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Super-snafu in lab security
Posted By David M. Bresnahan On 06/30/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of reports on
allegations of security breaches in the Army Research Labs at Maryland’s
Aberdeen Proving Grounds, resulting from a year-long investigation by
WorldNetDaily.com reporter David Bresnahan. While
provided an overview of the charges whistleblowers are leveling, this report focuses on one specific allegation involving access to government supercomputers by unauthorized foreign nationals.
By David M. Bresnahan
© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
A government official at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Md., is under suspicion for allegedly providing foreign nationals unsupervised use of Department of Defense supercomputers, WorldNetDaily has learned.
In addition, a yearlong investigation has turned up allegations of fraud, plagiarism, smuggling, and waste and abuse of government computer resources — going back at least to 1993. Efforts by whistleblowers, including 10 current employees of the lab, to report and correct the problems have resulted in what they describe as harassment and endless cover-up,
as reported yesterday by WorldNetDaily.
Gloria Wren, chief of the propulsion branch at the ballistics and weapons concepts division of the Army Research Lab, is under investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the Army inspector general, the FBI and members of Congress, according to documents provided to WorldNetDaily. However, Army Research Lab spokesman Dave Davison denied that any investigation is under way and laughed when asked if Wren had been accused of any wrongdoing, as WND reported yesterday.
The Army Research Laboratory’s stated mission is to “Execute fundamental and applied research to provide the Army the key technologies and the analytical support necessary to assure supremacy in future land warfare.” The research and testing that take place at the lab are highly sensitive and should be closely guarded, according to whistleblowers, who are concerned that security has been compromised.
The whistleblowing employees are not free to talk to the press because the Army has placed them under a gag order. However, their names appear in the many documents given to members of Congress, and when contacted some did verify that the documents are genuine. Their names will not be disclosed in these reports because of their stated fears of retaliation.
The Army lab is one of four “major shared resource centers” (MSRC) within the Department of Defense’s high performance computing modernization program. Responsibility for the MSRC was assigned to the high performance computing division, under the direction of Charles J. Nietubicz.
Jack Cole, who worked for Nietubicz at the Army lab, processed all applications for the use of high performance computers. Numerous copies of e-mail messages provided to WorldNetDaily indicate that Cole questioned Wren about the use of the computer numerous times.
One official at the Army lab stated in a letter of complaint distributed to various investigative bodies: “In the case of Ms. Wren, abuses of power include breaches of computer security in what appears to have been a ‘pay-off’ to a contractor.” That contractor, according to whistleblowers, is
Craft Tech, Inc.
Craft Tech has maintained a contract with the Army lab for many years, and the contact person has always been Wren, according to Sanford Dash, founder, president and chief executive officer of the Dublin, Pa., company. The company maintains a dedicated T1 communications line that provides connections to varied government supercomputer systems. Dash spoke highly of Wren and told WorldNetDaily he has not been contacted regarding the investigations.
“ARL supercomputer hours were used to perform calculations for ARL as stipulated in our task order contracts,” said Dash. “Our computer codes are extremely advanced and a single time-accurate calculation may require from 1,000 to 10,000 single processor hours. Our company does leading-edge research and development in simulating complex combustion flowfield problems and has a reputation for the highest integrity with regard to both work quality and work ethics.”
WorldNetDaily has not found any documents to suggest that Craft Tech is a target of an investigation.
“Ms. Wren used her position to request 80,000 hours of high performance computing hours for a contractor when there was no program to justify this commitment of resources,” charges one whistleblower, an Army lab official. “Ms. Wren was challenged and trying to provide a justification. She generated a set of nine users of those computing resources, including a foreign national, Anna Wildeggar-Gaissmaier, an Australian, to whom Ms. Wren gave her password to access these computing facilities,” said whistleblower.
Official documents and e-mail correspondence reveal that Wildeggar-Gaissmaier did access the computers as claimed.
