May 8, 2007

Two Years Ago Today

[The following is reposted in its entirety from the original LANL: The Real Story]


Tuesday, May 09, 2006
It was one year ago yesterday
Doug and Brad. It was one year ago today that Todd died as a result of the stress of being used as a scapegoat so that people like Nanos, Foley and Dynes could bask in the spoils of their politics. The kids and I drove up yesterday to the Rio Chama below the Abiquiu dam where his ashes are scattered and I had lots of time to reflect. It's interesting how little has changed. A year's time has eased it a little, but we still miss him. The wrongs that were done have not been righted. The liars are still in power while honest people's lives and careers are in ruin. The masses who were just glad it wasn't them are still happily going to work and have long forgotten...happy they have jobs to go to Can’t say as I blame them all that much. It's certainly easier that way.
With the recent ray of hope that UC has been caught in at least some of its illegal acts, I was wondering if you would consider re-posting the Executive Summary of Todd's "July 2004 TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath" as a top post. I realize that the blog is at the end of its days (thank you, once again, for providing it) and that most readers are supporters (thanks to them, also), but it would be nice for us to know that his story's not forgotten. Thanks. Sara
__________________________________________________________

Executive Summary

The TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath

Todd Kauppila

On July 6, 2004, two CREM items appeared to be missing in DX-3. A wall-to wall inventory of all DX-3 CREM had revealed a discrepancy in the amount stored in a safe. The discrepancy was reported to the DX Organizational Computer Security Representative (OCSR), DX-3 and Division Office management, as well as to the Security Division, in strict accordance with Laboratory requirements. When the discrepancy could not be reconciled within 24 hours, NNSA was also notified. A local Security Investigation Team (SIT) was convened, and over the course of the next few weeks, a chaotic series of thorough and intense physical searches was conducted, both inside and outside the building where the safe resided. At about the same time, the SIT sequestered the nearly dozen people who were authorized access to the safe, and interrogated these individuals repeatedly and at great length.

Though not very likely, the possibility that the missing items could have been mistakenly put in a different repository was explored, along with thorough searches of the building where the CREM was stored and the surrounding area. Finally, a few of us who were on administrative leave, because we were authorized access to the safe in question, began to look at the CREM tracking system, past inventories, and all classified portable computers that had been used with the CREM over the past year. A pattern began to emerge that suggested there were fewer actual CREM items than the inventory listed. We analyzed all the records from the electronic tracking system all the way back to a classified international conference we participated in during the fall of 2003, where the CREM was initially generated. During this conference the CREM custodian had mistakenly entered a set of bar-code numbers into an electronic accountability system, even though the amount that had actually been assigned to specific media was less. A series of previous audits that failed to reconcile this mistake were the root cause of the difficulty in reaching our conclusion.*

When this plausible explanation was advanced by our OCSR to the SIT, it was not only rejected categorically, but also, in very short order the pertinent records were confiscated, and the OSCR was forbidden to speak to anyone about this line of thought. After nearly two long weeks of tense meetings devoted to the CREM issue, this threatening confrontation was the final insult that provoked The OCSR’s decision to resign from the Lab. Alarmingly enough, this development strongly suggested that the SIT had already reached a conclusion about faultfinding and was unwilling to consider the strong probability that the allegedly missing CREM never existed. However, this information leaked out and may have influenced the Lab to hurriedly assemble an independent team to test the hypothesis. Meanwhile, the Director had already forced a work suspension across the board, because a laser safety incident, with injury, complicated the Lab’s operational picture. Moreover, the FBI had begun to investigate the missing CREM. But before long, the Lab’s story began to change, and in an August 11 news article, Senator Domenici revealed the possibility that the CREM issue might actually be a case of a “false positive,” or that of a system indicating that something was missing, when it actually wasn’t.

In August, though the account custodian attributed the CREM issue to error and was later terminated from LANL, a series of Case Review Boards were convened to make recommendations for punitive action against others with authority to access the CREM repository. In my case, curiously enough, the Board recommended 3 week’s suspension without pay, essentially for taking excessive training and being on vacation when the CREM issue developed. Nevertheless, the Acting DX Division Leader proceeded with my firing on September 23, 2004. The Board’s review was little more than subterfuge, for the Director had carried out a threat made against me in early July for not rushing home from vacation as the CREM crisis began.

* Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and another independent panel have supported this conclusion.


The TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath

(Details)

In a late December 2004 brown bag lunch held by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director Nanos at DX-3, the Director spent more than an hour regaling attendees with stories of his military career. Posing with his black cowboy hat, he explained that he had proudly shot the cowboys who were responsible for the safety and security problems that prompted the July shutdown of the Lab. He said that he would make certain “those SOBs” would never work at Los Alamos as long as he was Director. He continued by bragging that his “government-funded attorneys were cheaper than the cowboys’ private attorneys” and he could “outlast them indefinitely”.[1]

Until now, John Horne and I have been silent regarding the “cowboy/butthead/C-student” accusations voiced by the Director in his first all-hands meeting in July 2004.[2] However, after the DX-3 classified removable electronic media (CREM) incident, lengthy investigations, Case Review Board recommendations, disciplinary actions at odds with those recommendations, and an official investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it is our hope that a narration of events leading up to and following the CREM “incident” is now timely. The Director has failed to maintain his composure and his objectivity during the entire course of the CREM investigation, unduly influencing the latter through actions and rhetoric that reflect poorly on him, the University of California, the Laboratory, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Nation. His conduct, in a word, has been unbecoming and deserves condemnation. His consuming interest was in finding scapegoats, and his quest was thus far successful. Pity that he was indifferent to the truth.

We now know the official results of the FBI investigation have become public and their conclusion matched our own,[3] that no CREM were missing at any time. These findings suggest we have every reason to expect exoneration, yet we continue to be vilified by the Director at every turn, and perhaps have only faint hope that promising careers can be rescued from the scorn and suspicion of unenlightened managers, who must demonstrate fealty first and integrity second.

Background

Procedures to account for CREM derive from corrective actions taken following the well-known Wen Ho Lee security incident of 1999, and are called Requirements for Accountable CREM. These requirements describe a lengthy assortment of nonvolatile digital storage media (removable hard disk drives, laptops with removable hard drives, floppy diskettes, CDs, DVDs, Zip and Jaz disks, etc.) that can qualify as CREM, and dictate how these items must be catalogued, protected, and tracked.[4] Traditionally, technical presentations containing text and image view-graphs are created with computer software, stored on electronic media such as a hard drive or disk, and displayed through the use of a computer-linked projector, eliminating the need for transparencies. If the display material is classified, then the computers and media used must be authorized for such use and are accountable as CREM.

At the time of the latest CREM incident in July 2004, so long as the general stipulations in Notice #0136 were met, line organizations at Los Alamos were free to develop and implement their own procedures for handling and tracking CREM. While barcoded serial numbers were required for marking CREM, a shortage of barcode scanning equipment forced many organizations (including DX) to visually read the numbers of each barcode and enter those numbers into accountability, increasing the likelihood of entry errors. Software needed for tracking CREM items could also be developed locally, and so the only common feature of LANL’s CREM process was the haphazard approach taken by the line organizations in attempting to satisfy the general requirements.[5] The CREM custodian, charged with oversight of the CREM process in each organization, generally took on this job assignment with the understanding that it was only a part-time job and an added duty that wouldn’t interfere with the person’s primary job function. The approach to training can be similarly casual and treated as a chore that could be postponed until the training time was convenient for the assignee. This assignee generally was not proficient in computer skills, but was persuaded that the simple barcode accounting task was easy to master and was not a burdensome or particularly risky task. Verification of the CREM inventory was not required and seldom occurred when custodians changed, increasing the likelihood of proliferating errors without prompt detection. Those personnel likely to generate CREM were sometimes given blocks of barcode numbers to apply to generated CREM over some period of time, and the numbers were only to be entered into the accountability system when the CREM custodian was notified that one or more of the barcodes were actually affixed to created CREM. Since the CREM incident, requirements for creating and accounting for CREM, as well as training requirements for custodians, have become more rigorous. In fact a recent job ad for a CREM custodian required “flawless performance” as one of the job criteria, prompting several letters to the editor of the Los Alamos Monitor and causing much astonishment among Lab staffers. [6]

During the fall of 2003 I served as chair for a classified international conference at the Metropolis Super Computing Center. To support classified presentations at this conference, John Horne received from his CREM custodian eight barcodes to use as necessary to mark any CREM that might be generated. Unbeknownst to us when the eight barcodes were issued to John, the issuing CREM custodian, who had held the job for only one month, immediately entered all eight barcodes into the accountability system. In the course of preparing presentations for the conference, John actually applied only six barcodes to CREM, which were delivered to the custodian by placing the properly marked CREM into a safe along with a conveyed message to enter the disks into accountability. At that point John’s obligation under existing CREM procedures was fulfilled, there being no requirement for him to oversee or witness the custodian’s subsequent activity. Thus, because of an accounting error at the conclusion of the conference, eight disks were in the CREM accountability system, while only six were actually generated (thus the “missing” two disks). Nearly nine months would elapse before we would stumble onto this accounting error.

