tv 60 Minutes CBS May 15, 2016 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
new way of treating cancer will become more available across the country. >> before you put handcuffs on someone and take them away that you have got to make sure that you have got your case together. and that the facts add up. >> bill whitaker: and in these cases? >> the facts didn't add up. >> whitaker: the u.s. government has launched aggressive investigations and a greater number of prosecutions to stop the theft of american trade secrets by suspected chinese spies. but we've discovered the dragnet is ensnaring a growing number of americans who aren't spies at all. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm leslie stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes." >> this portion of "60 minutes" is sponsored by ford. we go further, so you can.
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evaluated for final approval. the therapy is audacious. it uses the polio virus to attack a virulent brain cancer called glioblastoma, which is a death sentence of astonishing speed that leaves patients with only months to live. for two years, we have been following volunteers in the duke clinical trial. we have witnessed nearly miraculous recoveries and unexpected defeats on a journey of discovery beyond the known frontiers of science. nancy justice had been sentenced to a bleak prognosis when we met her in october 2014. at age 58, she had recurrent glioblastoma. it had come back after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. typically she could expect to live seven months. the polio virus which mankind had fought to eradicate from the
earth, was the last chance she had in the world. >> nurse: feel a tiny tug there. >> pelley: a half a teaspoon of polio flowed through a catheter inserted through nancy's skull, directly into her tumor. >> nurse: ok. ready to go? >> nancy justice: i'm ready, bring it on. >> nurse: we're starting. >> dr. annick desjardins: if you feel anything you let us know. >> nancy justice: i will definitely. >> pelley: her husband, greg, constantly inflated a buoyant optimism to save him from the weight of the unknown. her glioblastoma was diagnosed in the 21st year of nancy and greg's marriage, just as the georgia couple could make out the finish line for zach and luke at college. her tumor can double in size every two weeks. the tumor was aggressive- >> nancy justice: yes. >> pelley: so you wanted an aggressive treatment-- >> nancy justice: yes. yes. >> pelley: you are a medical explorer. does it feel that way to you? >> nancy justice: i'm taking it one day at a time.
it sounds very lofty to say "medical explorer." but you know throughout all of this if this gives other people hope, i'm all for it. >> pelley: greg, you mentioned that nancy was there for every important event in the boys' lives. >> greg justice: right. >> pelley: but there a lot of important events to come. >> nancy justice: exactly. >> pelley: what do you hope to see? >> nancy justice: so i am going to see those boys walk across the stage at their college graduation. i am going to see them get married. and i am going to see the grandkids, preferably in that order. and i know it's, like, such a mom bucket list. but i'll love every minute of it. >> the number of calls are increasing. >> pelley: this is duke's polio team, dr. darell bigner, director of the tisch brain tumor center, molecular biologist matthias gromeier and neuro-oncologists dr. henry friedman and dr. annick desjardins. as is typical, the university has licensed this technology to
research dollars to the therapy and all the members of the team are investors. >> dr. henry friedman: good to see that this is going well. >> pelley: dr. friedman screens more than 1,000 glioblastoma patients a year who would like to be treated at duke. he helps decide who meets the criteria for the polio trial. i wonder of all the trials and all of the theories and all of the treatments that you have hoped for all of these years, how does this stack up? >> friedman: this, to me, is the most promising therapy i've seen in my career, period. >> pelley: the virus is the creation of, the obsession of doctor gromeier, who has been laboring over this for more than 25 years, the last 15 at duke. when you went to your colleagues and said, "i've got it. we'll use the polio virus to kill cancer." what did they say? >> dr. matthias gromeier: well, i got a range of responses from,
all kinds of things. most people just thought it was too dangerous. >> friedman: i thought he was nuts. i mean, i really thought that what he was using is a weapon that produces paralysis. >> pelley: other researchers are experimenting with cancer treatments using viruses including h.i.v., smallpox, and measles. but polio was dr. gromeier's choice because, as luck would have it, it seeks out and attaches to a receptor that is found on the surface of the cells that make up nearly every kind of solid tumor. it's almost as if polio had evolved for the purpose. gromeier re-engineered the virus, removing a key genetic sequence. the virus can't survive this way so he repaired the damage with a harmless bit of cold virus. this new modified poliovirus can't cause paralysis or death because it can't reproduce in normal cells.
