Jul 13, 2007

US proposes $3.3M fine for Los Alamos

7/13/2007, 4:08 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Energy Department proposed $3.3 million in fines Friday against managers of the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab because of a security breakdown in which classified documents were found in a trailer-park drug raid.

The civil penalties, the bulk of them levied against the University of California, the longtime former manager of the lab, were the largest such fine the department has ever imposed.

The enforcement action stems from an incident in October 2006, when police found more than 1,000 pages of classified documents and several computer storage devices in a trailer occupied by a former worker at the lab.

The discovery was found during a police drug raid that focused on another person living in the trailer.

The department said it was proposing a $3 million civil penalty against the University of California, although the university was no longer the lab's primary manager when the incident was discovered, and $300,000 against Los Alamos National Securities LLC, the consortium that succeeded the university in June 2006.

The university was assessed the much larger fine because investigators determined the security deficiencies that led to the October 2006 incident were establish during the university tenure as prime contractor. It also said the new management team did nothing to correct the vulnerabilities.

The university and Los Alamos National Securities have 30 days to respond to the findings, but in all likelihood the penalty will stand. The contractors then could challenge the fines in court.

The investigation into the security breach found that "management deficiencies by both contractors were a central contributing factor" in the employees' unauthorized removal of the classified material from the highly restricted nuclear weapons complex at the laboratory.

The Los Alamos laboratory, one of the government's most prestigious research facilities where the first nuclear bomb was developed in the 1940s, has been plagued by security problems in recent years from lost data disks to allegations — never proven — of espionage.

Last month it was learned that a consultant to the board of the new management consortium had sent an e-mail containing highly classified, non-encrypted nuclear weapons information to several board members, who forwarded it to other board members over unsecured computer systems.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman called that incident a human error and not evidence of widespread security failure.

But the incident uncovered during the drug raid last October was another matter. It involved security breakdowns similar to ones that had occurred in the past and had been considered corrected, investigators concluded.

Investigators found that an employee of a subcontractor, Jessica Quintana, a 22-year-old archivist, had taken 1,219 pages of documents, and a dozen computer data devices from the lab to her home where the material was discovered during the police raid. The material included 1,001 pages and four of the computer data devices classified as "secret" according to the enforcement document made public Friday.

"The significance or gravity of the security breach is a central factor in proposing" such a high penalty, said the notice of violation, issued by the National Nuclear Security Administration. The agency overseas the DOE's nuclear weapons activities.

Among the security violations cited were that the University of California "failed to correct a known vulnerability" when it did not adequately oversee the archiving of classified material by Quintana and did not have the needed physical checks to keep material from being taken out of the "vault-type room" where the scanning was being done.

Los Alamos National Security, which took over after the Los Alamos management contract was opened for bids for the fist time in more than 60 years because of past security problems, did not act to correct the problems, the investigation found. The violations cited against the new group mirrored many of those cited against the University of California.

Los Alamos National Security is made up of Bechtel National Inc., BSX Technologies Inc., and the Washington Group International Inc. as well as the University of California, which had managed the lab on its own since its inception in 1943.


On the Net:

Energy Department: http://www.hss.energy.gov/enforce/

Los Alamos National Laboratory: http://www.lanl.gov


Anonymous said...

"Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman called that incident a human error and not evidence of widespread security failure."

Isn't that like pointing to a tree and saying its not evidence of a forest?

Sam Bodman said...

Well, that's different, you see. LANS and I have each other's back. Partners, as it were. It was part of the agreement that got LANS the contract in the first place.

Back during the bidding I said to the Bechtel Boys, "Listen, guys. You help me turn LANL into a pit factory, and I'll watch out for you after you get the contract."

I'm just watching out for my LANS boys. That's why $3M of the fine goes to UC, and only $300K goes to LANS.

That's also why the LANS classified email oopsie was just "human error", whereas the CREM de Meth thing was a culture of gross security malfeasance.

I hope that clears it all up for everybody.


Anonymous said...

There were three letters. One to Foley concerning the 3 million dollar hit; a second to Mike (LANS) and a 300k hit; and the third from bodman to Mike saying oh and by the way if you arent in compliance we will fine you 100k per violation per day!

And to think there is no systmeic failure or any real events. Lets talk about stretch goals and add on years while we are on the subject!

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't UC be fined the largest amount? They were the most responsible. The USB vulnerability in the secure was reported to S-11 in fall 2005. UC was managing LANL at that time, so the S-11 folks who did nothing were UC employees. DOE knows that the report was made, and they fined the appropriate entity the larges amount.

