Dec 18, 2008

Former LANL Technician Sues Over Flap

Written by Bruce Daniels - ABQnewsSeeker

Man was blamed four years ago for losing classified computer disks that never existed.

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory technician John Horne blamed four years ago for the reported disappearance of two classified computer disks that were later determined never to have existed has sued the lab's operator and others over the flap, The New Mexican reported.

The complaint alleging breach of contract, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress was filed this week in state District Court seeking unspecified damages from Los Alamos National Security, a private firm that operates the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy; former LANL Director George "Pete" Nanos and former DX Division leader Kevin Jones, The New Mexican reported.

"It's demoralizing to be held up as a villain when you know you did nothing wrong," Horne said in a news release. "Nothing can repair the damage they have done."

Nanos temporarily suspended work at the lab in July 2004 after two classified disks were reported missing and a laser accident injured an intern's eye, according to The New Mexican.

Horne and Todd Kauppila, a team leader, were reprimanded for following safety and security procedures, and while Kauppila was fired, Horne was put on 10 days unpaid leave and was issued a security infraction, the paper reported.

A U.S. Department of Energy investigation eventually determined that the disks never existed, and the entire incident was due to a clerical error, The New Mexican said. Horne was later exonerated of any blame in the incident.

Kauppila also fought the charges, but died in May 2005 before any resolution of his case, the paper reported.

[The lab shutdown that followed this non-event led to the original LANL blog, LANL: The Real Story and was part of the rationale for privitization of the lab. See also the John Horne and Todd Kauppila account of the TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath and The Forgotten Two.]


Anonymous said...

Is it legal for Horne to sue LANS when UC was the operator of LANL during the time this incident occurred? Perhaps the reporter got details of the story wrong, but it would seem that Horne must sue UC and not LANS to recover money.

Also, I would love to be there when Nanos takes the stand and defends his horrid actions for this event. At some point, this man must be called to account for what he did to destroy employee's lives during this time.

Anonymous said...

One from the Vault (Orignal LANL Blog):

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Real and permanent damage

I would like to respond in part to the following statement made by Gary Stradling and also to make a few comments that I believe are important at this time. Mr. Stradling recently made these statements:


Interesting that some here count the character assassination of a living, working, diligent Laboratory employee (manager or not) to carry less weight than the defamation of a dead friend. Whether the accused be Jeep, Fred, Sue, Phil, Micheline, Tom, Pete, etc., these are people who have focused decades-long careers on serving the nation and the Lab, to the best of their abilities, and whose future careers can be destroyed by your “many venomous, mean-spirited anonymous comments.”

It is the most transparent hypocrisy to claim innocence in anonymously slandering someone ‘because they deserve it (though we do not need to prove it)’ but to decry the defamation of a friend.


Mr. Stradling makes his statements based on his own bias and without the appreciation of the real and permanent damage that has been done directly to a few and indirectly to the entire laboratory. Todd Kauppila's career was the first to be destroyed and ultimately he lost his life. That is real and tangible and cannot be compared to Mr. Stradlings claim that comments here are destroying the careers of the people he listed. In fact, several of the people that he mentioned engaged in actions that are by any measure unethical and, in my opinion, quite possibly illegal. George P. Nanos, Sue Seestrom, and Kevin Jones worked together in an attempt to vilify both me and Todd as well as to bolster the erroneous statements made by the Director on 14 July, 04. It is a fact that Nanos knew on 17 July, 04 that nothing was missing and we had not engaged in the wrongdoing he described. From that date forward every dollar wasted on the shut down and the punishment of innocent employees were federal funds spent to protect the personal interests of LANL, UC, and other government officials who refused to admit their errors. I may be a layman but the term fraud comes to mind. The dollars we supply to the government are not there for the purpose of avoiding personal embarrassment. In any case it was hardly worth the hundreds of millions that it cost.

As for careers in ruin, the destruction of my decades-long career also has predated that of any of Gary's friends. As was the case with Todd I am also not guilty of wrongdoing and the accusations made against me by the laboratory were completely false. Such are the values of the people Gary Stradling chooses to defend. His statements are opinion. I can back my statements with documentation and the testimony of witnesses willing to come forward. That is not venomous or mean-spirited, it is a fact. Just because the truth is not pleasant doesn't mean that we should ignore it.

There has been a disturbing unwillingness on the part of Congress to truly investigate this matter. Both Todd and I spoke with Dwight Cates at the House Energy and Commerce Committee. When he heard what we had to say they opted to allow only Linton Brooks and Nanos to testify. I have made Senator Bingaman aware that Nanos' testimony was not truthful but as of this writing I have not heard back from him or his staff. I have also made him aware that there is a great deal of information that has not yet been brought forward on this issue. Naturally the laboratory wants that situation to continue. I would like the opportunity to state, for the record, the transgressions committed against American citizens who were working in the service of their country. I would like to state, for the record, that Todd Kauppila was a great American who worked tirelessly for this country and that the loss of his expertise is a national tragedy. I would like to state, for the record, that the abuses that so many have suffered at the hands of these unethical officials should never again be allowed.