but in cancer cells it does and in the process of replicating it releases toxins that poison the cell. at least that's what they had observed in the laboratory. eventually, they had to try it in a human being. it's a hell of a thing to be told that you have months to live when you're 20 years old. in 2011, stephanie lipscomb was a nursing student with headaches. a doctor told her she had this glioblastoma tumor the size of a tennis ball. >> stephanie lipscomb: i looked at the nurse that was sitting there holding my hand and i said, "i don't understand. like, what did he just say?" it was kind of hard for me to process. >> pelley: you had 98% of the tumor removed. >> lipscomb: exactly. >> pelley: as much radiation as you can have in a lifetime. and chemotherapy. >> lipscomb: exactly. >> pelley: and then in 2012, what did the doctors tell you? >> lipscomb: your cancer's back.
>> pelley: with recurrent glioblastoma, there were no options except the one that had never been tried. did they tell you that it had never been tried in a human being before? >> lipscomb: they did. but at the same time, i had nothing to lose, honestly. >> pelley: her polio treatment began in 2012 and from the very beginning, it looked like a bad bet. >> desjardins: so we treated her in may. then in july the tumor looked bigger, looked really inflamed. i got really concerned, got really worried. >> pelley: you thought this wasn't working. >> desjardins: i thought it wasn't working. >> pelley: neuro-oncologist annick desjardins wanted to abandon the polio experiment and return to traditional treatment. but stephanie said "no." five months after her infusion, an m.r.i. showed the tumor only looked worse because of inflammation caused by stephanie's immune system, which had awakened to the
the first time and gone to war. why didn't the immune system react to the cancer to begin with? >> gromeier: so cancers-- all human cancers, they develop a shield or shroud of protective measures that make them invisible to the immune system. and this is precisely what we try to reverse with our virus. so by infecting the tumor, we are actually removing this protective shield. and telling the-- enabling the immune system to come in and attack. >> pelley: so essentially what's happening here inside the tumor is you have a polio infection. >> gromeier: yes. >> pelley: and that sets off an alarm >> gromeier: yes. >> pelley: for the immune system. >> gromeier: yes. >> pelley: the immune system says, "there's a polio infection. we better go kill it." >> gromeier: exactly. >> pelley: and it turns out it's the tumor. >> gromeier: yes. >> pelley: it appears the polio starts the killing but the immune system does most of the damage. stephas
months until it was gone. three years after the infusion, something unimaginable had happened. this is from an m.r.i. in august, 2014. and there's no cancer in this picture at all. >> desjardins: and we don't see any cancer, active cancer cells. >> pelley: she is cancer free. all that remains is this hole from an early surgery. how surprised are you by that? >> friedman: i'm surprised because you never expect on a phase one study in particular to have these kinds of results. >> pelley: you're not expecting to cure people in a phase one trial. >> friedman: you're not even necessarily expecting to help them. you hope so. but that's not the design of a phase one study. it's designed to get the right dose. when you get anything on top of that, it's cake. >> pelley: quite a cake. >> friedman: quite a cake. biggest cake we have seen in a long, long time. >> pelley: dr. fritz andersen showed us the results in another patient: himself. he's a retired cardiologist and at age 70, he became the second person in the polio trial.
>> dr. fritz andersen: this is a fairly sizeable temporal tumor, which means-- >> pelley: that we see right here. on the left is his tumor before treatment, on the right a hairline scar where it used to be. that was nearly three years ago. do you consider yourself cured? or do you call it remission? >> andersen: i feel it is a cure, and i live my life that way. >> pelley: after the early successes, the next patients would receive a higher dose. that's the whole idea behind a phase one trial: to increase the dose in succeeding patients, step by st, in search of the highest dose that is still safe. >> friedman: we believe in the philosophy we've learned in chemotherapy that more is better. so if we were getting a good response at dose level one or dose level two, then go to dose level three, four, five. >> pelley: 60-year old donna clegg was a social worker from idaho. we met her in 2014, puffy from the steroids used to reduce the swelling in her brain.
