Yet Another Polygraph Dragnet at Los Alamos?

An Associated Press report published by ABCNews.com under the title, “UC Halts Los Alamos’ Classified Work” mentions the possibility of a polygraph hunt for potential security violators as Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) attempts to locate two data storage devices containing classified information. Excerpt:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. July 16, 2004 — All classified work at Los Alamos National Laboratory has come to a halt while officials conduct a wall-to-wall inventory of sensitive data.

The unprecedented stand-down began at noon Thursday, and the inventory of CDs, floppy disks and other data storage devices is expected to be completed within days, lab spokesman Kevin Roark said.

The stand-down comes after the lab reported last week that two items containing classified information turned up missing. The items were identified only as removable data storage devices.

It is the latest in a series of embarrassments that have prompted federal officials to put the Los Alamos management contract held by the University of California up for bid for the first time in the 61-year history of the lab.

The Energy Department has announced that Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow and Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, will personally oversee the probe into the latest security lapse.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he told McSlarrow earlier this week to use “all available mechanisms” to find the missing items, including polygraphs.

And in an article titled, “Lost nuke disks sting lab,” Oakland Tribune staff writer Ian Hoffman reports that House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton is demanding that some 200 LANL employees be polygraphed. Excerpt:

SAN FRANCISCO — For the third time in five years, Los Alamos National Laboratory is shutting down all classified work and hunkering down for investigations and political lashings over the loss of two disks of nuclear-weapons related secrets.

Berated Thursday by University of California regents for the latest security failing, even senior university executives were in no mood to defend the birthplace of the bomb.

“I don’t like the culture at Los Alamos,” said UC Vice President for Lab Management Robert Foley. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t like the culture.”

As if replaying the lab’s painful sagas of 1999 and 2002, two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. — arrive at Los Alamos on Monday to investigate, accompanied by Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow and National Nuclear Security Administration chief Linton Brooks.

Barton on Tuesday demanded lie-detector tests for 200 lab employees and stiffer security measures on classified material safes.

It will be recalled that the Department of Energy conducted a polygraph dragnet of Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) members at LANL’s X Division back in the spring of 2000 in an attempt to determine who was responsible for the disappearance of two classified hard drives (which were later discovered behind a copier in a room that had been searched by the FBI). The polygraph failed to solve the mystery.

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