Jun 15, 2007

LANL security problem catches boosters unaware

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
June 14, 2007

State lawmakers learn about latest claims in magazine

Board members of Los Alamos National Security LLC are involved in another serious lab security problem, a pair of congressmen reported Thursday.

The mid-January incident “involved the loss of control of top-secret restricted data by several officials, including board members,” U.S. Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, wrote to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Thursday.

“Apparently, open e-mail networks were used by several LANS officials to share classified information relating to the characteristics of nuclear material in nuclear weapons,” Dingell and Stupak wrote.

The news comes at a sensitive time for the lab, which could face budget cuts as the new Congress changes national energy priorities. And at least three members of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation say they were in the dark about the matter until Thursday.

The lab would neither confirm nor deny the congressmen’s claims.

“For reasons of national security, and consistent with federal law and the laboratory’s own long-standing policy, Los Alamos National Security LLC will not discuss the details of any purported security violation or vulnerability, regardless of whether it exists,” spokesman Jeff Berger said Thursday.

Spokesman Bryan Wilkes of the National Nuclear Security Administration also would neither confirm or deny the claims, but issued this warning: “The secretary of energy and the administrator of NNSA have made it very clear: There will be no compromises or shortcuts on security.”

Dingell chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which also has a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He said an official with the University of California notified the NNSA of an “Impact Measurement Index 1” security incident on Jan. 19.

“An IMI-1 reportable incident is one, which ‘poses the most serious threats to national security interests and/or critical (Department of Energy) assets or creates serious security situations,’ ” Dingell and Stupak wrote.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “took immediate steps to identify, recover, and sanitize the computer laptops and hardware involved in the incident,” the congressmen wrote.

Dingell and Stupak also want to know why lab and federal administrators didn’t share the news with them even though they were testifying before Dingell’s subcommittee in January and April about a separate security matter involving a contract worker who took classified information home.

“As noted earlier, committee staff discovered this incident from sources outside NNSA and DOE,” the congressmen wrote.

They asked Bodman for a copy of the investigation, completed May 18; an explanation for why the subcommittee wasn’t notified; and a summary of all security incidents at the lab since June 1, 2006, when the new company took over management there, among other requests.

The news first broke midday Thursday in Time magazine.

“If this report is accurate, I am deeply disturbed that it happened even after extensive security measures were to have been put in place at the laboratory, and that I would have to learn about it from a news account,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the agency, the company and lab Director Michael Anastasio “have assured us that they have been implementing effective measures to put a stop to this nonsense. ... Enough is enough, and for the sake of the lab’s future, those who are responsible must be held accountable to put an end to this broken record of breaches.”

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., was also reportedly unaware of the matter until Thursday. “I am again troubled and disappointed by reports of security problems at Los Alamos National Laboratory,” he said in a statement. “... However, I do not believe this should be used as another excuse to punish the entire laboratory.”

Last year, Domenici encouraged the new managers to be “as open and forthright as possible about what is happening at LANL, even if the news is problematic.”

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or alenderman@sfnewmexican.com


Anonymous said...

Domenici sounds more and more like a parent who can't accept that his "baby" is now all grown up and sitting in prison for a very good reason. A kid who never knows discipline inevitably grows up to be a delinquent or worse.

Anonymous said...

I too believe that Domenici "meant well". His efforts led to the funding of many programs without any merit. The LANL technique, as we all knew, was to misuse secrecy and avoid peer revue in general. Too bad about the resulting quality of research.

Anonymous said...

"Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “took immediate steps to identify, recover, and sanitize the computer laptops and hardware involved in the incident,” the congressmen wrote." ???

Anonymous said...

"Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “took immediate steps to identify, recover, and sanitize the computer laptops and hardware involved in the incident,” the congressmen wrote." ???

Yes, we continue to fix your problems.

Anonymous said...

Thought I could copy this interesting posting and keep pasting it until someone responds:

I've got an idea! Why doesn't the lab try to compete for funding outside the DOE? We've been reading of brilliant LANL ideas for years like the Plasma enabled gasoline engine, beams in space, R&D 100 awards and laser-driven fusion power.
If all these "breakthroughs" were just public relations fakery, the time has come to tell the truth before LANL asks for more funding. Has the public been fed 50 years of lies? Where's the beef?

Anonymous said...