Many people had a part in the events of last summer but special attention should be paid to our former Director. Not only did he orchestrate the misrepresentation of events but he shut down and critically weakened a crucial national asset during a time of war for personal gain. These are acts that, in my opinion, deserve the most severe penalties available. I will post the letter that I wrote to Senator Bingaman and I hope that those of you who agree with me will make a point to contact the Senator and urge him to take a closer look at the events that have so negatively affected the nation, the Lab, and the community at large.


John N. Horne


Gary Stradling, a strong defender of Pete Nanos, still works at LANL and is the Program Manger for the Angelfire program. Horne retired from LANL and Todd, as most know, passed away shortly after Pete Nanos was removed from office. Sue Seestrom was rewarded with a top executve position under the new LANS management.

Anonymous said...

"Horne and Todd Kauppila, a team leader, were reprimanded for following safety and security procedures..."

YES - that will get you in trouble every time!!!

Anonymous said...

This is great news for people like the techs in DX and the postdoc who all got fired for acid inhalations and getting villified for reporting their superiors' abuse towards them. Who was Horne's lawyer??

Anonymous said...

I hope the truth does come out.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget that after the facts finally came out, UC worked to get Pete Nanos into a sweet position at DTRA at his full Director's salary! They even finagled a deal so that Nanos could managed to sell his Los Alamos mansion to an incoming LANL manager.

There are a lot of people working at LANL with stains on their hands from this ugly event. It will be interesting to see if UC decides to pay the lawyer fees for Nanos and others.

And what about the rest of the players who participated? People like Adm. Bob Foley (UCOP), Bob Dynes (UC), and Linton Brooks (NNSA). Perhaps they should also be added to the legal suit. Put them all up on the stand and make them testify under oath. Justice demands we finally hear the truth in this matter.

John Fleck said...

FYI, I don't know the legal niceties, but I checked the court filing and the suit does, in fact, name LANS.

Anonymous said...

I am, for the first time in a long time, thankful I work at LLNL.

Anonymous said...

John is not suing over a "flap." He is suing over reprehensible actions taken against him by LANL.

Anonymous said...

FYI, I don't know the legal niceties, but I checked the court filing and the suit does, in fact, name LANS.

Well - that's typical for lawyers; they name anyone and everybody who is even remotely connected to the suit; as well their neighbors and dogs.

In this case they even named an entity that didn't even EXIST at the time of the incident.

The potentially responsible parties are the Lab, and the then operator, UC. Since, as part of UC's old contract; the DOE / NNSA indemnified UC - because UC was acting as a non-profit - any damages would be paid by DOE / NNSA.

I think the hearing judge will remove LANS from the suit since it didn't exist at the time.

This is NOT like a company that buys another - for example when Chrysler bought American Motors / Jeep it inherited the lawsuits against Jeep due to rollovers.

But LANS didn't "buy" LANL; the DOE / NNSA just changed contractors - so LANS will be removed by the judge.

Frank Young said...

Click here to download a copy of the filing.

Anonymous said...

I have not read the filing yet, but if the harassment continued under LANS, then LANS is a legitimate target in a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that UC and NNSA want the sorrid details of this clusterf*ck to come out in a court of law. They may push to settle out of court and hope the true events never see the light of day.

If it does go to court, it may finally help Sarah, Todd's wife, gain some traction in her case against UC regarding the shabby treatment and death of her husband.

Anonymous said...

"It will be interesting to see if UC decides to pay the lawyer fees for Nanos and others."

I think the lawyer fees are paid by us, the taxpayers, via DOE. That's what makes suits against DOE contractors so ridiculous. The person suing pays his lawyer's fees and his taxes pay the defendant's fees.

I don't understand why UC was not also named as a defendant.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

The way John Horne and Todd Kauppila and his family were treated by Nanos and UC was amoral and reprehensible. Perhaps even illegal.

Good luck with your lawsuit, John.


Anonymous said...

I think everyone who got put on investigatory leave and villified by LANL (I believe there are over 20 people by now since the infamous summer of 2004) should pay attention to this lawsuit and remember Tim Butlers name. Looks like UC/DOE/LANL/LANS will be paying for a loooong time for hurting people's reputations and careers after a lifetime of service. Good luck John.

Anonymous said...

Literally thousands of people were hurt by this incident. Sure, John lost 10 days pay and he should get that back. Others lost their lives, their homes, their careers, their community, their clearances, their pensions and so forth. Who will compensate those people? The Nation lost the premier scientific institution on the planet. Ultimately, I hope the gates of hell are held wide open for those who conspired to commit these selfish and anti-American acts that truly rival the Mcarthy era. May Nanos rot in hell for his actions.

Doug said...


I wish you would quit pulling people's legs, signing your comments as me. I know there is one guy out there who is positively rabid on the subject of "Gussie is Doug", and I know it's really, really fun to get him all spun up, but will you please knock it off?

Thanks, and Merry Christmas, all!