In May of this year, federal agents raided the home of a Chinese-American physics professor, Dr. Xiaoxing Xi,  and dragged him from his home in handcuffs before his young daughters on charges that he emailed to a colleague in China design schematics for a pocket heater, a device used in superconductor research, despite a written agreement not to share such information. Temple University, where Dr. Xi taught, unceremoniously stripped him of his title of Chairman of the Physics Department, put him on administrative leave and restricted his communications with others at the university.

The DOJ shortly afterwards sent out an overheated press release, noting, for some reason, that Professor Xi, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was a “native of the People’s Republic of China,” apparently based on the heretofore unknown jurisprudential principal in criminal trials that defendants are innocent until proven Chinese.

Last Friday the government dropped all charges against Professor Xi, alluding obliquely in thecourt papers that, after the indictment, unspecified “additional information came to the attention of the government.” According to this New York Times article, the unspecified information was that the design schematics were not for the device that the government thought they were. More bluntly, the government was too stupid to understand what the designs were for, got the designs for another device confused with the one Professor Xi had agreed not to share, and then tried to wreck his life. Oh, and did the DOJ promptly issue a press release admitting its mistake? Of course not. Are you crazy? They apparently did not even tell Professor Xi they were sorry.

Dr. Xi said this to the New York Times:

I don’t expect them to understand everything I do. … But the fact that they don’t consult with experts and then charge me? Put my family through all this? Damage my reputation? They shouldn’t do this. This is not a joke. This is not a game.

Dr. Xi’s lawyer, according to the Times, went further and suggested that the prosecution targeted Dr. Xi because he was Chinese.

If he was Canadian-American or French-American, or he was from the U.K., would this have ever even got on the government’s radar? I don’t think so

Of course not. The DOJ press release which notes that Xi was born in China makes that clear. Apparently the folks at DOJ don’t think that they are bound either by actual science or by federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on national origin.