8:51 am, He probably meant to say "Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at their Los Alamos Campus."


Anonymous said...

Yes, a computer security response team was flown out from LLNL to LANL to recover and secure the laptops.

Anonymous said...

This revelation just shows us what a hypocritical bunch of mother fuckers Mikey and the rest of the LANS good 'ol buys club is. We now learn that even as Mikey and crew were vowing revenge against Jessica Quintana and anybody else that they could blame for the "trailer trash" security incident, LANS itself was under investigation for this "IM-1" incident, for which LANS itself was fully responsible.

Still trust that the LANS management team is worthy of running LANL?

Anonymous said...

This blog is getting interesting. Employees are complaining about their salaries , someone points out that our government already finds the pensions to be too generous and now someone points out that, because of Senator Domenici and the lack of review based on misuse of secrecy, the research is lousy or non-productive.

These postings don't look too good for Los Alamos but you guys are doing a big favor for the taxpayer.

Eric said...

To 9:42 AM

There has been a fair amount of really interesting technology developed in Los Alamos county.

There have also been very high barriers to commercializing it.

These barriers include:
Little stable VC funding.
Little understanding of the dynamics of entrepreneurship.
Not so good patents.
And, as in a number of great scientific projects at LANL, little follow through over the years to turn the initial breakthrough into reality.

So, other places catch up and get ahead. It happens all the time.

Anonymous said...


You make a good case for not funding LANL for anything but bombs. Of course, I'm assuming that the secret stuff isn't as worthless as the other work. Am I being naive?

Anonymous said...

Last year, Domenici encouraged the new managers to be “as open and forthright as possible about what is happening at LANL, even if the news is problematic.” (News Story)

LANS isn't being forthright when they pull relevant news stories from the LANL home page. It appears LANS has decided to implement a new editorial standard at LANL. Bad news that involves LANL employees is OK. Bad news that involves key LANS managers is not. It's called hypocrisy.

Watch what Mike and company do, not what the say. That will give you a true measure of the LANS crew.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if the LANS Board was using LANL's wonderful (not!) RedNet secure network, this would never have happened. Unfortunately, it seems to take about 8 months to get a RedNet port installed in an office at LANL. Oh, well, time for LANS managers to go out and flog the worker bees a little harder.

Has anyone who works at LANL ever experienced a more dysfunctional management than what you've witnessed at LANL?



Lab Managers Accused of Security Breach - AP News

..."This facility's mind-bogglingly poor track record makes me repeat my question: What do we do at Los Alamos that we cannot do elsewhere?" Stupak said Thursday.

"Apparently, open e-mail networks were used by several LANS officials to share classified information relating to the characteristics of nuclear material in nuclear weapons," the congressmen said in the letter.

The breach occurred when a consultant to the LANS board, Harold Smith, sent an e-mail containing highly classified, non-encrypted nuclear weapons information to several board members, who forwarded it to other members, according to a Washington aide familiar with the investigation who asked not to be named because the information is sensitive.

Lawmakers were assured no damage was caused, according to the aide.

Anonymous said...

How many of these Orange Stripe Brigade Bloggers are double dippers????

Eric said...

To 11:24

Actually, I was making the opposite case but not very clearly.

Each of the barriers can be torn down fairly easily if someone is willing to do it.

If the barriers are torn down, then there would be large new sources of income to the Lab and to the community.

All that it takes to tear the barriers down is a few champions.
The champions could be:
1. Bechtel management who want to make a bigger profit from Los Alamos.
2. Our legislators in D.C. who want to impress the voters.
3. The state of New Mexico.
4. Local retirees, in Santa Fe or Los Alamos, who would like to risk a small amount of money for a decent shot at a large return and for being part of a project that is a lot of fun.

If items 1-4 do not happen, entrepreneurs either wither on the vine or move.

So, I think that there are large wins in developing technology locally. There just need to be a few more people (about 5) willing to do it.

Does this help?

Anonymous said...

"They asked Bodman for a copy of the investigation, completed May 18; an explanation for why the subcommittee wasn’t notified; and a summary of all security incidents at the lab since June 1, 2006, when the new company took over management there, among other requests."

I don't even want to know what would be in that summary.

Anonymous said...


