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 firstname.lastname@example.org