>> donna clegg: i want to be able to live. so that's kind of how i feel, that this is going to be my opportunity to have a full life. >> pelley: donna's polio infusion was three times more potent than the one that had worked for stephanie. but in her case, this higher dose set off an immune response that was much too powerful. donna battled the inflammation for nine months, before she died in march 2015. donna clegg suffered quite a lot. and i wonder how that weighs on your mind? >> friedman: every patient who has an outcome that is not positive weighs on my mind. i think that when you're doing a phase one study, you know that these things can happen. but she is a patient who really did not derive benefit and yet taught us something important. >> pelley: you discovered that putting in too much poliovirus created too large an immune response? >> friedman: absolutely. >> pelley: after that hard
of nancy justice's dose by 85%. it was less than they had ever expected to use. they called this new dose, "dose minus one." but even so, 4.5 months after her infusion, in march 2015, inflammation had caused the mass in nancy's brain to double in size. but to dr. desjardins, the tumor looked weaker. and in this image, it's shot through full of holes. >> desjardins: it's shot through full of holes. and let me show you the next picture and you'll see it's even- >> gregory justice: wow. >> desjardins: more and more holes. >> pelley: so where does this go from here? >> desjardins: so now, we keep following her. and hopefully it keeps shrinking and it keeps collapsing. and that's what we have seen with fritz and stephanie, that it continued shrinking for years. >> pelley: nancy, when you look at this, what do you think? >> nancy justice: oh, it's amazing. oh my gosh. i'm mean, thank you lord. and these doctors.
thank you doctors. you know, and to just see this, um, you know, that's life. >> pelley: nancy justice faces a hard road ahead, but along the way new discoveries will take the researchers in a direction they never imagined. >> cbs money watch update correspondents rd by lincoln financial. you're in charge. >> quijano: good evening. inflation figures out tuesday could influence whether the fed raises interest rates next month. venezuela's president extended his country's economic state of emergency by 60 days. and one of prince's guitars will be auctioned off next month starting at $30,000. i'm elaine quijano, cbs news.
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>> scott pelley: 38 patients have volunteered for duke university's experiment to use the polio virus to kill glioblastoma, the most efficient, relentless cancer of the brain. the f.d.a.'s decision to grant duke "breakthrough status" means the second phase of the trial will be expanded to about 40 institutions with hundreds of patients. if that goes well, duke will be allowed to skip the third phase of the trial and make polio therapy for glioblastoma available to all. the route to this achievement was not a straight line. the first volunteers saw their tumors disappear. but later, patients suffered crippling setbacks. there was a way forward but researchers found themselves on a path they had not imagined. their guide through the mystery was a patient nad
>> riley and connor, from mom and dad. >> pelley: on christmas eve, 2009, brendan steele could not know how precious the gift of life would be. at 37, he was an i.t. manager in montana, a husband and father of three. but then doctors found glioblastoma and gave him 11 months to say goodbye. when surgery, radiation and chemotherapy failed, brendan volunteered for duke's polio trial and in 2013, he received the six hour poliovirus infusion. but in removing the catheter a blood vessel was severed. his wife kathy was by his side. >> kathy steele: brendan said, "it's weird." and he goes to hold his head and "weird" just kind of drained out. like, that was the end of his speech. >> pelley: you understood how bad off you were? >> brendan steele: no. >> pelley: no? >> brendan steele: no, because i
don't remember. >> pelley: emergency surgery stopped the bleeding, but the trauma left brendan barely able to walk or talk. seven months later, a biopsy revealed that his tumor was growing. doctors gave brendan chemotherapy. it had failed him before, but it might give him just a few more weeks. neuro-oncologist annick desjardins did not imagine what happened next. >> dr. annick desjardins: we gave him one dose of chemotherapy. and the lesion just melted. went away. rapidly. which we don't see that happen normally. >> pelley: two months after that single dose of chemo, the tumor -- the white mass on the right - - started to break up. brendan continued the chemotherapy and in eight months, it was gone. and what did the doctors tell you about your cancer today? >> brendan steele: no cancer. no cancer.
