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Project on Government Oversight




Only Half-truths from Los Alamos - POGO Recommends Termination of University of California's Los Alamos Contract

July 14, 2004 


Los Alamos National Laboratory admitted at 5 pm on Friday, July 9 (EST) that two Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) containing sensitive classified information were missing from Los Alamos' Weapons Physics Directorate. These CREM turned out to be classified zip disks. What they did not disclose is that they had also lost two classified hard drives from the same division. Sources have told the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) that Los Alamos discovered that an employee had removed those two hard drives without signing them out, put them in his pick-up truck, and taken them to another site.

In addition, contrary to Los Alamos' claims that they had only discovered the zip disks missing on July 7, 2004 and reported the security breach immediately to Department of Energy (DOE), sources tell POGO that Los Alamos had actually discovered four classified media missing the previous week and did not report the security failure fully or immediately. Los Alamos has not publicly acknowledged the missing hard drives, which have since been located.

The Weapons Physics Directorate of Los Alamos works on both nuclear weapons design as well as ensuring the safety of the existing stockpile. The University of California manages Los Alamos for the DOE.

This latest incident is the third time in eight months that classified data has been lost at Los Alamos. In addition, in June 2003, Los Alamos lost two vials of plutonium.

POGO recommends a total stand down at Los Alamos until they have successfully implemented a medialess system. DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham's five-year timeline to go medialess is inadequate. This change must be made immediately, and can be accomplished in a matter of months.

"At this point the University of California has lost any credible claim of being a competent or trustworthy steward of our nation's nuclear materials and secrets. Secretary Abraham should terminate their contract to manage Los Alamos immediately, before they further put our national security at greater risk," said Danielle Brian, executive director of POGO.

Los Alamos and the University of California had assured the government that this type of security failure could never happen because of a fail-safe system which was put in place after the Wen Ho Lee debacle in 1999 and the missing hard drives incident (which were later discovered mysteriously behind a copy machine) in 2000.

Click here for Los Alamos press release

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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