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Lawmakers Slam Los Alamos Security




Lawmakers Slam Los Alamos Security
Lawmakers Slam Los Alamos Security



http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/30/politics/main2415055.shtml 

By CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Sharyl Attkisson
WASHINGTON
Jan. 30, 2007

At a congressional hearing today, both Democrats and Republicans 
assailed Los Alamos National Laboratory managers and their Department of 
Energy supervisors for what they view as the same old security problems. 
This, despite the fact that Los Alamos, the nation's premiere nuclear 
weapons center, has been under new management for seven months.

House members of the Energy and Commerce committee, charged with 
oversight of Los Alamos, today threatened everything from yanking the 
Lab's security responsibilities to shutting it down entirely.

"There is an absolute inability and unwillingness to address the most 
routine security issues at this Laboratory," said Rep. Joe Barton, 
R-Texas. "If we have to shut down the Laboratory, then so be it. But we 
ought to be able to get security right at Los Alamos."

Management and security scandals have plagued the Lab for years. Most 
recently, as reported exclusively by CBS News, a 22-year old former Lab 
employee named Jessica Quintana walked out unchallenged with hundreds of 
pages of classified documents. Police found them by accident during a 
drug raid on the trailer home of her roommate. The FBI's criminal 
investigation of the case is ongoing.

"Why she hasn't been arrested yet is a mystery to us," an insider tells 
CBS News.

Sources also tell CBS News that Quintana had access to sensitive secrets 
including underground nuclear weapons test data and the code that keeps 
nuclear weapons locked in case they are stolen. In one of several 
interviews with the FBI, Quintana told officials that security at the 
Lab was so lax, she was never checked when entering or leaving, and it 
was easy for her to walk out with hundreds of pages in her backpack, as 
well as several portable computer storage devices.

The Laboratory and Department of Energy have repeatedly promised 
Congress big changes. The biggest one was supposed to happen when the 
federal government put the contract to manage the Lab up for bid for the 
first time in history. The University of California had held the 
contract since the Lab's beginnings in 1943. Last June, a new consortium 
of four organizations took control. But the new faces turned out to look 
a lot like the old ones, with the University of California retaining a 
large portion of the contract. That, suggested members of Congress 
today, may be the problem.

In response, the Lab's director, Michael Anastasio, took responsibility 
for the most recent security breach and tried to assure fed-up members 
of Congress that everything is under control.

"We took immediate action when we learned of the breach," Anastasio 
said, but "there will not be a silver bullet solution because there are 
none."

Los Alamos National Laboratory employs more than 9,000 people and has an 
annual budget of $2.2 billion. Taxpayers have financed tens of millions 
of dollars in security upgrades at the Lab in recent years amidst 
various scandals.

A recent Inspector General's report said that Lab security remains 
inadequate despite all the expense.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., likened the pattern of security breaches 
followed by Lab promises to tighten security to "groundhog day." Rep. 
John Dingell, D-Mich, said "it's dejavu all over again."

Copyright MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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