New Los Alamos scandal

By WND Staff

Whistleblowers have revealed a new scandal at the nation’s premier nuclear
weapons laboratory. As first reported in Energy Daily, unidentified
whistleblowers have charged Los Alamos National Laboratory officials with
covering up “major criminal activity” at the scandal-plagued New Mexico lab.
On the basis of these allegations, the FBI has opened a full-field
investigation on two employees and are questioning senior lab officials.

The two, whose salaries are reportedly $150,000 and $74,000 respectively,
are alleged to have stolen government property worth over $50,000. Lab
officials now say that the two made a series of “unallowable purchases” in a
buying spree that began in July 2001 and continued into late October 2002.

Among the unauthorized purchases: CB radios; camping gear; handheld land and maritime GPS units; television/VCR sets; automatic gate-openers; clothing;
Oakley sunglasses; motorcycle helmets; and automotive parts. One purchase
invoice documented a one-time delivery of 135 specialty knives. Affidavits
submitted by the FBI claim that a number of these items are plainly visible
at the homes of the two employees.

The whistleblowers say that these “unallowable purchases” are only two of
more than 70 cases of “major criminal activity” at the lab. They cite other
lab employees as using government cards and purchase vouchers to buy
jewelry, golf clubs and a Ford Mustang. The employee alleged to have
purchased the Mustang has a recorded message on her voice mail saying that
she will be out of the office “for an extended period.”

The two named in the FBI’s search warrants hold the nation’s highest
security and intelligence clearances and were, until recently, employed in
the Lab’s Nonproliferation and International Security Division. That
division houses the lab’s intelligence program and other highly sensitive
national security activities. The two are alleged to have been storing their
loot in bunkers at the far southwestern boundary of the lab, where
scientists have recently been developing bio-warfare agent detectors. The
Energy Department has thus far refused to comment on the record. One senior
official, who requested anonymity, said that espionage has been ruled out.

The whistleblowers charge senior Los Alamos officials with covering up these
criminal activities. AIM has learned that the lab unit housing the two
employees named in the search warrants was transferred out of the national
security division on Oct. 1, as the scandal was unfolding. Among the
unanswered questions is how the 15-month buying spree escaped detection. But
the whistleblowers say that one of the targeted employees gave “presents” to
other lab officials, including one in the Assessments and Audits Division,
which is supposed to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and abuse. That
employee, who has also been transferred, has not returned phone calls or
e-mail messages.

Finally, the whistleblowers allege that the lab has refused to cooperate
with the FBI or the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s office, and name two senior
lab officers who ordered security personnel not to contact the Bureau. Lab
officials refused to comment on any aspect of the case, citing the FBI’s
ongoing investigation. Doug Belden, an FBI Albuquerque Field Office
spokesman, artfully told Accuracy in Media that the Bureau had “encountered no
interference that impeded the investigation in any significant way.”

This new scandal comes on the heels of the 1999 Chinese nuclear-espionage
debacle and the 2000 disappearance of computer hard drives containing
classified nuclear-weapons and intelligence data at Los Alamos. The
hard drives mysteriously “reappeared” behind a copy machine inside a
taped-off FBI crime scene. Congressional pressure, mostly from New Mexico
senator and lab patron Pete Domenici, forced the FBI to abandon its
investigation of the missing hard drives.

Government reports have repeatedly detailed lax security procedures and a
staggering lack of accountability within the Energy Department’s national

Earlier this year, yet another blue-ribbon commission found
that continuing management dysfunction within the department is imperiling
both science and security throughout the labs, despite the reforms of recent
years. The commission charged that the department has yet to implement
risk-based security management practices and that its “tools and
technologies” for security and counterintelligence are “woefully
inadequate.” It said that cyber-security remains the labs’ most significant

This latter finding comes two years after Wen Ho Lee
committed what a federal investigation labeled one of the greatest security
breaches in the nation’s history by storing over 800 megabytes of classified
nuclear-weapons secrets on an unclassified Los Alamos computer network and
tapes. The tapes have never been recovered. The commission’s report was dead
on arrival at the Energy Department.

Notra Trulock is the associate editor of Accuracy in Media‘s AIM Report. He is a former director of intelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy.