Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Fallout From the Hearings

It's started already. Bingaman and Wilson reacting to the subcommittee's threats to shut down LANL. I wonder what was discussed in the closed-door executive meeting?



Lawmakers threaten to shut down lab over security lapses

Last Update: 01/30/2007 1:41:03 PM
By: Reed Upton

Two New Mexico lawmakers are coming to the defense of Los Alamos National Laboratory after members of a house committee made threats to shut down the lab Monday.

Fed-up lawmakers on a US House oversight committee said Tuesday they want to strip the National Nuclear Security Administration of its security responsibilities.

And they threatened to shut down Los Alamos National Laboratory to correct a decade of security lapses there.

The lawmakers blistered the lab for its most recent security breach in which a contract worker walked out with hundreds of pages of classified documents.

The material later was discovered during a drug raid at her home.

Other security breaches have involved misplaced disk drives, hacked computers and stolen security badges.

Democratic New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman said that he also is “deeply concerned about the recent loss of classified information,” but added, “to suggest we could do without the lab is irresponsible and wrongheaded.”

Congresswoman Heather Wilson says she doesn’t think the lab will be closed but added that she understands the frustration of some lawmakers after years of promises and hearings.

“I think a lot of it is rhetoric, but it does reflect people’s frustration here in Washington,” said the Albuquerque Republican.

Democratic Congressman John Dingell of Michigan says he’s sat through nearly a decade of hearings in which the Energy Department and the lab have promised to fix the problems.

Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas says that if problems cannot be solved this time, he’ll ask that the lab be shut down.

Kevin Roark, a spokesman for the lab, noted that the new management team has only been in place for six months and has begun instituting new security procedures.

“This is a new team, under a new contract, and over time it will build trust through good performance,” said Roark.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pretty wild. Heather Wilson speaking up and LA isn't even in her District. Maybe she's laying the groundwork to run for Domenici's seat.

Where's Pete anyway?
What happens next at LANL will likely hang on whether or not the ongoing FBI investigation discovers that Mitchell committed a security infraction which led LANS to allow him to break his contract and leave. If the FBI finds that the rumors about him were based in fact, there appears to be a good chance that LANS will have its contract terminated for cause.

If on the other hand, no additional infractions beyond the CREM de Meth incident are uncovered by the FBI, then LANS stands a good chance of having their award fee slashed.

After listening to the hearings, the least likely outcome now, in my opinion, is that LANS will come away with just a slap on their little wrist. There are a bunch of pissed off Senators and Congressmen who are gunning for LANL and NNSA.
On the Mitchell item: rumor mill today has it that Bechtel has a mandatory retirement age of 65 and Mitchell was just approaching mandatory retirement. Where did the rumors about Mitchell come from and what precisely are they? I really want to know; the first I heard of this item was today (1/30/07).
A coworker thinks that the real point is to deny LANS the upcoming fee/award. (This coworker also calls LANS "The Borg.)
Ravenfriend, you can read all about the Mitchell security infraction rumors in inverse chronological order here


and here


and here

Ravenfriend, that doesn't make any sense. Are you saying Bechtel can't do arithmetic, in addition to being unaware of how to run a National Lab? Mitchell signed a contract to stay at LANL for a minimum of two years.

In any event Mitchell worked for LANS, not Bechtel during the brief period he was at LANL, and LANS does not have a mandatory retirement age.
I am so angry at these hearings, I can't even begin to think straight.

For christ sake, I've observed first-hand far-worse security "lapses" at many, many, many other agencies. To sight one example from the last 2 months: I attended a brief at the Pentagon, and how did the briefer bring his classified, computer presentation? On a thumb drive. No markings, no storage or double wrap, nothing. Just handed an unmarked, small USB storage device to the operator, had him plug this into the computer, and uploaded a classified brief (at higher than the SRD level, incidently).

I have personally observed an officer reading a classified document at the Pentagon BUS STOP. In the open. Double wrap, markings, these types of controls aren't even routinely followed in the Pentagon.

Half of the so-called "security incidents" that have "plagued LANL" in the last decade weren't even real. Lost 2 disks, shutdown the lab... they never even existed. That didn't stop the last round of hearings with everyone in power trying to oneup each other in slinging insults, accusations, and dire warnings.

A spy pilfers secrets for China? Wen Ho gets off with an apology from the federal judge, but not before a whole earlier round of pinata-city for LANL.

LANL is one of the few large body of individuals were you can still smear the whole group based on the actions of a single person. Try that with one of the protected-class groups, and watch the outrage.

Let's face it. LANL/LANS is just a convienent punching bag. Talk with ANYONE that deals with CIA, Pentagon, DoD, etc. Security in those agencies is a JOKE.

Seriously, where's the Congressional hearings on loss of classified data at DoD? I'll give you a finding for that hearing: you have no idea what's been lost or compromised, because DoD has NO TRACKING system for CREM. Seriously, look into this.

