Jul 8, 2008

Clearance Questioned at Labs

By John Fleck
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

A Los Alamos National Laboratory worker was able to enter a top-secret area of the lab a day after losing her security clearance, according to an internal Energy Department investigation.

The Nov. 9, 2006, incident happened because the lab's security team failed to update the computer database that keeps track of who has the proper security clearance to enter the lab's most secret areas, according to a report Monday from the Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General.

The worker lost her clearance on Nov. 8, 2006, because she was leaving her job at the lab, according to Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark. She entered the security area a day later to get a signature she needed on paperwork associated with her departure.

Her name was not removed until five days later from the database that controls who gets access to the building, according to the inspector general's report.

The incident was the most serious of what the Inspector General's Office said were “numerous errors” in the databases used to keep track of high security clearances at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs.

At Los Alamos, the investigators found 13 people who still could have had access to top-security buildings despite having their security clearances terminated up to 10½ months previously.

There was no evidence that the mistakes led to the compromise of any classified information, according to the report.

The problems involved workers with access to “Sensitive Compartmented Information.” The category covers work the labs do for the U.S. intelligence community, such as analysis of the nuclear capabilities of foreign countries.

Roark said the problem happened because two security clearance databases did not communicate well, and the lab is working to fix it. “This is something we recognized early on, before the IG's report,” he said.

Sandia and the Department of Energy, which oversees the security program, released terse statements saying problems in the program were being fixed.

“Sandia carefully manages controls over SCI Access, and any perceived process or procedural issues identified during the review have been corrected,” said Sandia's statement on the issue.

The Department of Energy statement noted that the agency is already making procedural changes to deal with the issue.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why does it not surprise us that LANS's position is that the problem was recognized by LANS before the IG report and yet "they are still working on it". Just how long does it take to fix something as significant as security? If something as important as our national security cannot be fixed by A NATIONAL LAB and the two computers can't talk to one another, then why would any potential client take their work (WFO)to LANS? What a shameful reflection of our once great institution, that as an institution, no one can cancel someone's access to sensitive information because 2 computers don't talk to each other. And yet we boast about having the world's faster comptuter capability. An oxymoron - the world's fastest computer BUT.....

Anonymous said...

Our computers can make 10x more mistakes in the same amount of time! Garbage in, garbage out.

Anonymous said...

right after the transition a long-time worker who was part-time was terminated by IRM-CAS. His clearance and access info disappeared the next day. He couldn't even get back into his building to clear out his stuff without an escort. There is no "5 day" grace period, so Roark doesn't know what he's talking about.

Anonymous said...

Anothe rindication that LANS is just not up to the job, (regarding security) this seems to be an on-going problem at LANL. This could come back to bite the pants off of us.

Frank Young said...

Anonymous said...

This black belt was based on getting workers with clearances to check out properly and not just walk out the door with their badge. This blog did a hype by posting a misleading title. I guess they think their CNN. Come on "Rest of the Story" we don't need any additional anxiety right now.
10/27/07 6:38 AM


Does anyone know if the above comment from A Black Belt in What!?! is related to this security issue? Was Tonya Grace's Lean Six Sigma project implemented? Did it fail?

Anonymous said...

"Tonya Grace's Lean Six Sigma project implemented? Did it fail?"

Yes, it was defeated in a death match by an emaciated 8 Sigma Ninja.


Do these people have any idea what Sigma actually means in terms of probability?

Frank Young said...

Less than 13 is my guesstimate.

Anonymous said...

I'm really bothered if someone loses their clearance and can still access a secure areas.

Items like the one reported by the IG, where an individual voluntarily turns in their clearance as part of a termination process, really point out the need for a grace period of a couple days to complete all the checkout procedures.

p.s. Small wonder that our Badge Office is part of the problem. However, I can't help but wonder if we are set up for failure since SCI badging is directly under DOE-IN while regular badging is another department.

Anonymous said...

"...where an individual voluntarily turns in their clearance as part of a termination process,..."

What "voluntarily" are you referring to? Article says:

"The worker lost her clearance on Nov. 8, 2006, because she was leaving her job at the lab, according to Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark."

Anonymous said...

The LANL building access control system is the same system that LLNL uses and actually installed at LANL. I was a sysadmin on the LLNL system for over 5 years and removing someone from the database is a simple process performed by authorized personnel. The badge office is one of many locations where this can occur. Problem is that if the authorized personnel are not informed through proper channels that a person has lost their clearance or has left the Lab then the person in question is not removed from the system. Sounds to me that there is a communications problem here ...

Anonymous said...

9:32, sorry - not enough caffeine I guess.

Voluntary departure from the Lab equates in my mind to voluntary surrendering of associated clearances. Although Kevin Roark uses the word "terminated," the reality is that you could move to another DOE site and have your clearances to continue, essentially seamlessly.

As opposed to having your clearance terminated for cause, e.g. derogatory information or criminal activities.

In fact I do wonder if Kevin is using the right terminology. I would not expect, for example, a person whose clearance was administratively terminated at the time of their retirement to have to wear a "not escortable" gray badge if they came back as an affiliate.

Would you?

Anonymous said...

Anothe rindication that LANS is just not up to the job, (regarding security) this seems to be an on-going problem at LANL. This could come back to bite the pants off of us.

7/8/08 4:34 PM


Was it ever in doubt that the mission was to milk the taxpayers in order to get rich? I think the definition of treason should be re-examined.

Anonymous said...

Although Kevin Roark uses the word "terminated," the reality is that you could move to another DOE site and have your clearances to continue, essentially seamlessly.

Yes, if management was competence based. It is not, so what should happen, does not.

When I left LANL the only reason things went ok was because I proactively called and called people to find out what I needed to do. Even the clearance office couldn't tell me.

LANL / LANS is a perfect example of waste fraud, and ABUSE!