Sunday, August 12, 2007
Journal Staff Report
The former manager of Los Alamos National Laboratory has signaled its intent to object to a proposed $3 million fine related to a security breach last year.
University of California officials have noted that the incident- in which a contract worker took home classified documents- happened five months after its management of the lab ended.
And like the new management team, the university has also asserted that it was not required to fully implement an updated series of Department of Energy security directives- or "manuals"- due to budget constraints.
"Any weaknesses that existed in the University's security systems due to inability to immediately implement the Manuals were accurately assessed and mitigated in consultation with DOE," S. Robert Foley, UC's vice president of laboratory management, wrote in an April letter to DOE.
Attached to the letter is UC's position on its culpability in the incident. Among the university's assertions is that UC, as a branch of the state of California, has immunity against suits brought by the federal government.
The assertion prompted a sharply worded letter last week from the chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its oversight subcommittee, who called 11th Amendment argument a "frivolous legal posture."
"UC's posture is a fundamental challenge to DOE's authority to hold UC accountable for violations," wrote Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the committee chairman, and subcommittee chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich.
On Wednesday, the university wrote the committee a letter in response, stating that the 11th Amendment is a defense that it routinely uses in "appropriate cases."
"The current DOE proceedings is not such an appropriate case," UC Vice President and General Counsel Charles Robinson wrote. "We should not have suggested that it might be."