glioblastoma and now they tell you they cannot find it in your brain? >> brendan steele: yep. >> pelley: brendan steele has lived 35 months since his polio infusion. he's been cancer free for 19. dr. henry friedman, deputy director of duke's cancer center, has a theory about why the chemo worked this time, when it never had before. >> dr. henry friedman: shockingly, chemotherapy in patients who have previously failed it, once they've had the poliovirus therapy, now seem to have a new enhanced, almost extraordinary response to the chemotherapy as if the poliovirus has set up the tumor to be more responsive to chemotherapy. >> pelley: that was a surprise? >> friedman: that was a surprise. and for us to see this, it was a stunning observation, that is actually the platform for a future study that will involve chemotherapy and the poliovirus. >> pelley: the discovery changed
you'll remember when we last saw nancy in march, 2015, dr. desjardins saw signs her tumor was breaking up. but, in the months that followed, the inflammation kept growing. as nancy's brain compressed, she was losing the connection to her arm, her legs and her relationship to the very space around her. >> nurse: and touch your nose. here. >> nancy justice: like this? >> nurse: yep. touch your nose. >> pelley: whatever part of the brain involves the will to fight, appeared to be unaffected. now, would a single dose of chemo have the same miraculous result as it did for brendan steele? dr. desjardins reached for their new discovery and within two months, the mass was shrinking. >> desjardins: see how the folds of the brain are back when they were all squished up? >> nancy justice: oh wow. >> desjardins: the ventr iicles reopening. >> greg justice: look at that. hallelujah! now, that's what we're looking for honey! >> pelley: h d
loved it. love, i mean, that's what we'd been working for, praying for. >> pelley: tumor's getting smaller and smaller and less. >> greg justice: somebody had taken an eraser to it. >> pelley: as the inflammation retreated, there was new space for hope. >> therapist: up, up, up, up, up. elbows straight. elbows straight. >> greg justice: look at the speed, honey. >> pelley: nancy found strength and, buoyed, always, by her husband greg, she walked up to a mile a day. nancy's life was covering a distance of time denied to glioblastoma patients. but last february, 15 months after her infusion of polio, her run met another hurdle. >> desjardins: just a little more inflammation. >> pelley: the day her journey began she told us she would see her sons graduate, be married and have children, in that order, she joked, now determination was nuanced with gratitude for what she'd had already.
nancy, when we met you the first time, i asked you about your mom bucket list. how are those weddings and grandkids looking to you now? >> nancy justice: ( laughs ) okay. so, right now, i'm thinking it's just the simple things right now that i enjoy. >> pelley: seven weeks after that interview, in late march, nancy was rushed back to duke. the light that never dimmed was in her eyes but her words were gone. this is what she was fighting. the inflammation engulfed half her brain. >> friedman: i just think we need to know what we are dealing with so we can move. >> pelley: neurosurgeon allan friedman needed to find out if the mass was a buildup of dead cells from the immune response or active cancer. he slipped a needle into her brain to extract a b of tissue. >> friedman: thank you. see you back there in a second. >> pelley: the tissue was rushed to the pathology lab where a
microscope discovered dead cells where the polio was working, but also regrowth of the tumor. glioblastoma had found a way back. >> desjardins: hey nancy, how are you doing? >> pelley: 17 months after we first met nancy, doctors allan friedman and annick desjardins explained to greg that nancy's tumor had now infiltrated parts of her brain responsible for breathing and cognition. >> desjardins: she's getting worse and maybe it's the time where we cannot do anything anymore to help her. and we need to let her go. and we love you, you know that, right? >> we wondered whether greg would do it all again. >> greg justice: definitely, we would do it. nancy would have been gone long ago. and i think it's given us some good time. and we appreciate that. >> pelley: on april 6th, nancy justice, medical explorer,
passed away at the age of 60. she'd had nine more months than she could have expected. what did nancy teach you? >> desjardins: from the treatment standpoint, what she taught us is two different things. so clearly, the combination of the poliovirus with the chemotherapy had, at first, an amazing response. we need to understand that. the next thing is, at some point though, it stopped working. and why did that happen? >> pelley: what the duke team has learned is that inflammation is an unavoidable consequence of the immune system's attack in most patients, and that managing it with drugs will likely be a key to survival. so far there have been 21 patients at this lowest dose, minus one. >> friedman: yes. >> pelley: eight of them have died. >> friedman: yes. >> pelley: put that in perspective for me. >> friedman: all the ones who haven't died, on a phase one trial, is simply remarkable. and to see positive results in terms of controlling a tumor or
with recurrent disease on a phase one trial is remarkable. it's not your goal, it's not your expectation. but it certainly is something that when you see it, you say this is really terrific. this is special. >> pelley: apparently, the f.d.a. saw something special too. "breakthrough status" was granted after data showed that patients who had been living an average of 10 months were living an average of 15 months. and three patients, showed no sign of cancer at all after three years. dr. darell bigner, who runs duke's brain tumor center, has fought glioblastoma for 50 years. when you talk of median survival being extended from 10 months to 15 months, for some of these patients, it's 15 months and counting. >> dr. darell bigner: yes. >> pelley: they're still living. >> bigner: yes. yes and we still have got significant periods of high quality survival. and that is a huge difference.
