May 31, 2007

Blast From the Past

LANL Wants Copies of Probe Papers
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
By Adam Rankin
Copyright © 2002 Albuquerque Journal
Of the Journal

SANTA FE — A top Los Alamos National Laboratory official has instructed employees to provide the lab with copies of any documents they give to federal investigators.
In a Dec. 5 labwide e-mail, Rich Marquez, LANL's associate director for administration, ordered employees to cooperate with investigators.
But he also said in the e-mail that employees providing any documents to the inspector general's investigators should "provide copies of a set of those documents to the (LANL) Audits and Assessments Office" to the attention of two officials, including Katherine Brittin, who heads the office. Brittin and her office have been accused of trying to cover up information that would embarrass the lab.
The e-mail was sent as a team from the Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General began looking into allegations about LANL's purchase and property control systems.
Meanwhile, congressional investigators have started mobilizing in Washington, D.C., to look into accusations of fraud, lax security and coverup at the lab.
House investigators have requested dozens of records to follow up on the allegations, some of which are part of a separate FBI criminal probe. A team of congressional staffers is expected to travel to the lab for an on-site investigation.
Allegations against Audits and Assessments date to the mid-1990s, when Tommy Hook, a former senior auditor, testified that Brittin tried to kill reports that would embarrass the University of California or cost the lab money.
Steve Doran and Glenn Walp, who were recently fired by the lab, have said managers in Audits and Assessments didn't act when fraud was reported to them and even told employees accused of fraud who their accusers were. The two are former police officers hired early this year to investigate the problems.

'Outrageous'
Pete Stockton, a consultant for the Washington-based government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, said having employees send Brittin copies of documents provided to investigators didn't make sense.
"I think it seems to me outrageous, especially after seeing the chronology of events there," he said.
Lab spokeswoman Linn Tytler said Monday that allegations against Brittin and Audits and Assessments "have not been substantiated and we believe the office is performing its function as assigned."
Tytler said LANL's leadership is "committed to ensuring an effective and thorough inquiry into any allegation of fraud, waste or abuse submitted by any employee, whether anonymously or with his/her name attached."
She said it is the function of Audits and Assessments to review such allegations.

Washington interest
In Washington, Kenneth Johnson, a spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has broad oversight and investigatory powers over DOE programs, said committee members have taken a keen interest in allegations of wrongdoing and coverup.
"The accusations are extreme, and we are determined to get to the bottom of it," he said.
Committee staff are awaiting the delivery in the next day or two of 15 boxes of documents they requested from the University of California, which operates LANL, he said.
Johnson also said the timing hasn't been determined yet, but the staff is working out the logistics for a group of committee staff to go to LANL for an on-site investigation.
"For some time now, the committee has been quietly looking at the operations of LANL," he said. "These dramatic new developments warrant a congressional investigation and we intend to use every resource at our disposal, including hearings and subpoenas, to determine what's going on at the lab."
Spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder said U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., a member of the committee, was "very concerned about the allegations and particularly the impression of retaliation against LANL employees."
Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Bingaman told DOE's inspector general's office Monday he was anxious for a report that gets to all the facts.
McCartin said the inspector general told Bingaman a report is "expected in the February time frame."

Another report
In a related development, a 2000 inspector general's report recently obtained by the Journal makes additional allegations of coverup against lab officials.
The May 2000 report details how eight of 28 LANL security personnel interviewed "believed they had been pressured to change or 'mitigate' security self-assessments" and how a "number of individuals" feared retaliation for giving information to the inspector general.
Tytler said "a subsequent review conducted in October 2000 of security assessments did not uphold those findings."
She said the review was "official use only" and would not provide a copy of it nor say what organization conducted it.
Several of the security personnel in the inspector general's report said "LANL management appeared to be more concerned about making LANL and the Security Operations Division 'look good' than reporting the actual security condition at LANL."
The report also noted "two instances where LANL management became so upset with issues raised by the initially assigned reviewers, that management reassigned other reviewers who subsequently determined that there were no issues to be raised and that the organizations were satisfactory."
The inspector general's report said LANL management downgraded 40 "issues" and four "concerns" initially identified in a self-assessment draft report on the security division to six "concerns" and six "observations" in a final report.
Issues are defined as deficiencies that require a corrective action plan, while concerns and observations are simply suggestions for improvement that do not require a corrective action plan.
A LANL manager told the inspector general the issues were downgraded because some couldn't be validated, others were unsupportable and "there appeared to be a personality conflict between the reviewer and the organization being reviewed," according to the report.
A senior LANL manager also told the inspector general that "given the number of self-assessment findings identified since 1995, there was no concerted effort to avoid or mitigate findings."
The inspector general's report was undertaken to investigate allegations that officials in DOE's Albuquerque Operations Office of Safeguards and Security Division upgraded survey ratings that were "marginal" or "unsatisfactory" as a result of "deals struck" between Albuquerque and LANL management officials.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Bingaman told DOE's inspector general's office Monday he was anxious for a report that gets to all the facts."