DX-3 CREM Inventory Crisis

On July 6, barely a month after an institution-wide CREM inventory had revealed an accounting error in the DX-7 inventory (totally unrelated to this current crisis), the DX-3 inventory of CREM items assigned to John indicated that two items could not immediately be accounted for. A frantic search for the allegedly missing items ensued, but when they couldn’t be found in the first 24 hours, notification beyond the Division was required.[7]

At the time of the DX-3 CREM incident, I was enjoying a long-delayed family vacation in Washington, D.C., where I answered a page from my Deputy Group Leader on July 6 (my 20th Wedding anniversary). Upon phoning in, I learned for the first time about the inventory discrepancy. I was asked to return to Los Alamos immediately to discuss details that could not be revealed over the phone. Reluctant to terminate my vacation at that point (for the CREM items in question were not mine), I suggested instead that because I had my badge with me, I could travel to the Forrestal Building (DOE HQ) and arrange to discuss the manager’s concerns over a classified (STU) phone. The manager agreed to this offer, and in brief conversations over the course of the next two days, we discussed the problem, and the manager’s concerns were alleviated; he agreed that there was no reason to rush back, and gave me permission to continue my vacation.[8] After all, the CREM items were not in my name, and it looked like I could not be of much help even if I were at the Lab. I would later learn that this delay in my return, even though approved by my manager, had enraged the Director, who demanded that I be fired. It would take a few months for him to make good on his threat, but he clearly made up his mind that day, and all his actions since then point to that very plan.

Near the end of my vacation, my deputy group leader paged me again. When I phoned him this time, he told me that I was really needed back at Los Alamos and must return right away. I thanked him for giving me the few extra days and agreed to fly back the very next morning.[9] I left my family to fend for themselves and returned to the Lab. Upon arrival at DX-3, my badge was confiscated and I was summoned to what would be the first of numerous meetings with the LANL Security Investigation Team (SIT) that had been convened for the case.

Investigations

Once the CREM inventory revealed that two items could not be accounted for, the searches unfolded in a series of increasingly anxious efforts in ever widening circles and in all directions—up, down, and all around, canyons and ceiling tiles included. News of the suspicious incident had spread swiftly to UC, NNSA, DOE, Congress, and the media. By the time the SIT appeared on the scene (July 8th), the focus was on the roughly dozen people authorized to access the safe where the allegedly missing CREM should have been stored. Badges of the dozen people were confiscated, and everyone was treated with dark suspicion, though none more than John and myself, even though my role seemed to be little more than incidental. The presumption now was that misconduct (if not outright espionage) might well be in play, and the trail was growing colder with the passing of time.

As pressure increased, the SIT investigation stalled, with no discernible progress being made in the face of a daily requirement for a SIT status report to the Director. Our situation was complicated by the mid-July appearance of Federal investigators, who immediately targeted us for scrutiny. Frustrated by the lack of progress, though, the Director lashed out at DX managers, and in one meeting the DX Division management blamed the current crisis on the DX-3 “cowboys” who simply wouldn’t follow the rules. By declaring helplessness in the face of these few uncontrollable workers, management had attempted to deflect criticism from themselves directly to John and myself. The “cowboy” term resonated with the Director, who then used it on the frequent occasions in July and August when the CREM issue was a subject for discussion. The Director also seized on his discovery of a bumper sticker (“LANL: Striving for a Workfree Safety Zone”) as yet more evidence of a deplorable cultural mindset at the Lab. He may have seen the sticker somewhere other than DX, but the way he used it in his first All-Hands Meeting did not make that point clear. Rather than to be stimulated into probing to find out what procedural frustration might provoke someone into displaying that damning slogan, he chose an illogical extrapolation that gave him license to declare it was indicative of a general contempt for rules by LANL workers. In mid-July a laser safety incident with injury occurred and was used along with the CREM incident to justify forcing a suspension of work at the Lab by the Director. The “cowboy” label continued to be used, but now its derogatory meaning had expanded to apply to anyone who demonstrated even a hint of skepticism about the decision to suspend all work at LANL. Indeed, line managers were directed to identify “cowboys” in their organization so that these personnel could be isolated and eventually removed from LANL’s ranks. The Director was widely quoted in the press, with two notable newspaper articles appearing in the July 13 and July 20. By this time, personnel in DX were being blamed for putting the UC contract at risk, contributing to a cultural attitude that needed to be stamped out, and displaying academic arrogance that dated all the way back to the Manhattan Project.

