Los Alamos may have lost hard drive

A computer hard drive containing classified information may be missing from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, but because of an inventory mistake, officials say they may never know.

George Nanos, Los Alamos interim director, told the University of California Board of Regents about the snafu Jan. 15, said Los Alamos spokesman Jim Danneskiold. As part of an ongoing effort to put an end to management and security scandals at the lab, the staff spent much of the past two years taking inventory of the lab's equipment, he said.

Last October, workers at the lab found a security bar code that was associated with an empty metal carrier that might have held a hard drive. The worker who put the bar code on the carrier admitted he had not looked inside at the time, Danneskiold said.

After further investigation, the staff determined which computer the hard drive container was associated with. "It appears that all the hard drives associated with that computer were destroyed," Danneskiold said. But because the worker didn't check, there's no way to be certain.

The computer was used only for security work, and while it might have held classified data, there was never information about weaponry stored on it, he added.

Nanos is striving to end a string of management and equipment scandals that have led to federal investigations. Within the past two weeks, leaders stripped several key employees of management duties, including the lab's audits and assessments office director, Katherine Brittin, and security officials Gene Tucker and Stan Busboom. Director John Browne resigned earlier this month and issued a statement saying that the controversy and resulting criticism of the lab's management necessitated a change in leadership.

Speaking to regents at the University of California this week, Nanos pledged to "drain the swamp" to put the lab's problems behind it, according to reports from the Associated Press and several West Coast newspapers. The university manages the laboratory under a contract on behalf of the Energy Department, and has for 60 years.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told university President Richard Atkinson that he will hold the university accountable for its management of Los Alamos, according to a statement Energy issued earlier this month. He also started an investigation into the matter, the statement said.

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