and then we have patients like stephanie, fritz and brendan that are leading virtually normal lives. i mean, they probably go many days without even thinking about having had a glioblastoma, which is just amazing. >> pelley: you were in medical school thinking about one day being able to beat glioblastoma. and now you are standing on this doorstep. what does that mean to you personally? >> bigner: it's an enormous feeling. and i have to be very careful. i never want to give anyone false hope. but i see all of the science coming together now. and i know it's going to happen. i have never felt that way until now. >> pelley: and in an amazing new development, this science may be "coming together" for an entire range of cancers. in the laboratory, duke has used
polio to kill cancer cells of the skin, pancreas, stomach, lung, colon and prostate. immunologist dr. smita nair showed us what polio did to breast cancer in mice. >> dr. smita nair: this is breast cancer tissue. and what we find is, if you look at this is, here is a tumor that got injected with polio virus. here is a tumor that go injected with just saline. and the difference in the tumor size is extremely visible here. >> pelley: night and day. >> nair: we kept seeing this. so we went back and asked the question, "what is happening in the tumors?" and we teased these tumors apart. and what we found were a lot of t-cells in the tumor. >> pelley: immune system cells? >> nair: immune system cells. >> pelley: dr. nair has filmed immune system t-cells, shown here in color, breaking apart a tumor cell. what you see took a little over one hour. this leads dr. nair and others
once immune cells are programmed to recognize a cancer, will they remember and attack that cancer everywhere in the body for a lifetime? >> nair: if you get a tumor again, these are memory t-cells, they will remember that. and they can eliminate a recurrent or a metastatic tumor. >> pelley: how long does it take typically to get from this mouse stage into a human trial? >> nair: i would say anything between three to five years. it takes some time. >> pelley: well, go back to work and stop talking to me. >> nair: that's what i will do. that's what i think i should do. >> remember two months ago you couldn't lift that heel. >> pelley: there is much left to learn. why do some patients suffer and die while others given months to live appear to have a complete recovery? three years after his polio treatment, brendan steele remains cancer free and he's determined to overcome the damage from his surgery. a conviction that he keeps wi a
"it's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." great words to live by. >> brendan steele: yeah. yeah. i remind myself every day. get up. get up. >> pelley: four years after his polio therapy, 73-year old fritz andersen is traveling the world with his wife. >> andersen: i am alive because of it. if i had not received it, i don't think i would be here today. >> pelley: and stephanie lipscomb, patient number one in the clinical trial four years ago, has now become a nurse. >> lipscomb: do you remember me coming in this morning, i know you were sleepy? >> patient: yes. >> pelley: you told us before that being a cancer patient would probably make you a better nurse. and i wonder, has it? >> lipscomb: oh yes. to talk to my patients and tell them, "look, i've been, i've been in the hospital, i've been sick like this." i can just see the hope in the
>> pelley: where do you want to take your nursing career? >> lipscomb: pediatric oncology. >> pelley: kids with cancer. >> lipscomb: yes sir. because i was 20 when i was diagnosed. i wasn't really completely an adult. and i absolutely love kids. with this unique experience of surviving stage iv cancer in my brain. if i don't do this, then it's kind of like a waste. a waste of being cancer free. >> pelley: you think you survived for a reason? >> lipscomb: oh yes, most definitely. caring for someone with alzheimer's means i am a lot of things. i am his sunshine. i am his advocate. so i asked about adding once-daily namenda xr to his current treatment for moderate to severe alzheimer's. it works differently. when added to another alzheimer's treatment, it may improve overall function and cognition.
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espionage, orchestrated by china, to rip off american trade secrets and intellectual property. the justice department considers it a national security emergency costing our economy hundreds of billions of dollars. three years ago, the u.s. government launched a new strategy to fight back with more aggressive investigations and a greater number of prosecutions. we've discovered the dragnet isn't just catching chinese spies, it's ensnaring a growing number of americans who aren't spies at all. >> xiaoxing xi: it was so urgent, the pounding was so urgent that i run here to open the door without even being fully dressed. >> whitaker: last may, the f.b.i. paid an early morning visit to scientist xiaoxing xi at his home in suburban philadelphia. >> xi: so i opened the door, and so i see a lot of people outside. >> whitaker: they have on bulletproof vests? >> xi: yes, they did, yeah, and with guns.
