Energy officials in hot seat for missing disks
- By Judi Hasson
- Jun 13, 2000
Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory waited nearly three weeks before
telling the FBI that two computer hard drives that contained nuclear secrets
were missing from a vault, Energy officials told Congress Tuesday.
The delay was caused, in part, by the wild fires that engulfed the area
surrounding the laboratory and threatened to destroy the lab, they said.
And they suggested that the disks, the size of a deck of playing cards,
may have been misplaced, not stolen. In addition to the FBI, sources said,
the "CIA is assisting in the Los Alamos investigation and is currently undertaking
an assessment of the missing material."
But angry lawmakers said there was little accountability at the lab, where
the hard drives were stored to be used by the government's Nuclear Emergency
Search Team, a unit that responds to nuclear accidents and nuclear-related
threats from terrorists.
"The fact remains that we have two hard drives missing," said Rep. Bart
Stupak (D-Mich.) at the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee
The hearing was originally scheduled to discuss how far the Energy Department
has come in the last year in tightening security at its facilities. But
it quickly turned into a probe over what happened to the hard drives that
contained intelligence information on the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons
Retired Air Force Gen. Eugene E. Habiger, now director of the Office of
Security and Emergency Operations for the Energy Department, said the disks
were last seen in the vault on April 7. They were discovered missing a month
later when lab officials checked the vault as the fire threatened the lab
He said there was a delay in notifying authorities because the lab had been
shut down and was not reopened until May 22. And although 28 people have
access to the vault without an escort, he said there was no effort to question
them until last week. Polygraph tests will be administered next week.
Habiger, who has conducted a search at Los Alamos for the disks, expressed
doubt that espionage was involved, but said officials don't have a clue
as to what happened to the two hard drives.