In this atmosphere and with this kind of treatment to contend with, we had enormous difficulty concentrating on the CREM problem that was our daily and nightly cross to bear. Because the issue seemed to track all the way back to the fall 2003 conference, it was hard enough to try to piece together events that long in the past. Meanwhile, the CREM investigation was going nowhere, and so a few of us who had come under accusation, along with other colleagues, decided to go back over the records from the CREM media tracker and the computers with extreme care, to see if we could find any clues about the allegedly missing two items. Many days were spent at this task, but finally a pattern began to develop with the periodic activity and inventory records that showed the two missing items being inventoried, but then being removed from the database three times. I found this unusual activity strongly suggestive of a case where two items might have been mistakenly entered into accountability and then eliminated when a subsequent inventory failed to uncover them. As this sequence repeated with each of the inventories (supposedly verified three times since the international conference), it made no sense. Interrogating the registry on the computer confirmed the only media, which had touched the computer, had been barcoded and accounted for and that the unused barcodes never existed. This suspicion was shared with the DX Division OCSR (Organization Computer Security Representative), who then in turn revealed it to the SIT. The OCSR’s information was not only rejected, but she was also then warned not to reveal this discovery to anyone else. Nevertheless, the information was apparently credible enough that the SIT came in after hours and confiscated the OCSR’s records.[10] Alarmed by the combination of the threat and records confiscation, which was just too much for her after nearly two weeks of pointless searches and tense meetings on the CREM issue, she abruptly resigned from the Lab after more than twenty years of dedicated service.

It was this cover-up that persuaded John to hire counsel for his own protection, as the SIT’s astonishing and probably illegal action strongly suggested that John could easily be blamed for the loss of nonexistent CREM. He was convinced that he had retained the two barcode numbers and simply kept them, later shredding them with other items he no longer needed to keep during a midyear cleanout, but he couldn’t prove this claim. Now it looked like the most likely explanation was not only going to be rejected, but also any reference to it was going to be suppressed. The SIT had made it known that the most important goal of the investigation was to protect the credibility of both the Laboratory and the Director, and here was appalling evidence that the SIT would even conceal exculpatory information to achieve its aims. Nor could he necessarily rely on his own management, for the DX-3 Deputy Group Leader had recently declared at a Group Meeting [11] that “HR and S Divisions exist solely to protect the Director.” Despite the attempt to suppress the information we had given the OCSR and SIT, it leaked out anyway, and the Lab was then apparently forced to assemble an impartial team consisting of DX employees to test this theory. Only then did the Director suddenly change his official story and admit the possibility that the missing CREM might never have existed at all. This change would eventually lead to Senator Domenici’s comment on August 11 about the possibility of “a false positive” in the CREM case. Though my concern had grown sharply, I still felt that we had successfully shown—with the actual records—what probably happened; besides, I was still only peripherally involved.

The Director’s position continued to harden. A July 15 safety incident with injury tipped the scales, and he declared a work shutdown shortly after that date, again blaming “cowboys” who wouldn’t follow safety or security procedures as undermining his confidence in the entire institution. In one GLIM (Group Leader’s Information Meeting) he exclaimed, “ If innocent people get caught up in this, tough, I can’t worry about the buddy system here.” He went on to say that he was going to take them out, and if he had to restart the Lab with only 10 employees, then that’s what he was going to do.[12] Anyone who disagreed with him was threatened with dismissal. FBI investigators had been called in to reinforce the investigation into the missing CREM. Now, however, the leakage of the plausible explanation of the two CREM items clearly forced the Director’s hand, leading to his previously mentioned admission that the CREM items might not have gone missing. Further speculation by the Lab on the CREM issue ceased, and we can only sadly conclude that this shift in emphasis was influenced by the need for the Director to justify his earlier rush to judgment in his hysterical claims about worker misconduct. Firings of scapegoats were then essential, or a loss of public trust would be the inevitable result. For the CREM issue, the ones chosen for firing were those who were not yet represented by counsel (including myself, having also been targeted back in July for not returning from vacation on my 20th wedding anniversary!) Again, the sole motivation appeared to be the protection of the Director and Laboratory management.

Case Review Boards

In August, though the Laboratory was silent about progress in the CREM case, and while we were still on investigatory leave, Case Review Boards were assembled to consider charges against us, although at the time the specific accusations were unknown. I was grilled by two specialists from Human Resources for hours on Aug.22. The central points had nothing to do with CREM, but instead concerned my interactions with colleagues, weekend and afterhours time spent at work, and my training records. On September 16th, to my complete astonishment, I received an adverse action letter that invited me to supply written arguments to show why I should not be fired for cause (supposedly the Board’s conclusion). The principal charges against me were clearly trumped up and included ridiculous allegations of misconduct, such as taking too much training. I defended myself with pertinent facts at some length, but was then terminated on September 23 by the Acting DX Division Leader, who said my arguments were not convincing. Weeks later, when I learned that I could use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request a copy of the Case Review Board findings, and finally received a redacted version of the same, I learned to my utter bewilderment that the Board’s actual recommendation was three weeks suspension without pay, contradicting the claim by the Acting DX Division Leader that the board had recommended termination. In the summary, much was also made of my delay in returning from vacation, though not included was the fact that I had permission from the DX- 3 Deputy Group Leader to remain in Washington longer. The Administrative Mandate (AM) 112 requires the examination of one’s career and a bottom up investigatory approach. These requirements were not observed, and of the 22 people questioned about me, astonishingly (in violation of AM 112.09), my own Group Leader was excluded from such discussion because of an unclear time constraint. I suspect the information she would have given would have contradicted a significant portion of the review board report and was intentionally omitted.

