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Project on Government Oversight




Nuclear Weapons Complex Chief Linton Brooks Should Resign

July 21, 2004 


Today the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) calls for the resignation of Linton Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency in charge of managing America's nuclear weapons complex.

Brooks has failed in his role as chief overseer of security in the Department of Energy (DOE), as evidenced by the many security lapses we have witnessed at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Congress created the NNSA in 1999 specifically to improve security in the wake of breaches within the weapons complex, including the removal of classified information from Los Alamos. Yet in the past five years, the agency has failed to prevent the loss and possible theft of America's nuclear secrets (Brooks took over the top spot in July 2002, according to NNSA's website).

In May 2004, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham outlined his strategy to tighten security throughout the nuclear weapons complex.

In testimony to Congress that same month, POGO's Executive Director Danielle Brian, said, "We are not sanguine that the agenda outlined by Secretary Abraham will become a reality. He will need to fight the weapons complex bureaucracy, its contractors, and its handmaiden the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which wants to protect the status quo at all costs. Frankly, the NNSA has repeatedly proven itself eager to place the lab's interests over the nation's security interests."

There have been crucial security breaches at Los Alamos under Brooks's two-year watch:

  • Los Alamos can not account for 2 pieces of Classified Removable Electronic Media, and additional classified items may be missing from the lab.

  • Los Alamos employees sent classified information over an un-classified email system 17 times over a two month period - which is strictly prohibited.

  • In June, Los Alamos lost two keys to Technical-Area 18, a site that contains highly enriched uranium and plutonium. The DOE considers this site highly vulnerable to attack.

  • Since January of this year, the University of California has lost track of classified material on three occasions.

  • In June 2003, lab officials lost two vials of plutonium.

  • The Energy Department's Inspector General disputed a fall 2002 claim by the Los Alamos managers that more than 200 missing computers, some from "black" programs at the lab, contained classified data. The Inspector General said lab officials did not know if the missing computers contained classified material.

Time and again, Brooks has acted as an apologist for Los Alamos officials, abdicating his role as chief security officer. During a January 2003 probe, the DOE's Inspector General found that Los Alamos management had admonished employees to "resist the temptation to spill your guts" during interviews with DOE investigators tracking security problems at the lab. But Brooks, in a June 2003 memo, discounted the Inspector General's findings and sided with the Los Alamos brass. Compare the language of the Inspector General's report to Brooks, who merely spins for Los Alamos.

  • The Inspector General reported that Los Alamos managers instructed employees to "resist the temptation to spill your guts." Brooks claims they really meant to "caution against providing information in the areas beyond an individual's responsibility."

  • According to Inspector General, Los Alamos officials told personnel that "finger pointing will just make the program look bad." Brooks equivocated that the managers really intended to "discourage blaming others for shortcomings uncovered in an audit."

  • The Inspector General reported that Los Alamos managers warned employees that "handwritten notes can be especially damaging... they are not easily disavowed." Yet Brooks again defended the officials, writing that they meant to "stress the importance of proper classification."

  • Brooks should do the honorable thing, and step down as head of the NNSA. America deserves an aggressive watchdog for its homeland security, and Linton Brooks has failed that mission. 

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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