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May 22, 2004
Country's Secrets Lost -- Again?

Noel Schachtman at Wired reports that the Los Alamos National Laboratory reports that the lab has once again lost a data-storage device containing classified information, which at this facility would consist of nuclear technology -- something that al-Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, and a host of other hostile countries and organizations would love to have fall into their hands:

The latest episode came to light Thursday, after Los Alamos admitted that, since a Monday inventory check, its custodians hadn't been able to find a "classified removable electronic media," or CREM -- disks and drives inscribed with the country's secrets.

A Los Alamos press release played down the incident, calling it "a single accounting discrepancy (that) in no way constitutes a compromise of national security." Los Alamos has tens of thousands of removable hard drives, discs and memory sticks. When one can't be found, it's usually because of something innocent, like "administrative errors" or outdated machinery.

But lab critics were hearing none of it. "Can't they ever get anything right?" said Los Alamos security consultant-turned-whistleblower Glenn Walp. "They take the same old corporate line: 'It's not us, it's the system.' How refreshing it would be if someone at that place would have the backbone to admit they screwed up."

Los Alamos last came into national focus in January of last year when more storage devices went MIA. In fact, the lab has lost disk drives in four times in the past three years, later finding them in the facility in all cases, but the pattern raises concerns about security procedures and the lack of care taken by Los Alamos staff. Wired reports that the Energy Department has pressured the lab to switch storage strategies in order to go "diskless" by 2009 -- but a lot can happen in five years, and having one or more of these disks go permanently missing could result in thousands or even millions of deaths.

Perhaps Congress should step in at some point and relieve Los Alamos from its security responsibilities and have the DoD or Energy Department directly manage them instead.

UPDATE: Be sure to read Gerry's enlightening information regarding DOE security in the comments.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 22, 2004 9:44 AM

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