In a brownbag luncheon meeting held at DX-3 since my termination, the Director said that he fired me because I had been bullying people since my days at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Because I don’t bully people and I’ve never worked at NTS, it is obvious that this information was manufactured to justify my termination. Clearly the Director believes that the power of his position affords him the freedom from accountability for his shameless mischaracterizations, untruths, and exaggerations. In my case, he has demonstrated that the end justifies the means, however sordid, and he apparently has the full support of UC and NNSA for this behavior. One further point deserves mention. When I filed for unemployment compensation in late October to help me at least feed my family while looking for employment, the Lab protested in writing that I had violated policy and deserved no consideration. I successfully refuted this claim at a formal hearing on December 17, as the official record shows.[13] This time I was not surprised by the Lab’s actions, for I had become accustomed to its propensity for defamatory and slanderous actions.

Meanwhile, John was unaware that a Board had also been assembled to consider his case, until he also received an adverse action letter on November 23 soliciting his arguments to show why the Board’s recommendation of two weeks’ suspension without pay should not be followed for his failure to see to it that CREM under his name was not properly entered into accountability. This letter from the Acting DX Division Leader, refreshingly enough, admitted that the two CREM items were not missing after all. We are disappointed that the Director did not officially share this conclusion with the public, although he allowed a manager to put the statement in writing. John had already passed a lie detector test on November 10 before he had been reinstated, and his detailed response to the letter was confidently written with the expectation that the Board’s recommendation would have to be rescinded. Instead, he was told on December 16 that the suspension would be carried out, and that the period chosen was from December 6-17. Having no other recourse at the time, he agreed, adding that he certainly could not bear the thought of missing a Nanos brownbag lunch scheduled for December 21. Curiously, later that same day, he was told that suspensions couldn’t be postdated, and his actual time off would have to be taken from December 20 to December 31. It seems likely that management did not want any employees with detailed knowledge of the events at that meeting. A subsequent meeting held the next week required questions to be prepared beforehand and in writing. When John obtained his redacted copy of the Case Review Board’s conclusion, the redaction was so extensive that he could read little more than the date of the summary document. He is seeking a more sparingly redacted version, although he is saving the original copy in case journalistic interest in his predicament might be expressed later—perhaps before there is a decision on the UC contract competition.

Reflections

In looking back, John and I must wonder whether our joint 42 years of spotless service at Los Alamos merely represents wasted sacrifice. Why do our personnel files not count in our defense instead of suddenly becoming weightless on the scales of justice? What was the point of sacrificing countless nights and weekends in the creation of the elaborate hydrotest procedural checklists, detailed schedules, and redundant signature protocols that were once so highly prized by the Director, UC, and NNSA? Why are our unique developments there still singled out as the gold standard for complex, multi-diagnostic, hydrodynamics experiments at DARHT, PHERMEX and other firing sites, exemplifying our dedication to safety and security, but now only in our absence? What is the gold standard for management conduct at Los Alamos, or is bronze even too much to expect? When the human cost is so severe, why is justice so elusive? If we had not been able to figure out the significance of the swing of numbers in the CREM tracking records, the terrible conclusion we would be battling right now is the assumption of two missing and highly classified disks, and I suspect that many other workers would have been wrongfully terminated.

—Todd Kauppila

—John Horne

(Communicated to Doug Roberts on March 2, 2005)


# posted by Doug Roberts : 5/09/2006 05:43:00 PM


Comments:
Finally, a post that is about something that is really important.

Not wome whiney compaint about diminished benefits under the new contract.

Not some stupid, cone-headed query about "Why can't I be allowed to continue to do whatever I want to and have the government keep paying for it?"

A post about moral values.

Or lack thereof.
# posted by Roderick Spode : 5/09/2006 07:35:38 PM

What is truly sad is that the relatively comfortable staff at LANL (LLNL's next, guys!) did so little to rally around their own. To me, all of these events show, yet again, that morality does not come down from Authority to the individual--instead, morality emerges from the conscience of the individual. And if individuals stand up for each other, in public, the bullies and the cowards melt into the shadows.

Todd's wife and kids can be proud that he stood up against Authority run amok. It is sad that he had to pay such a high price, but I feel honored to have known him.

