Senators hit Energy again over disks

Republican senators told Energy Department officials yesterday that their

explanations about the disappearance of two computer hard drives containing

nuclear secrets was not good enough.

At a contentious hearing, the lawmakers repeatedly berated the department

witnesses for a three-week delay in reporting the missing material and their

failure to impose tight controls over classified information at the Los

Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"Some of their most sensitive nuclear information seems to have walked out

the door," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Select

Committee on Intelligence.

"I seriously question whether we have better security at our Wal-Marts than

at our labs," said Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)

Lawmakers were also angered because Energy Secretary Bill Richardson declined

to appear at the hearing. As the nation's chief energy official, he is responsible

for overall security at DOE's nuclear facilities.

John Browne, the director of the lab, testified at the hearing that he had

not been informed about the missing material until June 1, three weeks after

employees discovered they were not in a vault for classified material.

But T. J. Glauthier, deputy secretary at DOE, told the hearing: "Frankly,

if one of these people had discovered that his car was stolen from a garage,

they would not have waited one day."

The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the disappearance of the

material. Law enforcement officials intend to administer polygraph tests

to 28 people who had access to the computer drives and did not have to sign

in to get to the material.

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