Media missing at Los Alamos

An effort to reduce Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) at Los Alamos National Laboratory has yielded what federal officials call an accounting discrepancy and a watchdog group characterizes as a national security breach.

Workers discovered the discrepancy in their account May 17 during a reinventory of classified media, according to officials. But laboratory and Project on Government Oversight (POGO) officials present different versions of the circumstances surrounding the missing media.

Los Alamos officials described it as a bookkeeping error rather than an actual loss of material, and said most of the errors relate to administrative mistakes and past use of low-density magnetic and desktop systems. The accounting hole does not constitute a threat to national security, officials said.

But POGO officials called the event a major security breach. "The lab can try to spin it however they want," said Danielle Brian, the group's executive director. "Classified data is missing once again from Los Alamos."

The item in question was supposed to be destroyed in March, laboratory spokesman Kevin Roark said. "It's undocumented, but we believe it was" destroyed, he said.

Energy Department officials want to convert information to diskless computers within five years, to prevent someone from transporting classified data in electronic form outside the site. Brian said the initiative should start immediately at Los Alamos.

A recently completed CREM-reduction effort cut the laboratory's amount of recordable items by 50,000 pieces, or 60 percent from December levels, officials said. The initiative is in accordance with a University of California corporate policy on accountable classified removable electronic media.

Rep. Tom Udall, (D-N.M.), whose district is home to the laboratory, said in a statement that lab officials assured him that the information does not contain nuclear weapons data. "The laboratory is already taking steps to create a 'medialess environment' by moving sensitive information to classified servers," he said.

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