DOE ignored year-old security report

The latest security lapse at the Los Alamos National Laboratory underscores

how little the Energy Department has done to follow security steps outlined

in a report compiled by a presidential commission, the panel's chairman

says.

The problems surrounding the disappearance — and subsequent recovery — of two computer hard drives containing nuclear secrets were no surprise

to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which issued a report

in June 1999 concluding that there were massive holes in the Los Alamos

security system. The report recommended, among other things, that DOE improve

cybersecurity measures and controls on high-performance computers. But nothing

happened.

"Never mind hiring four-star generals and putting a bunch of fig leaves

up. Put up a security system that you'd find in a remote U.S. Army post

in Timbuktu," said former Sen. Warren Rudman, who chairs the president's

panel. In a recent interview, Rudman said that there had been too much infighting

in DOE and "too little attention paid to the report."

The report was writ-ten in the wake of the security breach in which

former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was charged with improperly copying

secret nuclear information from a secure computer.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 21, DOE Secretary

Bill Richardson said there has been no evidence of espionage in the case

of the missing hard drives. He also announced tough new security measures:

Classified information on computer drives would be encrypted from now on

(information on the missing drives was not). And vaults where nuclear secrets

are stored would be manned or monitored by an alarm system at all times.

But his critics said it was too little too late. "There has been a pattern

of contempt for national security," said Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.). "Somebody

must pay for it."

DOE chief information officer John Gilligan is recruiting a senior officer

within the CIO office who would focus on cybersecurity with a team of experts

that DOE put in place last year.

Congress is considering more radical moves, including severing the relationship

between the lab and the University of California.

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