-Brad
# posted by Brad Lee Holian : 5/09/2006 08:40:31 PM

What Brad was no doubt attempting to say, but was too polite to actually do so was:

Los Alamos is populated by a bunch of cowards. Only a few people had the guts to stand up to Nanos when he was here, and Todd was one of them. What did the good citizens of Los Alamos do when Todd got into trouble for standing up to the bully?

They ran back to their comfortable little Los Alamos homes and locked the doors and shuttered the windows. Not a peep of protest was to be heard from the general populace.

Cowards.
# posted by Ashamed : 5/09/2006 09:11:44 PM

Todd's historical recap on the true events of the missing CREM
should be etched into metal plates and placed at the front doors
of the new NSSB building for all future LANL employees to read.

Instead, the new NSSB building will soon be christened with great
fanfare by LANL managers who will act as if the earth shattering
events that took place during the tumultuous Summer of 2004 never
even happened. How sad.

Doug, when you pull the plug on this blog on July 1st, leaving
this post at the very top of the blog would be a most fitting
tribute to Todd. May we never forget.
# posted by good2go : 5/09/2006 11:35:30 PM

Learning of Todd could not have come at a better time for me. My thanks and prayers go to his family and to all of you for not letting him be forgotten.
Frank Young
# posted by xtmdster : 5/10/2006 05:01:14 AM

The school of fish swam effortlessly through the sun drenched pool when one suddenly began struggling against some invisible force that gradually yanked him to the surface and out of the water. After a few moments of confusion the school of fish went back to swimming aimlessly, ignoring the fact that one of their own was no longer in their midst. It wasn’t long before the fisherman’s line was back in the water, searching for its next victim, and it wasn’t long before its next victim was also struggling against the invisible pull of the fisherman’s line. People are like fish. They congregate for acceptance and protection, but will tend to avoid involvement in the struggles of others. And so like fish, we remain forever vulnerable to the same threats that consume our colleagues.

God bless the few who have sacraficed so much for so many that do so little to help even just themselves.
# posted by HeyBabyQuePaso : 5/10/2006 09:02:56 AM

30 comments:

Eric said...

Thank you for running this. I needed the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we all needed the reminder of how LANL managers can annihilate careers and hurt people's lives and faimlies in an instant. Also let's remember what the poor americium guy had to endure and how the LANL/UC brass mishandled the Type-B investigation and case review board outcomes. In the end they were conveniently quite bad for the worker but interestingly nobody else ... can you say scapegoat?

Anonymous said...

"The wrongs that were done have not been righted. The liars are still in power while honest people's lives and careers are in ruin. The masses who were just glad it wasn't them are still happily going to work and have long forgotten".

I describe Los Alamos to friends as a place where on the town side of the bridge, if a person falls down on the sidewalk gripping their chest and complaining of heart pain, bystanders would immediately attempt to render aid. On the other side of the bridge however, I am convinced folks would simply walk by not wanting to get involved...

I know...I ended my brief time at LANL by a series of incidents which were by no means in any way comparable to the amount of institutional energy focused on Todd, but eerily similar in the retribution applied by management to anyone who might come forward and place a smudge on their "spotless" operation (honed by years of experience at no place other than LANL)...On the business side of the house there are still literally millions going out the door while three layers of management silently "look the other way" touting completion of Marquez' 1000 item fix plan of a couple of years ago...All smoke and mirrors... even the Bechtel folks and congress folks have now bought into the scam..I have never seen anything like it and hope I never do again...

Fight the good fight and illegitimi non-carborundum. Integrity counts when you look your kids and family in the eye...and there IS life after LANL for those who choose to remain honest rather than run with the lemmings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reposting this blog submission from Sara Kauppila. It’s sad that the people of this community need to be reminded of this terrible event. Todd was a great American and my closest friend. More than that, Todd was family. I was appalled at how many people I spoke to today who had no idea who Todd was. In two short years, LANL was able to kill a dedicated employee and essentially remove him from memory by redirecting peoples attention to other issues. But with all of the malicious acts perpetrated by this lab there are people who bear a greater responsibility for what has happened. Those people are the employees of the Laboratory. One would expect criminals to act like criminals. So, the actions of Nanos, Sue Seestrom, Kevin Jones, Scott Gibbs, Mike Irving, and the rest are understandable (although not acceptable). However, anyone working at this lab could have found themselves in the same predicament that Todd and I found ourselves in. That is the unwitting scapegoat of the aforementioned criminals. By allowing these people to commit their acts of fraud, conspiracy, and perjury without demanding accountability the people of this community showed those in power that they could do whatever they pleased up to and including killing a member of our scientific community. By so doing, you have sealed your fate as pawns rather than active participants in what happens to this community and you will deserve whatever happens to you. Worse yet you have removed your ability to be participants in the national defense. Pawns are useless except for cannon fodder. That has quite obviously been our new role in defense policy. There will be more of this on the horizon and those of you who find yourselves in the crosshairs will find no more support than Todd and I did. Some of you may die and no one will care or remember. This cycle will continue until the majority of the community demands accountability from those who have abused their power and the nations trust. It is not too late to make these demands. Our congressional delegation, UC, DOE, and NNSA, and LANL management all have caused this situation. You can fight for your place in support of this nations defense or you can just slide off into the pit that has been dug for you without a whimper. The choice is yours.