>> whitaker: xi is chair of the temple university physics department. but the f.b.i. was convinced he was a spy, passing hi-tech american secrets to china. he was stunned when agents burst in and handcuffed him. did you have any idea what was going on, why they were here? >> xi: no. i had absolutely no idea. so, the very first thing that went through my mind was "this must be a mistake." >> whitaker: xi couldn't believe this was happening to him in the u.s. he was born in china and raised during the cultural revolution, a time when families feared an unexpected knock on the door. his father, a lawyer, was taken away to a forced labor camp. as an adult, xi came to the u.s. to live and work in a free country. why did you become an american citizen? >> xi: my children were born in this country. my home is in this country. my career is in this country.
so it just feels natural that i should become a citizen. >> whitaker: xi established himself as a world leader in the study of superconductors that could help improve mris. he managed nine government research projects and more than $1 million in federal funding. so this is your lab? >> xi: yes. this is one-- >> whitaker: one of your labs. >> xi: --one of my labs. yes. >> whitaker: the arrest had a swift impact. temple told him to stay home. he was removed as the principal investigator of his own research. what's going through your mind? >> xi: so i was saying to myself, they're going to put me in jail, and all of these things that i have been working for years, was coming to an end. >> whitaker: so tell me about the day you were arrested. >> sherry chen: my life was turned upside down. >> whitaker: sherry chen's life was also turned upside down when federal prosecutors suspec
she's been a u.s. citizen for 19 years and has devoted her career to public service, as a flood forecaster in the state of missouri and, most recently, with the national weather service in ohio. you were proud of your work? >> chen: yeah, i do. i really put my heart into my work. >> whitaker: chen showed us the award she won for helping to save the city of cairo, illinois from record flooding in the spring of 2011. armed with her forecast, the army corps of engineers blew up a levee and rerouted floodwaters. what did you feel about that when cairo was spared? >> chen: i'm proud of that, my knowledge, my work could really protect the properties and saving people's lives. >> whitaker: but, three years later, chen says f.b.i. agents marched her out of her office in handcuffs. >> chen: i saw my coworkers all looking through the windows.
and watched me being taken away. >> peter zeidenberg: i think prosecutors are feeling pressure to bring these cases. i think investigators are excited about bringing cases that may be high profile. >> whitaker: attorney peter zeidenberg is a former federal prosecutor who represents both xiaoxing xi and sherry chen. he believes both american citizens are collateral damage in the government's war against chinese economic espionage. that fear of chinese economic espionage it's not unfounded. >> zeidenberg: no, i'm not suggesting that it is. what i'm suggesting is, notwithstanding that fact, before you put handcuffs on someone and take them away that you have got to make sure that you have got your case together. and that the facts add up. >> whitaker: and in these cases? >> zeidenberg: the facts didn't add up. >> whitaker: xiaoxing xi faced a justice department narrative wo o
prosecutors accused him of collaborating with various government entities in china: of scheming for years to obtain revolutionary american technology, and e-mailing photos and blueprints of that technology to the chinese, specifically this american made device, called a pocket heater. it's used to make a superfine coating that maximizes the flow of electricity. in exchange, prosecutors said he would be showered with money, property and prestige in china. >> xi: the very first words coming out of my mouth was, "that's absurd. that's really absurd." >> whitaker: why? it turns out the device xi was discussing with his chinese academic counterparts wasn't a pocket heater. it was a completely different heating device that xi was developing. he had planned to share it in scientific publications. it was an earlier generation of this one.
pocket heater that we have been talking about? >> xi: not at all. it is very different from the pocket heater. >> whitaker: so when it comes to the science, it sounds like the federal investigators flat out got it wrong? >> zeidenberg: that's correct. >> whitaker: and then there's this: prosecutors alleged that xi's collaboration with chinese scientists was somehow sinister. in reality, it was mandated by one of his grants from the national science foundation. so your funding was dependent on your working with chinese scientists? >> xi: yes, yes, yes, yes, absolutely. >> whitaker: so one arm of the government wants you to collaborate and the other arm of the government says it's a crime? >> xi: indeed, indeed. yes. >> whitaker: yet, he faced 80 years in prison. what was that like? >> xi: it put a lot of stress and this daily stress sometimes become strikingly unbearable.
