We've all heard the saying, "Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity." That could apply to this story, especially to the part down at the bottom which mentions how DOE "inadvertently" left the teeth out of the LANS LANL contract. However, I think this saying does a better job of characterizing the situation: "Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Dispute Continues at LANL
By Raam Wong
Journal Staff Writer
The blame game over how a Los Alamos National Laboratory contract worker
was able to take home classified documents last October is continuing nearly
a year later.
The Department of Energy in July issued a notice of violation in which
it proposed to fine the University of California, the lab's former manager,
$3 million for the incident.
The university is fighting the fine, which would be the largest in DOE
history, by pointing the finger at the agency itself.
Among the university's arguments is that the DOE's National Nuclear
Security Administration gave the worker, Jessica Quintana, a security
clearance even after she admitted using drugs.
Hundreds of classified documents concerning the design of nuclear
weapons and the methodologies for testing nuclear weapons of the United
States and its allies were discovered in Quintana's Los Alamos mobile home
during a drug raid targeting her roommate.
"In essence, NNSA's decisions (to grant the security clearance) left the
University of California vulnerable and exposed," UC wrote in its Aug. 8
response, provided to the Journal on Friday by the Project on Government
"The University takes great exception to any implication that it does
not or did not take seriously its security responsibilities in this matter,"
states an accompanying letter written by S. Robert Foley, UC's vice
president of laboratory management.
Foley's letter also states that a penalty is not justified because the
university did not violate "applicable" Energy Department directives.
He goes on to assert that DOE is proposing to fine the university for
violating UC's own self-imposed security requirements.
"Contractors should be encouraged to impose upon themselves, without
penalty, more stringent requirements to the benefit of the Government,"
Among UC's other assertions is that the incident occurred after its
management contract expired, that it was committed by a non-UC employee and
that federal officials were fully aware of the university's security program
at Los Alamos.
Foley's letter concludes that the Energy Department's notice of
violation "has inappropriately harmed the university's reputation and is
inconsistent with DOE's recognition of the university's contributions over a
sustained period of time."
The university first signaled its intent to object to a fine in an April
letter to the Energy Department. Among the university's assertions was 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 from lawmakers on Capitol
Hill, who called it a "frivolous legal posture," and the university quickly
Even though the Quintana incident took place several months after the
university handed over management of the lab, NNSA said UC bore significant
responsibility for the evolution of "longstanding deficiencies" at Los
Meanwhile, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the lab's new manager, has
said it will pay a $300,000 fine that the Energy Department has proposed for
its role in the incident.
UC remains involved in Los Alamos operations as part of LANS, a private
consortium that also includes Bechtel and other corporations.
Last month, the Journal reported that LANS may have avoided a much
larger fine— as high as $88 million— because the Energy Department's
management contract with the company inadvertently omitted some of the
agency's own security directives.