The lab is 60 years old! Billions have been thrown down the research hole. Other similar places have had success with inventions like LLNL and Oak Ridge.
The relative returns on unclassified work at the labs are kept confidential. One must "need to know." You have a whole intellectual property department at LANL selling lab-developed discoveries. They make enough from license fee to pay some of their postage. Take a look at the staff credentials and accomplishments. Interview an ex- technology LANL transfer bureaucrat
(I think one is at Yale now.) Ask him what is wrong at LANL. You will not anticipate or enjoy the answers.
Try calling "Intellectual property" in Forrestal and ask for the different labs' license incomes. You will discover a uniform interest in hiding LANL's productivity.

Anonymous said...

Well, I work at the lab and know no more than has been published in the new media.

However, from those tidbits of information, I would guess that LANL followed DOE protocol and notified DOE properly. If not, we will probably hear soon enough.

During an ongoing investigation, information about the players, methods (email) and other information about a security incident is usually classified at the level of the information that may have been compromised. In this case, that would appear to be at the Secret/RD level. Hence, neither LANL nor DOE/NNSA would reveal any detail in open hearings. However, it could communicate to Congress in closed session or in person.

We do not know if that was done, but the remarks by Dingell and Stupak imply not. But I have very little faith in Congress, certainly no more than I have in DOE or NNSA.

My prognostication on this issue is that 1) the LANS board screwed up; 2) LANL probably reported it in a timely manner to DOE/LASO; 3) DOE/LASO may have reported to the DOE/HQ; 4) DOE/HQ likely responded as they to to other IMI-1 incidents, which is to follow the "clean up" closely and hold the info close to their chest.

For those that may think that National Security has been irreparably damaged, please take note that an IMI-1 determination is always assigned when there is known compromise of S/RD information, such as it being emailed to outside the lab. While it is certainly not good news, it is probably not the end of the world as we know it (except perhaps in Los Alamos).

The "real" damage has been to enable another round of political attacks to fire up. I would hazard a guess that Dingell and Stupak are actually pretty damn happy about this as it will allow them to garner more press and, perhaps, get their version of the NNSA funding pushed through as is. If the Senate is as pissed (or happy), they may follow suit.

A mistake (and not a trivial one) was made and apparently cleaned up, but the real culprits are any in DC who may have hidden this information to avoid criticism of the awarding of the LLNL contract, the appointment of Ostendorf or the nomination of D'Agostino. If any of the motivation for not informing key players in Congress was for these reasons, then they deserve the fallout that will come. Unfortunately, that fallout is likely to drop mainly on the Lab.

Woe is us.

Eric said...

To the poster above,
I know all this information and more.

I have been trying to change things for years, while my daughter grew up here. I have written a number of white papers for LANL and others on the changes.

I have given up on the big picture.
At the moment, all I want are a few people (not the Lab, not Congress, not LANS) who want to do something fun.

My initial list includes six projects that could go faster tomorrow. My favorite is one that would change the design of every computer on the planet so that they would go more than 100 times faster and speed up in their accurate processing with each passing day. It appears that this project will leave Los Alamos and end up in Seattle or Boston within six months.

Terry Goldman said...

The newspaper reports say there may still be SRD info out there on intermediate mail servers. If so, shouldn't the FBI be investgating Dingell and Stupak for exposing NSI?

Anonymous said...

"Smith reportedly told U.S, government investigators that he did not realize the nuclear weapons information he was passing around had been assigned a Secret Restricted Data (SRD) label—one of the highest possible classifications."

"The mid-January incident “involved the loss of control of top-secret restricted data by several officials, including board members,” U.S. Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, wrote to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Thursday."

Looks like were getting some "classification inflation" as the story gets retold.

Anonymous said...

Again Sen. Domenici..how could you not have known about this? OK what did you know and when did you know it? Sounds like your stinking carrer is in the shitter just like Mikey and his bunch..

Anonymous said...

1:42, it's unclear that is was reported by LANL. I found the following at

"The e-mail case, the latest to come to light, was reported to NNSA by a University of California official on Jan. 19, according to the congressmen."

Anonymous said...

