负面宣传，虽然王博士非常喜欢他在NOAA 的工作，并且在那里孜孜不倦地工作了17 年，王博士认为他应该辞去该工作。由于当时没有其他工作可供选择，王博士离开了他在迈阿密的家人，在中国科学院找到了关于气候变化方面进行类似研究的工作。
特工人员安德鲁·利伯曼和至少四名商务部和联邦调查局的其他特工人员前往迈阿密旁听王博士对答辩的改变。在听到政府陈述事实后，法官对这个起诉感到不满，她表示她不认为王博士有罪，并且不明白为什么不通过达成延缓起诉协议来解决。在我33 年的职业生涯中（22 年担任检察官，过去11 年担任辩护律师），我还从未听到过法官如此严厉地斥责政府将这样一个在法院眼里明显缺乏法律依据的案子告上法庭。尽管如此，法庭还是接受了王博士的认罪答辩，并判处王博士已被关押的时间作为刑期--也就是他被捕后在拘留所度过的那一天。他不需要付罚款，没有赔偿，也没有缓刑。相反，他将回中国去继续工作。