Ok Senator, so once you got "the facts" what the hell did you do with them? Not a damn thing, that's what! Not a damn thing.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't the workforce at the Los Alamos National Laboratory risen in unison to resist these abuses! Isn't the workforce supposed to reflect the character of an institution, or lack thereof? I guess in this case it does. What a disgrace to the State and the Nation!

Anonymous said...

I say shut down the damn place! It's too far gone to salvage!

Anonymous said...

I agree with 4:36PM. The taxpayer deserves better.

Anonymous said...

Richard Marquez? Is this the reknown. sexual harasser of DOE fame who now sits at the right arm of King Mikey? Well what do you know? This is supposed to be an improvement over UC? How so, with LANS being little more than UC in disguise anyways? What a. farce this place has become! I'm outa here! I've worked too darn hard for my credentials to waste them in a place as dysfunctional as this.

Anonymous said...

Yes, same corrupt Marquez...though much much worse than you allude.

Anonymous said...

7:17 pm:

"...with LANS being little more than UC in disguise anyways?"

You are not at LANL, or you would recognize the laughability of that statement. LANS is not UC - everthing is now the "bottom line" i.e., "award fee" for LANS for contract performance. An entire bureaucracy has been established ("Contract Assurance Office") to ensure no one, employee or contractor, does anything remotely threatening to the award fees so eagerly awaited by LANS upper management. (Except of course those ex-UC top LANL managers who negotiated UC Golden Parachutes before sgning on to LANS.)

Anonymous said...

It's so sad to see the down-fall of a once great lab, the total dismantling of this Lab, has begun in earnest, the only question that remains is how long will it take ? Congress and the American people deserve better than the wasted money being squandered in the name of Science...

Anonymous said...

It all starts at the top. Or, as they say, you can't make a silk purse from a sows ear. Shit floats to the top, but rolls down hill. Garbage in, garbage out. Get it? Well then...get out!

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet that none of you pathetic bozos even work at the lab.

Anonymous said...

I think the posts from 9:17, 6:35, and 4:36 are from the same person. This person got fired from the lab or could not get hired in the first place and now they are just bitter. This is a very sad person who is total waste of humanity.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Pinky -

I think you have a couple of ringers out there commenting their silly little anti-LANL heads off.

LANL has plenty of real problems but the characterization implied by these bozos is way off the mark.

If Chris Michels has not found something better to do than harangue the lab (we knew him when he was at LANL), this might be him?

- Doc

Pinky and The Brain said...

Mechels? He's a prolific commenter elsewhere. Maybe he's not signing his name to comments on the LANL blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't work at the Lab if that counts for anything. And I haven't submitted but perhaps a couple of postings in the past. I was never fired from the Lab either. So with this said, I'd just like to say I do know quite a number of folks who do work at the Lab and have heard similar horror stories about the incompetence, arrogance and perhaps the worst fault of all, the total inability of the institution to accept any kind of criticism whatsoever regardless of merit. Labeling critics as "ringers" or less than human is childish, not unlike a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum. This habit of always rejecting any and all criticism is, in my view, where the problem originates. The Los Alamos National Laboratory was indeed, once upon a time, something to be proud of. Its decline however has been coming for at least a decade or more. The current management is simply a logical outcome related to that decline. As other posters have suggested, perhaps the time has come for a major house cleaning. Clearly the need is there. But the first folks that need to be gotten rid of first are the ones in denial, not the critics.

Anonymous said...

7:31AM

How the hell would know anything? I bet you have some kind of agenda. You are the one in denial.

Anonymous said...

Your not working at the lab does count for something. It means you are a know-nothing imbecile that is promulgating dumb ass unsubstantiated rumors. Shoo.

Anonymous said...

Have knowledge of BOA contractors carrying around suitcases of cash?

Anonymous said...

9:28pm

No

Anonymous said...

