Jan 10, 2009

Former LANL Worker Sues

By Raam Wong, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear weapons researcher has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired because of his Iranian descent.

Behzad Salimi, who worked at the lab for more than 20 years, is seeking damages and reinstatement to his job.

"It's been devastating," Salimi's attorney, Todd Wertheim, said Friday of his client's feelings about the dismissal. "This is a person who dedicated his entire adult life to the security of the United States."

The suit names as the defendant Los Alamos National Security, the for-profit contractor that runs the nuclear weapons lab.

"We believe the actions management took in this matter were fully justified," LANS spokesman Kevin Roark said in a statement. "It would be inappropriate to comment further as the lawsuit addresses a personnel action and the matter is pending in court."

Salimi worked with classified and sensitive material throughout much of his career at the lab, including as a nuclear weapons designer and foreign nuclear weapons analyst, according to the suit.

The lawsuit states that in April 2006, Salimi was transferred from the N division, where he worked as an intelligence officer, to the X division, which does weapons design work.

During the move to the new office, Salimi found himself in a "maelstrom of hyperbolic accusations against him that he had violated security rules," leading to his firing in March 2007, according to the complaint.

"LANS terminated Dr. Salimi despite his qualifications and his rare knowledge and experience for his position," the suit states.

The complaint does not detail the lab's given reason for Salimi's dismissal. But as evidence for the alleged discrimination, the suit states two other non-Iranian employees mishandled classified material but were not fired by LANS.

"The circumstances surrounding Dr. Salimi's termination give rise to an inference of discrimination based in national origin and ancestry," the complaint filed last month in federal court states.

Salimi also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August 2007 charging national origin and gender discrimination. The gender discrimination allegation is not part of the lawsuit.

Wertheim said his client was born in Iran before immigrating to the United States with his parents as a boy. He earned a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois.

The suit alleges Salimi has suffered embarrassment, as well as damage to his professional reputation and ability to earn a living as a weapons physicist or national security adviser.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

This lawsuit is going to be the first of many against LANS because of the way they are discriminating against FNs when ALL the security infractions have actually come from Q-cleared US citizens and even those precious elite senior managers - isn't that right Mitchel and Neu and Seestrom?

Frank Young said...

I've heard about Mitchel and Seestrom, but what did Neu do?

Anonymous said...

Presumably all such infractions come from Q-cleared US citizens, since you shouldn't have access to classified materials without a clearance and you can't get a clearance without being a US citizen (or a UK citizen, for certain accesses).

Does 9:28 mean "FN" to stand for naturalized US citizens? Or is 9:28 arguing that a foreign citizen should be employed by a nuclear weapons lab? If so, why?

(Yes, there are unclassified LDRD and wfo projects that a foreign national could work on, but the justification for such programs is usually that these programs help recruit people for the weapons side of the house, which presumably would rule out the use of foreign nationals.)

Anonymous said...

1/10/09 9:28 AM--Salimi is an American citizen, not a foreign national.

Anonymous said...

"1/10/09 9:28 AM--Salimi is an American citizen, not a foreign national."

Within the security groups at LANL, there is a strong belief that being a naturalized US citizen is not the same as being a citizen by birth, especially for those who are born in the Mideast.

Bottom line - this guy will always be a foreign national no matter what his current citizenship is.

Anonymous said...

Firing a well respected Iranian born employee (and an American citizen) with long-term Phd level expertise in nuclear weapon design because of a simple security infraction sounds like an extremely dumb idea.

This guy is now on the street, angry at LANL, and has weapons code data in his head!

LANS has created an even greater security problem by performing this action. The stupidity of LANS management continues to amaze me!

Anonymous said...

Were counter-intelligence officers given the opportunity to properly vet this firing decision? Sounds like a poor decision given the security issues it might create.

Then, again, it's clear that neither LANS LLC nor NNSA care very much about the loss of nuclear weapons expertise at their weapon labs. The dirty little secret that NNSA likes to hide is that their nuclear weapon labs are hemorrhaging with the loss of many intelligent, long-term, Q-cleared employees. Additional staff with weapons code data dancing in their heads will probably be facing bankruptcy and walking the angry streets after the next round of lab layoffs.

Both the LLC privatization experiment and NNSA experiment have been run. They have both been utter failures, as even Domenici now admits (see his interview in the latest "Innovations" magazine).

It's time to stop these experiments gone awry and start over!

Anonymous said...

Never heard of the guy.

Anonymous said...

If this guy did in fact get fired for what they say he did, then for sure he is not going to work again. LLNL and Sandia will not touch him. He has too many years in the weapons business to be considered useful in related areas.

Anonymous said...

I've heard about Mitchel and Seestrom, but what did Neu do?

Ask her husband-

Anonymous said...

"The dirty little secret that NNSA likes to hide is that their nuclear weapon labs are hemorrhaging with the loss of many intelligent, long-term, Q-cleared employees.“

If you know of anyone committing espionage you should report it immediately to the responsible authorities-it’s your duty as an American.

“Additional staff with weapons code data dancing in their heads will probably be facing bankruptcy and walking the angry streets after the next round of lab layoffs.”

This is a lousy excuse for betraying America - or perhaps you’re just espousing a load of BS.

Anonymous said...

Yes being unemployed is a lousy excuse for selling secrets, but hungry people do desperate things. That's why the DOE funded the Russian Nuclear Cities Initiative - the program created jobs in Russia so unemployed Russian weapons scientists could find gainful employment and thus be less likely to sell weapon knowledge to the Iranians.

Like it or not, firing a weapon scientist creates a security risk.

The hearings will show one way or the other, but this is likely another poorly thought-out decision by LANS management. Any bets on how much LANS settles for?

Anonymous said...

So what is your solution 3:50? Should the US poison them rather than firing them?

Frank Young said...

"violated security rules" and "mishandled" can mean a lot of things. Would someone please comment who knows at least generally what Salimi was alleged to have done.

Anonymous said...

"Violated security rules" and "mishandled" are generic reasons if you want to fire someone. Even if it gets cleared up in favor of Salimi, he has been smeared and will never recover. Even if LANL backs off, his career is over.

Remember, he's suing, and we are paying for LANL's lawyers.

Anonymous said...

"Like it or not, firing a weapon scientist creates a security risk."

Firing anyone creates a security risk-even a postal worker.

Anonymous said...

1/10/09 5:22 PM

Waterboard the little worm

Anonymous said...

I am literally floored to hear that Bezhad was fired from LANL. I have always found Bezhad to be highly (understatement) knowledgeable and cooperative. It is interesting to note that Brett Knapp and McMillian are getting the go-ahead from Anastasio to force women and minortites out of the LANL weapon program. Brett has forced out several key Hispanics and women out of the Weapon program during his tenure. So you ask who: Sharif Heger (who is of Iranian decent), Jessica Fernandez, Kay Matsumoto, Zana Konecni, Mike Garcia, Vince Trujillo, Art Romero, and Rick Romero. This whole object of forcing people out of their jobs in the Weapon program at LANL will eventually come-to-light and mean the destruction of the Lawrence boys. These guys have come to Los Alamos to set the record straight for Ed Teller. I hope the ghost of Oppenheimer comes to haunt these boys at night.

Anonymous said...

Todd Kauppila and John Horne were also accused of heinous security infractions by LANL. Turns out, they did nothing wrong. It was a simple labeling error not of their making.

Todd is dead and John left the lab in disgust.

LANL management has a long history of making unfounded accusations against loyal employees and then dumping them into the trash. They shoot first and ask the relevant questions much later. The hit-men at LANL who carry out these orders are invariably well rewarded.

Anonymous said...

1/10/09 10:21 AM

You just missed the whole point. And there are many like you at LANL.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure people like Dr. Bezhad Salimi with doctoral level expertise on foreign nuclear weapons are a dime a dozen in America. Heck, you can probably go into any city in this country and hire Top Secret cleared nuclear weapon scientists like this right off the street.

Anonymous said...

Hint to any of the scientists still left working at LANL:

You do *not* want a job at the lab that puts you into the position of needing to handle any classified documents.

Security mistakes happen fairly reqularly within the nation's national security apparatus. At most institutions, the outcomes are not too severe. However, it's become clear that LANS and NNSA have made the price of making a security error way too high at the weapon labs. Just look at some of the recent history if you need reminding.

If you decide to take on one of these positions at LANL, then be sure to stash away lots of extra cash so you can hire a good lawyer when the time comes that you, unfortunately, create a security mishap.

Of course, if you're in the upper levels of LANS management, then never mind, you're in fine shape. The boys and girls at the top of the food chain are watching your back.

Anonymous said...

9:28 am: "This lawsuit is going to be the first of many against LANS because of the way they are discriminating against FNs when ALL the security infractions have actually come from Q-cleared US citizens..."

You idiot - this WAS a "Q-cleared US citizen."

11:00 am: "Within the security groups at LANL, there is a strong belief that being a naturalized US citizen is not the same as being a citizen by birth, especially for those who are born in the Mideast."

As a member of "the security groups" I take offense at the implication that I am biased against naturalized citizens, since I am one, jerk.

