Federal Judge James Parker could have understandably gaveled his quick approval of physicist Wen Ho Lee's one-count plea bargain and disappeared into his chambers, relieved to have the whole distasteful mess behind him.
But Parker went further. He apologized to Lee for the scientist's unacceptable treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system, and issued a stinging rebuke to the Justice Department, FBI and Energy Department for having badly misled him - he stopped short of saying lied - at a bail hearing last December.
On behalf of himself and the federal judiciary, Parker apologized to Lee for his treatment, and then the judge turned to the handling of the case by the Justice and Energy departments: "They did not embarrass me alone. They have embarrassed our entire nation. . . ."
That's not enough. Trampled in this case was Lee's constitutional presumption of innocence, a right fundamental to this nation.
More than an apology is necessary. An explanation is demanded.