April 1, 2007

More Counterintelligence Computers Missing

An internal audit has discovered that twenty computers have disappeared from a critical counterintelligence agency tasked with protecting America's nuclear secrets. Fourteen of the computers contained classified material, marking yet another in a string of embarrassments for the Department of Energy:

The office in charge of protecting American technical secrets about nuclear weapons from foreign spies is missing 20 desktop computers, at least 14 of which have been used for classified information, the Energy Department inspector general reported on Friday.

This is the 13th time in a little over four years that an audit has found that the department, whose national laboratories and factories do most of the work in designing and building nuclear warheads, has lost control over computers used in working on the bombs.

Aside from the computers it cannot find, the department is also using computers not listed in its inventory, and one computer listed as destroyed was in fact being used, the audit said.

“Problems with the control and accountability of desktop and laptop computers have plagued the department for a number of years,” the report said.

The White House fired Linton Brooks in January for the security problems noted in this report. Earlier audits had revealed over 140 computers which investigators could not find. The National Nuclear Security Agency got its start because of the DoE security breaches of the 1990s, including the Wen Ho Lee scandal, but it appears just as plagued by incompetence as the DoE was back then.

Only two months have passed since the departure of Brooks, and these problems will not be solved overnight. However, one would hope that the NNSA could conduct an accurate inventory of its computers, especially considering the kind of material stored on them. Most likely, the discrepancies come from paperwork errors, but that gives little confidence in the ability of the NNSA to secure the nation's secrets.

The new management at NNSA should improve this immediately. The new Congress will not be shy about hauling managers into committee hearings, if the protection of our nuclear secrets does not provide enough incentive itself during a war on terror.


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Comments (5)

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 10:35 AM

It depends.

Unlike what always happens in shows like "24," most hard disk encryption schemes actually can't be broken. Not without some ultra-supercomputer working fulltime for several years on that document alone. If the information was properly encrypted on the harddisks, it really is like trying to rebuild a tree, from a pile of sawdust.

Posted by Duke of DeLand [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 10:47 AM

I know this is an old saw, Ed, but I continue to be amazed that in government circles things are either tolerated, accepted or ignored completely that in private industry would result in terminations so fast as to spin heads.

If private patient data at my former employer was exposed through loss of a computer, or similar things, the person responsible would be down the road.

Why are not computers at these agencies assigned to specific people? If my computer is missing, it is my problem.

Perhaps we are too "union oriented" in thinking about government employees? Always protected, and never responsible. Mediocrity enforced! And the tab goes to the taxpayer....as always.

The solution.....hire more people!!! After all, it is big government.


Posted by Woody [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 10:50 AM

And they won't trust US with simple machine guns?

RBMN, all the encription in the world isn't going to help if whomever has spirited these computers away has knowledge of the codes... You know, like a spy, or some imbedded terrorist.....


Posted by David [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 5:48 PM

Having worked with first the AEC and lately the Dept. of Energy, this is not a surprise. Whenever we had a security breach at Los Alamos you could bet it was in the AEC building.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 6:59 PM

We took security more seriously in my National Guard outfit than the DoE seems to.