11:18 am: "Firing a well respected Iranian born employee (and an American citizen) with long-term Phd level expertise in nuclear weapon design because of a simple security infraction..."

You have no idea how "simple" the security infraction was. You are just making an assumption. From my experience, the infraction would have had to be serious, and the managers involved would have had to agree on that.

6:01 pm: ""Violated security rules" and "mishandled" are generic reasons if you want to fire someone."

No, they're platitudes for the press when the actual details are classified, which they always are. Grow up.

Anonymous said...

"1/10/09 5:22 PM

Waterboard the little worm

1/10/09 8:08 PM"

We now have a Marxists in office so it will never happen. Maybe it would be better if we had a military takeover to proctect our freedom.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1/10/09 10:21 PM said...

"You do *not* want a job at the lab that puts you into the position of needing to handle any classified documents."

This statement should be on the LANL recruiting posters!

Anonymous said...

I could write that I'm a security person, and if I didn't sign my name, who would know whether I was or was not.

Over years at LANL, I have heard security people say that one of the biggest security issues at LANL are FNs from certain countries. The desire among some of these security people is to not have the FNs at LANL. The reason is that some from the same country who are naturalized and have Qs but have family living in that same country are very vulnerable to threats against their families unless they work with then FNs to provide certain information.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

5:22 PM - The solution is to suspend the suspect's security clearance, move the person to a job where he doesn't have access to classified information, and investigate the alleged event. If the event turns out to be serious, then prosecute, if the event is not serious and there is no malintent, continue to employ the person in an unclassified job. Simple. The nation does not want a guy like Behzad out on the streets.

6:09 PM - You can't be serious, are you really equating the security risk of a fired postal worker to that of a fired weapon scientist?

10:46 - If the security event turns out to be serious, we'll all know the instant Behzad gets arrested by the FBI. Otherwise, the event was more likely similar to others that involved LANS managers - managers that did not get fired.

10:03 PM - You appear to know nothing about the level of clearance needed to work in foreign weapon design intelligence. You don't even seem to know the difference between a Q and a TS. Qualified scientists with this clearance are very rare. You certainly can't hire them "right off the street".

Anonymous said...

After you have investigated, if there was no security infraction (as in Horne and Kaupilla), you apologize and reinstate the guy. You don't leave yourself open to a law suit. Except, of course, LANL has deep pockets because we pay for their lawyers while the accuser pays for his own.

Anonymous said...

11:23 AM: ...and you don't know sarcasm when it bites you in the nose!

Anonymous said...

I well remember hearing security folks at LANL saying during the Kauppila and Horne episode, "If only you knew what I know about this episode, you would not defend these people. Unfortunately, I can't tell you all the details because they're classified." Right.

Well, eventually the security veil was removed and we found out the real story. The Security office people attacking Todd and John with vicious innuendos were dead wrong.

I expect we'll probably see the same with Bezhad Salimi... those supposedly in the know saying: "If you only knew what I know..."

I no longer have much trust in either LANS LLC or the Security office. The LANL Security office is nothing more than a pack of trained attack dogs. They'll do whatever upper management tells them to do, regardless of the ethics of their actions.

Anonymous said...

"...After you have investigated, if there was no security infraction (as in Horne and Kaupilla), you apologize and reinstate the guy..."

No you don't! LANL doesn't EVER apologize nor do they ever truly reinstate ... they show you the door regardless of your innocence. Once you have been picked to take the fall for the good of the institution (thanks for that one Seestrom) you are black-listed. You will never get a good raise, funding, or a job outside of LANL and you will get abused until you kill yourself or die because of stress.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps "...After you have investigated, if there was no security infraction (as in Horne and Kaupilla), you apologize and reinstate the guy..." should have read, "If you are honest, rather than like LANL management, after you have investigated, if there was no security infraction (as in Horne and Kaupilla), you apologize and reinstate the guy..."

Anonymous said...

What happened when the LANS Board was found to be creating security infractions by passing classified Emails around in the open?

Nothing, that's what.

Anonymous said...

What happened when the LANS Board was found to be creating security infractions by passing classified Emails around in the open?

Nothing, that's what.


But at least, if one of upper management takes home a laptop computer with classified information, he resigns and remembers that he has a family... (this was sarcastic, for the humor impaired)

Anonymous said...

1/11 11:23 am: "You don't even seem to know the difference between a Q and a TS."

Um - there is no difference. A Q allows access to TS, with need-to-know, of course. Look it up.

Frank Young said...

See Section F.4 for an explanation of clearances.

Anonymous said...

If ever you needed reminding of the double standard that exists between the elites and everyone else in this country, look to what happened in the Bernie Madoff case just this morning.

