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  Chinese-American Rep. Denied Entry

By William McCall
Associated Press Writer
Friday, May 25, 2001; 4:03 p.m. EDT

PORTLAND, Ore. –– Rep. David Wu, the only Chinese-American ever elected to Congress, said he was briefly denied entry to U.S. Energy Department headquarters this week by guards who asked if he was an American.

Wu has sent a letter of protest to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

"The conduct of the DOE guards is both ironic and disturbing," the Oregon Democrat said in his letter, dated Thursday.

"However, this is not about the treatment of any individual. I am disturbed that yesterday's incident is the tip of the iceberg, an indicator of a much larger problem at DOE which may be damaging our national security."

Jeanne Lopatto, an Energy Department spokeswoman, said it was a simple mistake. Lopatto said an escort was waiting for Wu in the lobby of the Washington, D.C., building, but the congressman entered through the garage, where security guards had not been told about his appointment.

The guards "did exactly what they're supposed to do," Lopatto said. "It's unfortunate that the congressman was held up on his way to his meeting, and we regret that."

The department had been the focus of criticism over the Wen Ho Lee spy case.

Last year, the FBI botched its investigation of Lee, a Taiwanese-born scientist at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory who was indicted on 59 counts of mishandling nuclear weapons secrets. Lee spent nine months in solitary confinement before all but one count was dropped.

Wu had gone to the Energy Department on Wednesday to deliver a speech to Asian-Americans in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Wu said security guards asked him twice whether he was an American, even though he presented his congressional identification. The guards denied Wu entry, along with an aide who is also Asian American, Wu said.

Lopatto said everybody entering the building, including Abraham, must present ID, and all visitors are required to confirm whether they are U.S. citizens under a presidential directive to protect classified information.

Wu was allowed to enter the building and give the speech after a supervisor intervened, Wu spokeswoman Holly Armstrong said.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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