11:43AM asks if we've ever seen such dysfunctioal management as we have at LANL. Are you serious? Do recall the fiasco last year involving UC President Bob Dynes? Do you recall the millions being wasted in corrupt compensation packages and other high level payoffs and how the UC board of regents failed the taxpayer by grandstanding for months, feigning outrage and then voting to keep Dynes on? Remember how Gerald Parsky, then UC regent chair and now LANS boarch chair, fucked the entire UC workforce by spearheading a takeover of the UC pension plan? And you wonder why things are so screwed up at Los Alamos? How soon we forget. Or are we just in such a state of denial that we can't see reality if it kicked us in the teeth? And believe me, it has...more than once!

Anonymous said...

Terry Goldman's proposed solution is classic Los Alamos. He suggests we shoot the messenger, in this case Dingel and Stupak. That's about as brilliant as crap fermenting in a closed septic tank. But it's precisely this type of thinking that's. gotten us in the mess we're in at present. Will we never learn?

Anonymous said...

Livermore was called in because these dufuses are in California, right next door to them. Could someone please point out to Dingell that this is not a Los Alamos issue? Terry Goldman has it right on - disclosing location of SRD is a criminal violation of security.

Anonymous said...

so the LANS big cheeses have been LYING since January... but hey we have a PICNIC to celebrate one year of their moronic management decision, constant reorganization to no effect, and total FAILURE.... they are the perfect mirror of the bush administration.... I think all the LANS managers who came a-running for the big paychecks should pack their bags and leave town.... what a bunch of assholes and cunts

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the anti-manager poster 7:56 PM is pretty clearly the chemist TSM who caused the aqua regia incident several years ago.

This TSM was on a real "gravy train," supported by powerful patrons, and was placed on several LDRD committees.

The world turns. Her patrons are out of power and others are in power.

She is a notorious whiner.

Anonymous said...

and poster 8:24 is a moron

Anonymous said...

And as our dear Senator Domenici is so fond of saying--Character Counts!

Yea, why not tell former US Attorney General David Iglesias this. While you're at it, feed this garbage to Mickey and his hit man Rich. Marquez as well. Nothing is believable any more.

Anonymous said...

7:56 I've heard that there are great, legal prescription drugs that will aid in improving your view of the world. The lack of upbringing that supports your poor use of the English language unfortunately will remain unaffected by the drugs.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is believable anymore? Just because of this incident?

I think all of you little children need to take a deep breath for a moment and think. Yes, think. Hopefully you know how to do that. Do you know about all security events that happen at the laboratory? Or any laboratory for that matter? No, of course not. You know about the ones that become very public. Like this one. Like the Quintana one. And a few other relatively high-profile cases. These things are not generally discussed for obvious security reasons, not because there is a vast cover up. This particular issue is an old one -- almost 6 months old now -- and is now out in the media for political reasons that are well beyond your little tiny world in Los Alamos. You all piling on this are just fanning the flames that are burning down your house.

Get a friggin grip and grow up already....

Anonymous said...

re: 11:07


Pinky and The Brain said...

"This particular issue is an old one"

Interesting that you don't characterize it as the latest one. Also fascinating is the logic.

Yes we have security problems, but you don't need to know about them and you can trust us to fix them.

I don't mean to put words in your mouth, but isn't that what you are saying? Not just to blog readers but also to congress?

Anonymous said...

11:07 is still living in la-la land. Ever heard of the tip-of-the-iceberg principle? For every one indiscretion we learn about, there are a hundred others that have been covered up. With Los Alamos National Laboratory you can safely double that estimate and still be conservative (a good word in LA) in your estimate. So why don't YOU "think" for once. Stop pretending all is peachy-keen in LA-LA land because IT ISN'T!

Anonymous said...

I smell the strong presense of LANS upper management in our blogospheric midst. Some of the recent posts reek of it.

Anonymous said...

All double dippers should just leave...it's time to go. You are fried and do nothing but complain. Believe it or not, the lab will go on without you.

Anonymous said...

Re: PATB putting words in my mouth.

The fact is that there are varying levels if security issues/incidents at all nuclear labs. The rules of engagement for dealing with them are clearly spelled out. Our responsibilities are (depending on severity) to investigate and report. Not report to Congress, but to our boss. DOE. You see, we are contractors. You might not have noticed that, but we are. We are on contract and work for DOE. DOE is responsible for oversight of all of its contractors, including us. In this particular instance, the issue was (to judge from the TIME article) handled properly by LANL. DOE and NNSA are the ones that apparently did not notify their overseers properly (at least according to the overseers).