John N. Horne

Anonymous said...

I agree the names of Scott (slick Willie) Gibbs and Sue Seastrom, Nanos and the like should be remembered for a long time to come, for their acts....We should not allow these people to go un-mentioned......maybe every year, just to remind us of the unfairness amongst us at LANL......

Anonymous said...

Don't forget how we lost two great internationally recognized chemists in the Admiral's clean sweep that summer - Sattelberger and Meyer - at least Sattelberger was made a Lab Fellow and got the PADSTE post at ANL and Meyer recieved a named chair a rebuilt labs back at UNC - both are laughing all the way to the bank. I wonder what the Admiral thinks when he looks back to the summer of 2004.

Anonymous said...

Nanos is probably not thinking much about the summer of 2004. He's pulling down a USN pension, and working in a SES level position at DTRA being paid a much larger salary than SES allows by UC. How could he have a perspective that isn't colored by his success?

Don't interpret this post as being disrespectful to Todd et al. or lending support to anything that happened during that period. I happen to believe that Nanos was way out of his depth when he came to LANL. I'm simply pointing out that from Nanos' perspective, it was all good.

Anonymous said...

As reported in the media Nanos was given a golden parachute. He was allowed to remain a UC employee while working at DTRA in order to protect is UC pension. On top of that he was paid handsomely not to bad-mouth UC or UC/LANS during the recent contract competition, albeit a bogus exercise from beginning to end. No doubt Rich Marquez helped hammer out the details. That's what he does best, hence his place at the right side of King Mikey of LANS these days. Everything Todd stood for is now a distant memory of what was once a great institution. LANL is now an institution of scoundrels, cowards and misfits. What was once the crown jewel of the complex is no more.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else heard that UC/Bechtel now has LLNL?

Anonymous said...

5/8/07 9:22 PM said "LANL is now an institution of scoundrels, cowards and misfits. What was once the crown jewel of the complex is no more."

And that crew at the helm of LANS(Seastrom, Gibbs, Neu, Beason, et al) were just rewarded for their duty and towing the party line. LANS was just awarded the LLNL contract - yee hah!

A Friend said...

But for the grace of God, there go I.

We miss you man!

Pinky and The Brain said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Sadness

bastards!

Feynman's Ghost said...

goodbye (again) Todd

darko said...

damn waste

condolences to sara, john, everyone

Dr. Strangelove said...

A sad moment.

Please consider setting up a regular transfer into his memorial fund.

The Todd Kauppila Memorial Fund has been set up at Los Alamos National Bank, account number 32268720
- LA Monitor May 11, 2005

Dr. Strangelove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Todd -

I'm still thinking of you man!

No disrespect to Pinky but Todd's story has already been buried under the LLNL contract and the Jessica Quintana Story...

"and so it goes..."
Kurt Vonnegut

Anonymous said...

Yes, Doc - we need to keep this thread at the top!!! Lots of people have been destroyed by LANL management - we should remember all those who died from it and those who still have not. And we should keep discussing all the malicious acts performed by those who got promoted and/or are now part of the LANS polo club ... your names have already been mentioned and those who have escaped being mentioned, you know who you are and you know what you have done.

Pinky and The Brain said...

A part of Todd is still here in each of us. Let's always keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people are really clueless about the CREM incident.
It doesn't matter if you didn't really lose CREM. If your processes and inventory systems are so messed up you can't tell whether you have material or not, you've screwed up bad, just as bad as if you had really lost material. Put your money in a bank that is not sure whether you did a deposit or not.

Anonymous said...

10:01 PM wrote, "...and those who have escaped being mentioned, you know who you are and you know what you have done."

Who are they and what did they do?

darko said...

I just verified the LANB account number posted here and published in the LA monitor is the "Memorial Fund for Todd Kauppila" and set up a regular transfer of $20.

A fairly token amount perhaps, but over the next year(s) it will become substantially more than I donated when it was first set up.

I would like to challenge other Bloggers here to do the same... think of it as a subscription to "a better world".

- darko

darko said...

9:30 -

I think the point 10:01 was making was that WE don't know (yet) but SOMEBODY probably does and certainly the people who have behaved in such a shameful manner know what they have done.

Unfortunately some folks *don't* know that they have done anything wrong. These people are usually called "sociopaths". Part of the blogging going on here (moreso at Gone Nuclear and Masked Calvin is to keep these topics above the table.

