WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration has long ignored an Energy Department report recommending “high fences” around the
nuclear-bomb data stored on two hard drives that were lost for over a month and then found stashed behind a copier at Los Alamos
National Laboratory, WorldNetDaily has learned.
The classified material, known as Sigma 14 and 15, was deemed so sensitive that an internal group — tasked with declassifying
nuclear information as part of Vice President Al Gore’s “reinventing government” initiative — reversed itself when reviewing this
category and urged greater protections.
Suggested measures included a higher level of personnel clearance for access to the data — re-classifying them as “Top Secret” —
and “more stringent” physical security measures at Los Alamos.
Top Secret designation requires a sign-out and reporting system to ensure maximum accountability.
The recommendations, sent in early 1997 to Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary and the White House, were never implemented.
“If the re-classification had occurred, there would have been cameras and sign-in sheets (in the vault where the hard drives are
kept), and this incident might never have happened,” a Senate aide told WorldNetDaily.
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said Sunday he found it “incomprehensible” that there were no procedures for logging people in and
out of the lab vault.
“These log-in procedures, the fact that they didn’t exist, is incomprehensible,” said Richardson, a former U.S. congressman from the Los Alamos, N.M., district.
A senior Energy official told WorldNetDaily, after the story was first
posted Monday, that he’s not aware if Richardson knew about the 1997
Regardless, he said, “I’m not convinced of its (the report’s) relevance”
to the controversy over the missing hard drives.
The FBI is interviewing 26 lab employees who had access to the vault to find out who mishandled the hard drives. Missing from the
vault since May, the drives were found last week behind a copying machine in the same area in the lab’s X-division that the FBI had
already searched twice — indicating the drives left the area, if not the lab.
Even so, Richardson said he’s “pretty certain” there was no espionage. He’s due to testify Wednesday before the Senate Armed
Services Committee about the latest Los Alamos security breach.
The unclassified version of Energy’s “Report of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review Group” was published Jan. 15, 1997. The
group, led by former Sandia National Laboratories President Dr. Albert Narath, was tasked in 1995 with identifying technical data
On Dec. 7, 1993, O’Leary announced the plan for a fundamental review of classified materials — the first in 50 years — as part of
her “Openness Initiative.”
“With the end of the Cold War, a review of classification policy to reflect current world conditions is in order,” wrote Kenneth
Baker, Energy’s then-acting director of nonproliferation and national security, in a Feb. 28, 1995, memo to lab directors.
“It is important to determine which information no longer requires protection and should be made available to the public,” Energy
Undersecretary Charles Curtis said in a Feb. 13, 1995, memo to Dr. Narath.
But the fundamental review also was required under Gore’s so-called “ReGo” plan to reform government.
“The requirement for a Fundamental Classification Review is also contained in the National Performance Review – Reinventing
Government,” Baker wrote.
For the most part, Narath’s task force recommended downgrades and wholesale declassification of Energy data.
But “Recommendation No. 6” came as somewhat of a surprise. It states: “More stringent measures should be implemented for protection
of” Sigma 14 and 15, among “137 topics identified as most sensitive.”
Under the heading, “High Fences Around the Most Sensitive Information,” the Narath report said: “The main effort of the review was
focused on identifying information that no longer requires protection. However, our investigations led to the conclusion that …
strict, and perhaps higher levels of security be maintained around the most sensitive material.”
The report continued: “Restricted Data not recommended for declassification, in general, warrant protective measures at least as
stringent as those used today. Moreover, there exists a body of information within the Sigma 14 and 15 (nuclear weapons unauthorized
use and use-control design and vulnerability assessment) categories that warrants special protection, namely:
- “Access limitations requiring authorization (clearance) established using a single-scope background investigation and
discriminating need-to-know control base on validated need for access in the performance of official duties; and
- “Physical security measures more stringent than those specified for Secret Restricted Data today.”
In other words, the group wanted to erect higher security “fences” around a subset of the most sensitive nuclear bomb data,
including “use-control” systems that prevent unauthorized use of a nuclear bomb. This was the information contained in the hard
drives that were removed from one of three locked kits inside the vault. The emergency kits are designed to be used to disarm
nuclear bombs that might fall into terrorist hands.
The drives contained detailed technical data about U.S. nuclear weapons. They also stored drawings with weights, yields and
dimensions of Russian and Chinese bombs. Investigators now say they do not store Sigma-14 information on how to actually detonate a
The senior Energy official, who wished to go unnamed, says a Los Alamos
classification officer told him that neither Sigma 14 or Sigma 15 data
are contained on the mishandled hard drives. The official declined to
say which category of information is stored on the drives.
But in an interview with WorldNetDaily, Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark
confirmed that Sigma 14 and 15 data are in fact on the drives.
Of course, the report recommended higher “fences” for 135 highly
sensitive categories besides Sigma 14 and 15. And there’s no dispute
that the information on the hard drives is highly sensitive.
“Even if the disks did not have Sigma 14 and 15 information on them, and I
believe they did, they certainly contained some Sigma 1 and 2 (warhead
legacy codes), which were also identified for upgrade,” a former senior
Energy security official told WorldNetDaily.
The report also recommended reclassifying “this sensitive information to Top Secret, so that existing procedures can be used to
achieve enhanced protection.”
Restricted Data is an Energy classification. Top Secret is a Defense Department classification applied to information, the
unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
At the same time, the report said reclassifying the data as Top Secret would not be easy.
“While such processes are in place for Top Secret (classification), implementation of the associated procedures would be burdensome,
particularly for computer operations,” the report advised.
Narath, who is retired, is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.