Madoff tried to secretly mail $1 million in jewelry to his relatives last week. Because of this, the prosecution tried to have him removed from his home bound detention in his luxury NYC penthouse and moved to jail to await his trial, but the judge ruled this morning that Madoff was not a risk. He will be allowed to stay with home detention in his luxury penthouse with his butlers, personal masseurs, and fine congacs and expensive food.

This guy stole $50 B (which he admits to) and he is being treated by the courts with velvet gloves. No one from a lower class standing in society would ever be treated so kindly.

We clearly have two standards of justice in America, which can even be seen at LANL. This country has become utterly and irrevocable corrupt. I fear for the type of world that our kids are inheriting from us.

Anonymous said...

I expect we'll probably see the same with Bezhad Salimi... those supposedly in the know saying: "If you only knew what I know..."


I doubt it.

Never the less, I think from reading the published articles that his point is that he was treated differently than others that were found culpable of security violations. Not necessarily that he didn't do it.

He's going to have great fun in the deposition phase of discovery! A root canal could not be more fun!


I no longer have much trust in either LANS LLC or the Security office. The LANL Security office is nothing more than a pack of trained attack dogs. They'll do whatever upper management tells them to do, regardless of the ethics of their actions.


I disagree. I've personally experienced security people going way out of their way to treat people fairly in some pretty serious circumstances since LANS took over.

The attack dogs are HR Employee Relations...they will seek and destroy anyone upper level management tells them to. I don't know how these people can live with themselves.

If HR-ER calls, don't answer.

Anonymous said...

10:41 am: Frank, your source is outdated, in spite of the 2008 label. There is not currently in DOE any such thing as a Q "with TS authorization." That harks back tto the old "QS" days. Unfortunately, I can't prove it since DOE has taken the relevant directive on Personnel Security off-line. DOE is an agency that has become totally out of control as regards unnecessary secrecy. I hope the new SECDOE can reverse this.

Frank Young said...

Thanks for the info. I received a free printed edition of Nuclear Matters: A Practical Guide at the Deterrence Summit last month and read it cover to cover. I found three fairly minor mistakes in it, but overall it was worth my time to read it.

And I agree, DOE is totally out of control as regards unnecessary secrecy.

That reminds me, the confirmation hearing for the new SECDOE is tomorrow. I should do a blog post on that.

Anonymous said...

From 6:40, "... The attack dogs are HR Employee Relations...they will seek and destroy anyone upper level management tells them to. I don't know how these people can live with themselves..."

This is true, but they won't call you until it is already too late, at which point you can kiss your career buh-bye. They are actually at the beck and call of those assholes at Legal...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder, 6:40 PM, about those f*ckwads running HR-ER. I'm sure Mikey pays these sniveling little jerks very well for their absolute obedience. They are LANS' official hit men. May their rotten and worthless souls burn forever in Hell.

Anonymous said...

A Q allows access up to TSRD. RD stands for Restricted Data. Nuclear weapon designs are SRD or TSRD. Access to foreign nuclear weapon designs are SRD/TSRD and likely need additional clearances.

A TS clearance doesn't allow access to RD. A TS needs to have an additional rider, CNWDI, critical nuclear weapons design information, to allow access to RD.

The difference between a Q and a TS is known by all Q-clearance holders. It's also on Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

A google of the terms "Bezhad Salimi" and "LANL" doesn't bring up very much. It's hard for me to believe this guy work at LANL for over 20 years. Anyone know further details about his career at the lab?

Anonymous said...

That's what happens to all scientists who make that dead-end career move to weapons.

You can use drugs and lie on your resume (and in two "auto-biographies"), and still become president of the U.S. You can do "pay-to-play", and become a governor, and maybe a member of the president's cabinet. But no matter what, boys and girls, don't ever do classified work!!! (More dangerous to your career than drugs, lies, and corruption.)

Anonymous said...

8:34 pm: "But no matter what, boys and girls, don't ever do classified work!!! (More dangerous to your career than drugs, lies, and corruption.)"

Depends on what you think endangers your career. If your opinion of your career depends on what other people think about it or can find out about it publicly, then ok. If you derive career satisfaction from what you know you are doing for your country, and you are paid enough to support your family, and have the respect of your close colleagues, that's enough for most. It was for me, and I'll never regret it.

Anonymous said...

I took a couple classes with Dr. Salimi, and was priveledged to speak to him many times outside of school duing my tenure at LANL. Despite his country of origin, he was always kinds, intellegent and i always got a vibe from him that he was incredibly passionate about his career and extremely patriotic. I don't think he would ever betray the USA, and it is very sad that NNSA, and this country lost such a great man.