so, i remember pleading with my family. "let, let's, let's try not to fold. if we hold on, we have the truth. if we fold, we will have nothing." >> whitaker: four months after xi's arrest, his lawyer peter zeidenberg pointed out the inconsistencies to the u.s. attorney's office in philadelphia. three weeks later, they dropped the case. zeidenberg sees disturbing parallels with sherry chen's case. so how did she get in trouble? >> zeidenberg: the story started when she went to china to visit her parents. she had a somewhat happenstance meeting with a former classmate of hers, a vice minister in the water ministry. >> whitaker: the vice minister
asked chen how the u.s. pays for dam repairs. did you think there was anything, i don't know, secretive about that information? >> chen: it's never crossed my mind. it's not a secret. >> whitaker: when chen got back to ohio, she asked her boss for publicly available information, which she did send to her former classmate. she also searched this government database. since she wasn't a regular user, chen borrowed a password from her colleague. sharing passwords was common in the office. she never sent information from the database to china but federal prosecutors charged chen with illegally accessing and stealing restricted information. prosecutors also charged her with lying about the password. chen initially denied that a colleague had e-mailed it to her but she remembered after investigators showed her the e- mail. her colleague, ray davis, initially forgot too. >>
charged with mis-remembering or failing to remember giving her the password. he only remembered it when they showed him the e-mail and he said, literally, "oh god, that was almost a year ago. i forgot all about that." >> whitaker: wasn't that sherry's reaction as well? >> zeidenberg: it was. >> whitaker: why the disparate reactions from the government? >> zeidenberg: you know, the fact is sherry chen is a chinese american and her colleague was caucasian. and with sherry, everything she did, they looked at as somehow nefarious or somehow corrupt. >> whitaker: you say it was forgetfulness and they say it's a lie? >> chen: but to others it's normal. you can, forgetting something. for me it's a crime. >> whitaker: chen faced 40 years in prison for lying about the password and accessing the database. the week before the trial, zeidenberg took his case to carter stewart, who was the u.s. atto
the next day, stewart dropped the charges. we found, since 2012, the justice department has won convictions in 14 cases related to chinese economic espionage. it lost one case at trial. charges were dropped against five chinese born scientists, all american citizens. >> xi: the fact that they would suspect us stealing secret for china is very offensive. we're american. >> whitaker: more than 40 members of congress have called on the justice department to conduct an independent investigation of whether xi and chen were targeted because of race. the justice department wouldn't speak to us on camera but, in a statement, said: "we investigate and prosecute individuals based on known or suspected criminal activities or threats to national security, not based on race, ethnicity or national origin."
chinese theft of american trade secrets is a real problem. >> excuse me, can i help you? >> forgive us. >> whitaker: the f.b.i. made this video to alert agents, prosecutors, and the public. the agency says it's based on real events. >> go, go! f.b.i.! f.b.i.! >> there are a ton of ways the government can come at you. >> whitaker: it's all having a chilling effect. some of the most prominent chinese-americans are holding seminars around the country to caution scientists that activities they consider innocent could look like espionage. >> if you're going to take something and give it as part of a talk at beijing university or something, you have got to think twice because some people might look at that as being nefarious. >> whitaker: this past march, a year after her case was dropped, sherry chen was fired from her job for "untrustworthiness," "lack of cdo
issues stemming from her criminal investigation. so why won't the national weather service give you your job back? >> chen: i don't know. i'm a dedicated worker. i didn't do anything wrong. and i love my job. >> whitaker: in an e-mail, her employer said: "the facts fully support the action taken in this case." chen has appealed. after spending about $200,000 to clear his name, xiaoxing xi was welcomed back at temple university though he will no longer serve as chair of the physics department. he worries that lingering suspicions could jeopardize future government funding, the lifeblood of his work. do you think the u.s. government owes you an apology? >> xi: i do think so. i didn't do anything wrong but
through this. i think we deserve some kind of apology. and, you know, it's not over, right. the scars from this traumatic experience is so deep that it's going to be with us for the rest of our life. >> whitaker: after its experience with professor xi and sherry chen, the justice department tightened up its oversight and made explicit that every espionage case must be approved and supervised by headquarters in washington. >> tonight, after "60 minutes", marking the retirement of morley safer. how do you celebrate 46 years of excellence? go to sixtyminutesovertime.com, sponsored by viagra. viagra single packs... so guys with ed can... take viagra when they need it. ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex.
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