Jul 8, 2008
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.