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Project on Government Oversight




Computer Disks with Classified Information Missing at Los Alamos

December 9, 2003 


A statement issued by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) today confirms that computer disks were identified as lost during an "inventory of classified computer media" (see Click here to see University of California's email statement regarding the incident.

Today's event follows several troubling incidents involving missing classified computers and disks at Los Alamos over the past two years:

  • In January 2002, LANL admitted that it had lost computer media but denied that it contained classified information. After POGO issued an alert based on information provided by LANL insiders drawing attention to the loss, LANL found the computer media within hours. (See POGO Alert "Missing Computer Data at Los Alamos? Continuing Security Lapses May Jeopardize National Security".

  • In November 2002, documents leaked to POGO showed that more than 200 computers were missing, some from top secret programs. LANL subsequently fired the two whistleblowers who authored the documents, Steve Doran and Glenn Walp. (See POGO Alert "LEAKED DOCUMENT: Mishandling Lost and Stolen Computers at Los Alamos". LANL denied that the missing computers contained classified information. However, the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General, Gregory H. Friedman testified on May 1, 2003: "... we concluded that the Laboratory could not provide adequate assurance that classified, sensitive, or proprietary information was appropriately protected."

  • In January 2003, sources told POGO that a computer disk containing classified information had been missing for three months and had not been investigated by the Department Of Energy. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the event "troubling" (Click here to see Abraham's statement ). (See POGO Alert "Investigative Lead: Another Computer Hard Drive is Missing at Los Alamos" )

"This is like a re-rerun of an old movie. Their failure to protect classified information continues when very simple solutions have been recognized for years," said POGO investigator Peter Stockton, a former security advisor to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

POGO's 2001 report "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security at Risk" co-authored by Mr. Stockton and a dozen Department of Energy (DOE) insiders and security experts recommended that DOE move to a "media-less" computing environment in order to protect national secrets. Under such a system, computers would be locked in a vault and access to computer disks would require a "two-man rule" where two people would have to sign-off on any copies.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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