Associated PressALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - All classified work at Los Alamos National Laboratory has come to a halt while officials conduct a wall-to-wall inventory of sensitive data. The unprecedented stand-down began at noon Thursday, and the inventory of CDs, floppy disks and other data storage devices is expected to be completed within days, lab spokesman Kevin Roark said. The stand-down comes after the lab reported last week that two items containing classified information turned up missing. The items were identified only as removable data storage devices. It is the latest in a series of embarrassments that have prompted federal officials to put the Los Alamos management contract held by the University of California up for bid for the first time in the 61-year history of the lab. The Energy Department has announced that Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow and Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, will personally oversee the probe into the latest security lapse. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he told McSlarrow earlier this week to use "all available mechanisms" to find the missing items, including polygraphs. Despite efforts to reduce the lab's inventory of removable data storage devices and revamp custodial policies for the material, officials said some employees are simply not following the rules. "This is the third incident in about eight months. Part of me wants to say, 'Get rid of the damn labs,'" said Ward Connerly, university regent, in San Francisco. However, he said he doesn't believe another institution could do the job as well. Lab and university officials reiterated pledges to protect national security and said a culture change is needed at the lab. "This behavior and these breaches of national security won't be tolerated," regents chairman Gerald Parsky said. The university hasn't decided whether to compete for the management contract when it expires next year, although regents have told staff to prepare as though they will. Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' project on government secrecy, applauded the stand-down. "It's been a long time coming, but now it's here. It's what they have to do to confront this recurring problem," Aftergood said. The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group that had called for a stand-down, said the university should terminate its contract to manage Los Alamos given recent security problems. In May, similarly classified material slated for destruction was reported missing. Lab officials later said they believe it was, indeed, destroyed but the paperwork was faulty. Los Alamos has been under intense scrutiny since November 2002, when allegations surfaced about purchasing fraud, equipment theft and mismanagement. The ensuing scandal prompted an overhaul of lab business policies and a culling of top managers. Separately, Sandia National Laboratories reported Thursday it is missing a computer floppy disk marked classified. Officials said they do not believe it contains any weapons information or any other information that could harm national security. Chris Miller, spokesman for the Albuquerque lab, said the disk was not used often. Sandia's Security Incident Management Program was notified June 30 it was gone. The Albuquerque lab said the disk came from a military organization but it did not identify the item further. Federal agencies were notified and Sandia officials said they were working with them to investigate.
July 15, 2004
UC Halts Los Alamos' Classified WorkBy LESLIE HOFFMAN, Associated Press Writer
Copyright 2004 Associated Press