On a slightly different topic, it is fascinating to be accused of being an "upper manager" when I post things that disagree with the lunatic fringe on the blog. Not everyone that disagrees with your dumbass cover up conspiracies is an upper manager. Some of us just have sense.

PATB, if you really work at LANL and plan to stay here, do you think that your blog is helpful or harmful to the laboratory? Honestly? Do you give a shit?

Anonymous said...

6/15/07 9:31 PM Anonymous said...
and poster 8:24 is a moron.

You have no idea what it is like to work with this TSM - not safe, breaks the rules, a real trouble-maker and so chemistry got rid of her. Many tried to make sure she never came back but she did. She is an embarassment to chemistry and to LANL. Even Wallace tried to get rid of her, but this TSM was protected by her powerful patrons - the switch to LANS did not happen fast enough. Times change.

qgrrrl said...

6/16/07 1:17 PM anonymous,
My, my, my, my, my, my! What a very sad and sorry commentary -- the notion that P&tB providing a forum where malfeasance by employees and execs of LANL and its collateral organizations is harming the lab.

If LANL is a patient, P&tB is the oncologist, not the ghoul waiting to pull the plug. Chemotherapy is painful, but, ultimately the only thing that can save the patient.

Anonymous said...

6/16/07 8:25 PM, my, my, my, whatever!

Anonymous said...

6/16/07 7:40 PM - yes, the TSM is unsafe!! Both Vahid (C-DL) and Kim Thomas (C-DDL PROMOTED to head of STB) described in detail in several All-Hands meetings how the TSM intentionally hurt her postdocs. This would not be allowed if it were not true since Terry Wallace was in charge at the time - go 7:40!!

Anonymous said...

Same Kim Thomas who went off the deep and and called C Division employees "spoiled children" after a technician self-reported an inhalation of a different acid in a different lab? Same Kim Thomas who was forced to issue a written apology to C Division? Really think she is a credible source?

Pinky and The Brain said...

6/16/07 1:17 PM,
Your answer to my questions is apparently Yes. Here are my answers to yours:

1. The blog is helpful to the laboratory.

2. Yes, honestly.

3. Yes I do, but I don't take any.

Anonymous said...

6/17/07 6:38 PM, here are the answers to your questions:

Yes, yes, and yes. Kim Thomas was trying to do a good thing for C-Division and the Lab. She had full support of her supperiors, which is why she got promoted.

Anonymous said...

1. No, my answer to your question was not yes, but since you are too stupid to understand what I am saying I will give up trying to explain it to you.

2. Since you think this blog is so helpful to the laboratory, as an institution, perhaps you can articulate what you believe those benefits to be and how they outweigh the negatives, if you see any of those.

Pinky and The Brain said...

Don't you think I'm too stupid to do that?

Anonymous said...

Very likely.

Pinky and The Brain said...

Read this instead of the blog. You'll be happier.

Anonymous said...

Nice dodge to question #2. Can't say I'm surprised.

Pinky and The Brain said...

194 posts, nearly all from the press.

1932 comments, only 69 of them from me.

I'm just holding up the mirror. You don't like what you see.

Anonymous said...

Numbers of comments proves nothing. All you have done is provide a venue for a bunch of flaming morons to add fuel to a burning fire.

Your ability to provide a drudge report like service to pull in articles of some relevance to LANL is indeed useful in and of itself.

But I did not ask about utility. I asked if you really thought this was helpful to LANL as an institution. I guess I should have been more specific. When I say helpful I don't mean helpful to accelerate its demise. Can you articulate specifically how you believe this blog will help LANL get through current difficulties and emerge as a stronger institution? I thought not.

As you hold up your pretty mirror and pat yourself on the back for all of your good work, you might want to take a good look into it first.

Pinky and The Brain said...

The number of comments from me is an indication that your anger is misdirected. Very little of the content on this blog comes from me. Should this blog cause you to look in the mirror and ask yourself if LANL would be better off without you, I'd say that was useful

Anonymous said...

Gee. That hurt.

I guess you are incapable of answering my question. No surprise.

Anonymous said...

6/16/07 7:40 PM and friends. You chemists have serious issues. How small must someone's testicles be if they're using the anonymity of a blog to attack a TSM?

Anonymous said...

7:14 AM. Must be the chemicals: little testicles, teeny weenie ...