It's easy to see why the Lab is in the state it's in. So if someone doesn't work at the Lab but has a criticism of it they're idiots? The taxpayers in other words, who pay our
salaries, are idiots? I beg to differ with you on this point The taxpayer is our boss, and if the taxpayer isn't happy with our work we need to shape up. Tommy Hook, in the eyes of the taxpayers is, as stated by another blogger, viewed as being a hero. Maybe not for some in Los Alamos but certainly for much if not most of the nation. That may not be what you want to hear, but rest assured we're not. winning much support by attacking the this man like a pack of rabbid dogs. Cool it already!

Anonymous said...

10:26AM

Tommy Hook is not viewed by the
nation as being national hero. You
just made that bs up. People outside of the lab who followed the story and read the reports have now come to the opposite conclusion.

The most damaging thing that Tommy Hook did was to hurt the whistleblower program.

Anonymous said...

A simple search on the Internet will reveal what the world really thinks of Mr. Hook. He is not the pariah that 10:26 and a few of his friends posting to this blog would have us believe. But just keep doing what you're doing 10:26. Keep enlightening the rest of country as to just how far out touch the Laboratory has become.

Anonymous said...

11:54 am

Great idea, I did the search and you are right. It appears that the
nation does not consider Hook a
national hero.

I do not know who 10:26am poster is but they are out to lunch.

Anonymous said...

First of all I want to thank my ol friends at Los Alamos. Thank you for defending my integrity and for hanging out to dry those who turn good ol boys like myself into the authorities. Secondly, I want to reinforce what you all are saying. Me and my new colleagues here agree with you 100%. Yep, the only good snitch is one that's battered and bruised, or preferably worse.

P. Bussolini
Folsom Prison

Here's my story:

URL: http://www.abqjournal.com/north/181281north_news05-30-04.htm


Sunday, May 30, 2004
Lab Worker Aided FBI in Theft Case
By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer
For months, John Jennings led two lives.
On the surface, the longtime Los Alamos National Laboratory employee continued his relationship with his boss, Peter Bussolini, whom he viewed as a mentor and father figure.
For his part, Bussolini seemed to encourage that relationship, alternately praising and criticizing Jennings and referring to him as his "son" in various communications.
But at the same time, Jennings was tormented by the work he secretly performed for the FBI, which was investigating suspected fraud and theft of laboratory property. Many of those allegations centered on Bussolini, and Jennings reported to federal agents many of the specifics that contributed to Bussolini's firing in December 2002.
The double life lasted only seven weeks, from Sept. 13 through Oct. 31, but Jennings said during this period he was so stressed he gained 10 pounds a week.
"I was eating to kind of numb my feelings and hide what I knew," he said.
The 67-year-old Bussolini, who was earning $150,000 a year at the time he was fired, and Scott Alexander, 42, a purchaser who worked for him, were both indicted last week on 28 federal counts of theft, fraud and other charges.
The charges stem from allegations that the two used their positions of power, influence and familiarity with LANL's procurement system to illegally buy more than $328,000 worth of equipment, some for their own use, between February 2001 and October 2002.
Gear found by LANL officials included high-end barbecue grills, night-vision binoculars, TVs and thousands of dollars worth of military knives.
"Jennings was a key player in bringing the house of cards down," said Glenn Walp, former LANL head of security investigations.
Until now, Jennings, 54, says he was loyal above all to the laboratory, where he has worked for 28 years— and, by extension, to his boss, Bussolini.
Jennings worked under Bussolini for close to a decade, most recently as a safety specialist. He repeatedly refused interview requests, saying the time wasn't right.
Now he blames the laboratory for turning on him— even though he revealed to the FBI what he knew about the man he once considered "family."
And that, he says, is why he now has agreed to tell his story.
'Unwilling participant'

Blinded by his affection and loyalty to Bussolini, Jennings said he unwittingly helped transport about eight boxes of lab-bought equipment and patio furniture to Bussolini's home in 2001 before becoming suspicious.
Transporting the boxes is the biggest factor in LANL's decision to reprimand Jennings for failing to adequately safeguard lab property, even though LANL investigators conclude: "In the final analysis, it appears that Jennings was nothing more than an unwilling participant to the extent he assisted (Bussolini's) misconduct."
LANL spokesman James Rickman said LANL officials responded to the situation appropriately: they fired Bussolini and Alexander and gave Jennings a formal reprimand.
The reprimand will stay in his personnel file for two years, then disappear without negative consequence as long as he is not involved in another incident.
"Mr. Jennings stopped transporting materials to Mr. Bussolini's house after becoming suspect of the transfers but failed to report that to Laboratory officials at the time," according to LANL's reprimand of Jennings.
Jennings is challenging the lab's findings.
Work relationship