According to records obtained by WorldNetDaily, Nicolas A. Tonello, a Frenchman, was also on the list of those with access to the computer. Although the chief of intelligence and security wrote a letter on May 29, 1998, informing Dash that Tonello could not work on the project, it was not until April 1999 that Wren was asked in an e-mail to verify whether Tonello was using the computer. Dash attributed the delay to a technical error.
Numerous e-mails between Wren and other Army lab executives show that she was unable to convince project leaders to incorporate her requested 80,000 hours of computer time into their projects. Finally, she allegedly gave her own personal password to Wildeggar-Gaissmaier and others to give them access to the computer, according to documents.
One of the whistleblowers who provided evidence to investigators said in a letter to investigators that Wren had solved the problem of subordinates objecting to what she was doing by creating a new program and placing herself in charge.
“This action means that in the future Ms. Wren will not have to bother with all the questions concerning the size and number of hours requested that occurred this time. This could not have happened without local ARL management’s guidance and approval,” explained the letter.
Wildeggar-Gaissmaier had worked at the Army lab the previous year as an exchange scientist, but at the time Wren listed her as one of the nine users of the computer, Wildeggar-Gaissmaier had reportedly returned to Australia.
The original application for computer time filed by Ashvin Hosangadi, a senior scientist with Craft Tech, shows that the company had applied for use of more than just one computer, and at locations other than just the Army lab. Craft Tech has been given access to computers at the following locations for the number of hours shown for each:
Dash said it is not unusual for his company to use large amounts of supercomputer time to complete calculations for government contracts with the Army lab and NASA.
Concerned about security
Scientist Kurt Fickie was fired from the Army lab after reporting that Army lab management personnel compromised U.S. military know-how and smuggled gems into the U.S.
“The smuggling charges were verified and some of Mr. Fickie’s other allegations were substantiated in the U.S. Army IG report of the investigation,” said a whistleblower in a letter to investigators.
Fickie has appealed his dismissal to the merit systems protection board. He has been ordered not to talk to the press while his case is pending.
Whistleblowers concerned about the potential loss of U.S. military secrets told WorldNetDaily that their greatest concern is that no steps have been taken to restrict the security clearance of Wren and others under investigation.
“As time has gone on, I have learned that the situation which I initially sought to correct was only the tip of an iceberg of corruption and cover-up at the laboratory,” said one of the whistleblowers in a letter to Col. Kenneth Logan, U.S. Army commander, ARL. “I sincerely believe that the situation at ARL has been adversely affecting the morale and output of the laboratory and is doing harm to the American soldier.”
In the letter, the whistleblower also states that there was no justification for Craft Tech’s use of the computers that would benefit ARL.
“I am not aware of any FY98 ARL task which would require these resources (personnel or computer time). It appears that this arrangement for computer resources is a ‘sweetheart deal’ meant as some form of ‘payback’ to the contractor,” said the memo.
One former employee of the Army lab — not a whistleblower, but rather, a friend of several of those being investigated — provided WorldNetDaily a possible explanation for what many consider lax security there: “The place is populated by Ph.D.s, so there is a very friendly, collegial culture of sharing information and access with other scientists. This environment is conducive to making it a great place to work, and attracts the best and brightest people. But unfortunately, it works against tight security. A culture of tight security would be better for the country.”
Dr. Allen Grum, a retired Army general hired by Army Research Lab Director Robert W. Whalin as an independent in-house investigator, confirmed that he began to look into the charges six months ago. He said the investigation is an informal one at this stage. He would not provide additional details.
Multiple phone and e-mail messages have been left for Wren, as well as for William Oberle, Ingo May and Albert Horst — other key officials under investigation both internally and by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for various allegations of malfeasance.
On Wednesday morning, according to an Army lab employee, Wren and Oberle used an industrial shredder in their adjoining offices, shredding a large quantity of files and documents. They reportedly put so many documents through the shredder that the machine jammed and wouldn’t work. The ARL employee who observed the incident told WorldNetDaily that Wren and Oberle had to bring in a shredder because they do not have one in their office. He also said he has never seen them shredding documents in their office before.
Read the first report –
Feds cover up security breach
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