NNSA, DOE, UC and certainly LANS upper management want to keep pointing the finger back at US to distract attention from THEM.

Anonymous said...

6:33 Clueless

If you are saying that Todd *should* have been fired because he didn't keep track of whether the systems keeping track of his CREM were accurate, you ARE clueless. Todd's CREM was never in question!

John's was, and he DID receive 2 weeks administrative leave for precisely what you said. For not double/triple/quadruple (how many times do you have to check to see if everyone else is doing their job correctly?) checking the accounting system.

NOBODY with a clue would develop a CREM accounting system where as soon as barcodes are generated, they are assumed to be attached to CREM... that is why CREM gets logged in!

But did the people who *made* the mistake get reprimanded? It is not clear from this record. And while they may very well deserved reprimand, it sounds as if the people who hired/supervised the person who did not handle the barcodes correctly might be implicated even moreso.

And did the people (all the way up to Nanos (Domenici?)) who wanted to find a scapegoat so bad they ignored and/or suppressed the evidence and hung Todd out to dry for (apparently) nothing except saving their own face, did they get any reprimands? No, the top dog got a big fat golden parachute that he is riding down in DTRA while he sets up the next one!

If you put your money in the bank and they lose it (or more aptly) if they issue you 10 checks and you use 8 and destroy the other 2 which they promptly treat as if they had been used, you hold the bank accountable. All the way to the top. And if the bank President hangs the depositor out to dry for a mistake made by his tellers, it is just bizarre..

There seem to be one or two folks here who want to defend the abusers and blame the victims. Yes, sometimes the victims made mistakes that set them up for the subsequent abuse... but it is the abusers who are doing the real harm to everyone.

Yes, SOMEBODY is Clueless here... Good Lord! (as we like to exclaim on these blogs)

- darko

Anonymous said...

clueless says;

I am not necessarily saying Todd *should* have been fired.

I'm saying the management at LANL is clueless. I've only been here 12 years, I came here because Los Alamos is the geographical area where I want to retire (1 more year). I was aghast at what a wreck LANL was and continues to be. Work control, Safety, QA, Configuration Management, Planning, Budgeting were all 10 years behind even the lamest of private companies. In the 12 years I've been here, the only material change has been that now the lab is 22 years behind the lamest private company. LANL is a national joke.

While I don't personally care for Lock-Mart, maybe they would have had the guts to fire every DL on up and bring in new GL's. Nanos biggest mistake was that he didn't clean house.

darko said...

Not-so-Clueless -

I have to agree that our "systems" have been a mess for a long time. What is hard to hear is when outsiders, including our congressmen, etc. imply that this includes our science and engineering efforts.

Our science and engineering get done *in spite of* our bad business practices and management. Sometimes we are NOT competitive because of this, sometimes our science and engineering comes up short because we lose the best people at critical times or the systems we depend on for hiring or procurement or security or ... fail.

Many of us gave Nanos a huge length of rope when he came in because that is what he was here to do... straighten out the problems (we thought from the top down). Instead he made things worse and damaged some people's lives and careers along the way.

Now many are giving Bechtel a similar length of rope. Hoping they will somehow "fix things" but evidence so far is that they will only fix things that increase their profits... remember what Stephen Bechtel said:

"We are not in the business of xxx, we are in the business of making money"

Maybe both can happen, but I for one have grave doubts. I think Bechtel is here to make money and the folks that put them here did it to make money/power under the table, later in their careers, etc.

Call me conspiracist.

- darko

PS... better classified accounting procedures (not John or Todd's business) would have kept *all* of this from happening. Someone else would have had to be a sacrifice to Nanos' ego maybe but probably not Todd.

Anonymous said...

The lack of interest in this post compared to others is saddening and shows people at LANL just don't care about abuse to others - turn the other cheek - as long as it is not happening to them. Sad, really sad. And you wonder why bad things keep happening to LANL. We do it to ourselves really - with the mentality of looking out for only number one. Does us in all the time.

Anonymous said...

Oh, gee, I'm sorry. Only 28 comments here shows that we are all self-centered? Or maybe the 75+ comments on the polygraph thread shows that people recognize its potential for hanging workers out to dry. Maybe the entire existence of this blog is proof that LANL workers are dying to expose the abuses.

Anonymous said...

Just came in here on the RIF posting link 10/3/07. Glad to see this is still here. Any postdoc considering LANL for employment needs to have eyes wide open that people such as Nanos do exist and they could run into one here -- but also at other places. And pissing in a bottle does have a little merit, so long as it's done by all and not at random. But the real problem is the potential to have to undergo a polygraph. Until that possibility is removed from weapons lab employment, one really has to think long and hard about working at one of them.