UC will not have to pay, and the clueless S-11 folks who did nothing still have jobs.

Anonymous said...

And how much of a fine is DOE going to pay for giving a Q-clearance to an admitted drug user? I say $650M sounds about right, payable in escrow to cover the amount Congress is going to punish LANL for this failure, which prima facia begins and ends with the individual that criminally stole classified materials from LANL.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of clueless S Division people....

Do you know of anyone lately who has NOT had their security paperwork lost by them? How do they lose such sensitive and personal data and where does it get lost to?

So many people piss and moan about peeing in a cup, yet the real invasion of privacy is what could be happening with our personnal information!

Anonymous said...

I'd say the LANS classified email screw up was probably worth a million or two. It probably cost at least that much to clean up after it. Makes sense that LANS should pay a fine for that one. Human error my ass.

Anonymous said...

S Div has never lost any of my stuff, maybe you just act like an ass and they throw it away when you leave to screw with you.

Anonymous said...

Oh great and wise Gussie? What will be the LANS Spin come Monday? Will they say it is all Big Bad UC's fault? The failure of the there not really being a systemic problem 'cause hey we have the DOE by the - ah-hem- (testies) you know? Or do you think we can now all go back to life in happy land. I always thought De-Neil Was in Egypt but I swear I think the global climate change moved it to DC on the Esat and our fav management on the west. How KOOL is that?
Wait- I am sorry for putting words on your blog. You can devine the truth far better than all of us humble bumblings. (Where did i leave my badge? was it at MickieD's or my favorate bar?) I guess i have my own Carry on oh wise sage!cross.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

It sounds like someone has been into the cooking sherry again. The question of how LANS will attempt to spin this fine business, however, is a good one. I'll think about that over the weekend.


Anonymous said...

Actually, what I object to is the LANL (or LANS) response regarding VTRs. "Mandatory searches in and out of the VTRs."

We at LLNL again appreciate the ground breaking security features you have implemented for the balance of the NWC....

Anonymous said...

All of this is such garbage. The "DOE" in this case is a special investigative arm (the so-called "PAAA for security"), that is being driven by Podonsky, the highest DOE official out to get LANL's ass. He is also obviously out for Bodman's ass and likely has the jazz to get it.

The story about the LANS board member email is a joke. No one would see that message as any thing but a pathetic attempt to impress a set of peers - and not very sensitive to boot.

A clueless trailer trash and an inept response by UC and LANS, followed by a blood-in-the-water response by congress, is to blame for the firedrill here. Can anyone explain how someone with a DOE Q clearance and routine access to classified information can be stopped from removing it?? Of course not! That's what granting a clearance means - TRUST!! If mistrust goes with a clearance, then a clearance means nothing - for all the hundreds of thousands of government employees with clearances that handle classified information without "oversight" every day. They granted a clearance to a confessed drug user and adolescent fool.

DOE is such a bunch of morons...

Anonymous said...

Here is how it works at LANS:

The person who was the S-Division DL when the decision was NOT MADE to remove or disable the USB ports on the classified computers is now an AD.

SO, as usual, FUCK UP, MOVE UP.

Anonymous said...

They granted a clearance to a confessed drug user and adolescent fool.

DOE is such a bunch of morons...

Maybe it's time to clamp down on everyone and have random investigations on every employee so that DOE knows from day to day what you are doing both inside the labs walls and outside. This would include video surveillance and home phone taps keep a close eye on ones everyday social activity and acquaintances. I don't have a problem with that. do you?

It is obvious to me that far to many people have Q's and that needs to be looked at. Then comes the BS of allowing a contract employee to have a Q. These are people who come and go where the money is and now that we only have a 410k why in the hell would be give a Q to anyone who is not going to stay. That is just plain stupid. They can now come in, get the Q and leave with all the information they need. We are making progress here, aren't we?

Anonymous said...

Is the 'fine' a PR attempt?

DOE fines UC $3,000,000 and LANS $300,000, then DOE awards UC and LANS more money to pay the fine or cancels the fine a few weeks later.

DOE has gotten PR, internationally, for being tougher but, once the PR spotlight has moved on, nothing actually happens.

Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

8:39: Nope.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that UC is whining about the fine for events that occurred under their watch. Yeah, you heard me right. The documents and USB drive were *found* in October. But if you look at the list of managers who were taken to the woodshed over this one, they were all in place before the transition to LANS.