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Project on Government Oversight




Classified Computer Media Missing at Los Alamos

May 20, 2004 


Los Alamos National Laboratory has confirmed that classified computer media can not be located (statement below). Today, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) reported a major security breach at the Lab that lead to the issuing of this statement.

A comprehensive security initiative announced by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Abraham in May, 2004 envisioned moving to a disk-free computer environment in five years. According to the May 7, 2004 DOE plan, "in five years desktop weapons design functions can be performed in a diskless environment. At that point, no insider would be able to transport classified data in electronic form outside the site on physical media."

Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight, responded to the Los Alamos statement today saying: "The Lab can try to spin it however they want. Classified data is missing from Los Alamos yet again." She added, "Five years is too long. DOE's proposed initiative to secure classified data in the nuclear weapons complex should begin immediately with Los Alamos as the top priority."

In the Fall of 2002, Los Alamos denied that more than 200 missing computers, some from "black" programs at the Lab, contained classified data. The DOE Inspector General subsequently disputed Los Alamos' claim, saying that Los Alamos did not know whether missing computer media contained classified material or not.

POGO investigates, exposes, and seeks to remedy systemic abuses of power, mismanagement, and subservience by the federal government to powerful special interests. Founded in 1981, POGO is a politically-independent, nonprofit watchdog that strives to promote a government that is accountable to the citizenry.


WASHINGTON - U.S. Representative Tom Udall, D-N.M., today released the following statement concerning Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) admission that a piece of Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) was discovered missing on Tuesday.

"While troubling, I am hopeful that the media has either been destroyed, and incorrectly inventoried, or will be located soon. The laboratory has assured me that the information does not contain nuclear weapons data. The laboratory is already taking steps to create a 'medialess environment' by moving sensitive information to classified servers. I am pleased that when the media was discovered as missing LANL officials reported the incident to the Department of Energy consistent with standard protocol. I will continue to monitor developments related to this case."

LANL is located in Udall's Third Congressional District.

Contact: Kevin Roark (505) 665-9202


Los Alamos, N.M., May 20, 2004 - An extensive Laboratory-wide effort to reduce Classified Removable Electronic Media has resulted in a single accounting discrepancy. Based upon an initial review, this discrepancy in no way constitutes a compromise of national security.

The item in question was slated for destruction in March as part of an overall Laboratory effort, in accordance with a University of California corporate policy on accountable classified removable electronic media. The implementation of this policy and the reduction project has reduced the amount of CREM at the Laboratory by 50,000 pieces since December, representing an overall reduction of 60 percent. The reduction portion of this CREM project is now complete.

On May 17, several classified matter custodians were conducting a re-inventory of classified media to validate the results of the reduction project when they discovered the discrepancy in their account.

Department of Energy officials were informed according to established reporting guidelines. Efforts are currently underway to investigate the final disposition of the item.

This discovery re-emphasizes the importance of the Laboratory's ongoing efforts to reduce CREM. Most of the problems in accounting for CREM relate to administrative errors and the past pervasive use of low-density magnetic and desktop systems.

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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