The last time Jennings saw Bussolini was the day his boss was put on investigative leave on Oct. 31, 2002. Bussolini hung up the phone after being called into the office of their division director, Jennings said.
" 'I hope to God you had nothing to do with him calling me,' '' Jennings said Bussolini told him.
Jennings said he didn't.
"'Cause I'd kill you if you did,' '' Jennings said Bussolini replied.
Bussolini, who has not returned repeated phone calls seeking comment and declined an interview when a reporter knocked on his door months ago, is suspected of doing "enormously inappropriate things" to Jennings at various times, according to LANL witnesses quoted in an internal investigation.
The report noted LANL witnesses said Bussolini "played upon Jennings' weaknesses and manipulated him into doing his bidding, and constantly threatened Jennings' job."
Bussolini was highly respected and well liked in Los Alamos. He was on the board of trustees for the Los Alamos United Way, and he won environmental engineering awards at the laboratory.
But according to LANL's internal report on Jennings, Bussolini played mind games with Jennings, sometimes berating him— one day he poured Coke all over Jennings' desk as Jennings sat there, watching him— then complimenting him.
Jennings said Bussolini would often encourage him, tell him he loved to see him at work early and lingering late at night, told him he couldn't do his job without him.
"I eat that stuff up more than I do a paycheck, you know?" Jennings said.
"The guy (Jennings) had a very low self-esteem, and he basically wanted to be accepted by everyone," especially by Bussolini, said Steve Doran, a LANL security specialist working in cooperation with the FBI at the time, in a phone interview with the Journal.
Doran and his boss, Walp, were both fired from LANL in November 2002 and later settled out-of-court claims that they were fired in retaliation for trying to expose the wrongdoing.
"Bussolini basically acted like a father figure to John, and I believe John, at that particular point in time, would have done anything for Bussolini," Doran said.
On Oct. 4, 2002, just weeks before the FBI would search his home, RV and office, Bussolini sent an e-mail to Jennings.
He wrote, "I need you to be the 'rock of Gibralter (sic)' right now for me ... You are still my 'son' so don't worry and be happy."
Within this context, Jennings says he tried to do the right thing, but it was hard— painfully hard.
He knew Bussolini and respected him. He knew Bussolini's wife, Lee.
'I feel betrayed'

Jennings moved to Los Alamos in 1960 and went to school with Lee's younger sister. And Jennings recalled an incident in which his daughter had been badly injured in an automobile accident years earlier. Jennings said Lee Bussolini— a Los Alamos nurse— administered CPR to his daughter in the back of an ambulance en route to Santa Fe.
"(Jennings) basically feels like whatever Bussolini says is law," Doran said in describing Jennings' allegiance to Bussolini.
But eventually, Doran said, Jennings saw things were going wrong. Things started to change when Alexander, who grew up across the street from Bussolini in White Rock, became Bussolini's "boy" over Jennings, Doran said.
Jennings said the turning point came the day he made his final delivery of boxes to Bussolini's house. Bussolini's daughter asked Jennings, "So, you're stealing for my daddy?"
But it was still several months before Jennings would report anything to LANL officials.
Not until May 2002 did Jennings go to Walp and make the first vague allegations that something was wrong.
Several days later, Jennings said he went to LANL's Audits and Assessments division to tell officials there they should look into a blanket purchase agreement that had little oversight or accountability.
"Two hours after I went there, Pete found out that I talked to them, so that started making life get miserable," Jennings said.
But Jennings said things took another turn for the worse once he started cooperating with the FBI in September. He said he felt like he was betraying a man he loved.
Jennings' eyes filled with tears as he described a confrontation with Bussolini in which his boss sought assurances that Jennings was keeping quiet about the things he knew.
"He said, 'Look me in the eyes, John, and tell me nothing's wrong.' ''
Jennings told him, "Nothing's wrong," but the stress of the confrontation ended with Jennings retching outside the building afterward.
"I had to keep lying to Pete," he said. "(FBI agent Jeff) Campbell said I didn't have any choice. I didn't want this to be part of my job."
But it was, and LANL officials don't think he did it well enough.
By accepting Bussolini's claims that he paid for the items himself, "Jennings essentially turned a blind eye to the possibility that (Bussolini) had obtained the items inappropriately," according to LANL's report.
To Jennings, a year short of retirement, this conclusion is a stain on what he says is an otherwise-unblemished record that has left him angry and hurt.
"I feel betrayed by the laboratory because I have really lost so much and stuck my neck out so much," he said.