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Project on Government Oversight




Los Alamos Classified Info Found in Drug Raid

October 25, 2006 


Police found what appeared classified information from Los Alamos National Laboratory during a drug raid, according to a Project On Government Oversight tip confirmed by the Associated Press and CBS News last night. The incident is under investigation by the FBI.

“This appears to be a new low: even drug dealers can get classified information out of Los Alamos ,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

According to unconfirmed sources, the information was classified as Secret Restricted Data which means it would involve nuclear weapons data and may have concerned detection of underground nuclear weapons testing. Also unconfirmed, the person in possession of the information worked either in Technical Area 55 where all of the Lab’s plutonium is stored or in the X Division which handles nuclear weapons design data for a maintenance subcontractor of the Lab.

POGO works with an extensive network of sources in the nuclear weapons complex. Since 2002, the Project On Government Oversight has exposed seven incidents involving the mishandling or loss of classified information including today’s announcement. A list of previous incidents is listed below. In 1999, the infamous Wen Ho Lee espionage scandal broke, eventually resulting in the scientist pleading guilty to the improper handling of restricted data.

Two years ago, Los Alamos Lab was plagued by a series of incidents involving safety and the mishandling of classified information. In May and July of 2004, POGO issued two news releases revealing the loss of computer disks containing classified information and the mishandling of classified emails.

Those events prompted then-Lab Director Pete Nanos to suspend all work activities for the Lab in July, 2004. The Lab shut down lasted many months. On July 23, 2004 the Department of Energy shut down operations involving Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) across the entire nuclear weapons complex. A subsequent review by the Department of Energy found that the missing Los Alamos media were never created, noting “the weaknesses revealed by this incident are severe and must be corrected.”

In May 2004, the Department of Energy outlined a new plan “to move to diskless workstations for classified computing.” POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian criticized the plan at the time, saying: “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.”

According to a November 2005 Government Accountability Office report: “LANL security officials told us that as a result of reports of missing CREM in late 2003, LANL undertook an inventory of its CREM holdings and reduced its holdings from over 80,000 pieces to about 35,000 pieces by moving the information stored on CREM to secure networks and then destroying the CREM. LANL further reduced its CREM holdings to 20,000 pieces during the stand-down, according to these officials.” As of April 2006, Los Alamos reported that its CREM holdings had been reduced to roughly 13,000 pieces.

Documents released by the Los Alamos Police regarding the Friday October 20 drug bust.
LANL Police Department Report and the Police Report of the items seized.

(not including Wen Ho Lee incident)

1) POGO Alert - Thumbs Up to Secretary Abraham's Decision to Halt Classified Removable Media Operations in Nuclear Weapons Complex. July 23, 2004.

DOE Press Release “Energy Secretary Abraham Directs Complex-Wide Stand-Down of Classified Operations Using Controlled Removable Electronic Media,” July 23, 2004.

POGO Alert - More security blunders at Los Alamos. July 18, 2004.

2) POGO Alert - Classified Computer Media Missing at Los Alamos. May 20, 2004.

3) POGO Alert - Computer Disks with Classified Information Missing at Los Alamos National Laboratory. December 9, 2003.

4) POGO Alert - DOE Secretary "Deeply Troubled" Over Missing Classified Hard Drive at Los Alamos National Laboratory. January 17, 2003.

POGO Alert - Another Computer Hard Drive is Missing at Los Alamos. January 15, 2003.

5) POGO Alert - Leaked Document: Mishandling Lost and Stolen Computers at Los Alamos. November 19, 2002.

6) POGO Alert - Missing Computer Data at Los Alamos? Continuing Security Lapses May Jeopardize National Security. January 29, 2002.


“ACREM Borrowing to Go Online,” Los Alamos National Laboratory, April 2006.

“Stand-Down of Los Alamos National Laboratory,” Government Accountability Office, November 2005.

“Internal Controls Over Personal Computers at Los Alamos National Laboratory,” Department of Energy Inspector General, August 2004.

“Secretary of Energy Launches Initiatives To Bolster Security at Nuclear Facilities Improvements To Impact Cybersystems, Guard Force Protection, and Consolidation of Nuclear Materials,” May 2004.

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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