[ISN] Los Alamos Halts All of Its Classified Research After Data Vanishes

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Fri Jul 16 2004 - 00:26:50 PDT


July 16, 2004

After the disappearance last week of two removable data storage
devices, officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory yesterday
announced a halt to classified research while they conduct an
inventory of sensitive data.

The halt affects the majority of work at Los Alamos, one of the
nation's two nuclear weapons research laboratories.

The loss of the storage devices was discovered July 7 during
preparations to run an experiment in the laboratory's weapons physics
division. The devices have not been found.

The security lapse comes as the contract for managing Los Alamos goes
out to bid. The University of California has run Los Alamos since it
was founded during World War II, but the secretary of energy, Spencer
Abraham, decided last year to seek competing bids after the discovery
that some employees had spent thousands of dollars of laboratory funds
on personal items. At the time, Mr. Abraham criticized the laboratory
for "systematic management failure" in its business procedures.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Abraham was similarly harsh on
the laboratory's handling of classified information.

"The investigation to date indicates widespread disregard of security
procedures by laboratory employees," Mr. Abraham said. "This is
absolutely unacceptable. While our first priority must be to locate
the missing material, the government will insist that the University
of California, which operates Los Alamos, ensures that the laboratory
take strong measures to correct the systematic flaws that allowed this
problem to occur."

Conducting the inventory will take at least several days, said Kevin
Roark, a laboratory spokesman. Employees involved in classified
research will also repeat training on laboratory procedures and
policies on handling sensitive data on floppy disks, CD-ROM's, memory
cards and other removable data storage devices.

Officials declined to say what kind of storage devices were missing or
whether the data involved nuclear weapons research.

The Department of Energy will soon release a request for proposals for
running Los Alamos after the University of California's current
contract ends in September 2005.

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