I know members of Congress read this blog. I'm also certain facts such as those presented here will gather no interest, as these hearings have nothing to do with security and everything to do with political posturing.

So, Rep. Barton says "noone at LANL gives a damn about security?" Excuse me, Representative, I do give a damn. I care very much for security, which is why the real vulnerabilities I observe in other agencies are so shocking.
So, the previous post makes me feel like I'm not entirely alone. But then, when I've pointed out the rank hypocrisy behind all the 'outrage' expressed by Congresspersons for the purpose of garnering sound bites, some have commented on this blog that what goes on elsewhere has no relevance: We at LANL are under the microscope, and we should just suck it up.

I will say it again: If LANL is so-o-o-o-o-o bad, and it 'needs' to be shut completely down, then by all rights, Sandia (run by LockMart) and Livermore (UC) should also be permanently closed down. No sane persons (even in the US Congress) will do that, I predict. Even though these are nuclear weapons labs, with varying degrees of institutional dysfunctionality--all three are, by now, three times their end-of-Cold War size, and bureaucratically hidebound-- they make other incredibly valuable contributions to the nation and have great scientific potential in the coming troubled times for the human species.

-Brad Lee Holian
Denial is a cultural competency at Los Alamos. How can the whole damn world still be so wrong about us? Well maybe thery're NOT! Maybe we do need to face up the reality that we keep f***king up because we're too damn arrogant to admit we're too damn arrogant! How arrogant are we? We're arrogant enough to pretend UC's management holdouts aren't still covering up problems at the Lab. We're arrogant enough to keep saying we're not as bad as other Labs. We're arrogant enough to keep on feigning outrage at being treated so outrageously by those who are supposed to be overseeing our activities. So angry you can't see straight? Maybe you can't see straight because you've still got you head stuck up your poopshute!
In denial about what?

It's time someone pointed out the emperor has no clothes. Despite what you read, despite the news and grandstanding, there IS NOT systemic security problems at LANL or any of the other labs.

EVERY incident that's been pilloried in the media in the last decade has been caused by one of 2 factors:

1) an individual flaunting the rules; or

2) some paperwork or accounting screwup do to the ever-changing rules and regulations brought on by the last fiasco in administrative management of security issues.

[And further, none of these incidents (lost hard drives, phantom media, thumb drive, etc.) have been shown to have ultimately lost information to our adversaries.]

Please tell me how any of these are systemic problems that we are in "denial" about?

The simple fact is this: ultimately, security relies on the trust and behavior of the individual. Until someone focuses on that issue, no amount of engineering, management, or administrative controls will prevent the dedicated insider from breaching classified information.

And 99.99% of the individuals at LANL are indeed trustworthy and follow the rules.

These "incidents" at LANL are Kafka-esque in their construction. 1) Bring on a whole-new set of ill-thought rules and procedures for handling classified media. 2) audit ad naseum until you find a breach of these new procedures. 3) shout out these defects to the world to ensure maximum outrage. 4) repeat.
Once again Brad has a great point. I am starting to lose faith that members of the Congress care about facts or what is really right. It is all just politics at the expense of the people of the United States.
The poster 1/30/2007 3:01 PM said what I have been feeling for a long time.

I'm not an "Arrogant Butt-head Cowboy Druggie" and I don't know anyone that work with who is. What I am is someone who has a challenging job and who enjoys coming to work. I work with a bunch of people of all talents that appear to feel the same way that I do.

I think that I can speak for a large majority of the Laboratory personnel when I say, "I didn't take home any classified! I didn't mishandle any CREM! I didn't lose any removable drives that weren't really lost! Why am I being punished?"

It seems to me that it’s not quite fair to punish all for the sins of a few.

In the business world there is a huge amount of accountability in management. If a screw-up such as the woman taking home classified documents occurred in the corporate world the bloodbath would have started low and headed upward. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be the commitment in management that there should be in LANL under either the UC or its successor.
Hey, life isn't fair. Ask Todd Kauppila.

Oops, you can't! He died shortly after being fired for a security incident at LANL that didn't happen after all.
"Hey, life isn't fair. Ask Todd Kauppila. Oops, you can't! He died shortly after being fired for a security incident at LANL that didn't happen after all." (1/30/2007 7:18 PM)

As with security, don't forget all the safety incidents that have been incorrectly and highly publized by LANL and have taken innocent people down. Like Sue Seestrom said, "Sometimes good people have to go down for the good of the institution." Right Sue?
The ability to remove data on a USB device was not simply a matter of someone not following rules. It could have been physically prevented, and a verbal report to S-11 in Aug/Sep 2005 described the vulnerability and how to fix it.


Printing classified information and not marking the pages is a matter of not following the rules and does depend upon the reliability of the person. But it is criminal that S-11 ignored the report about the lack of security with USB devices since it is so easy to walk in and out of a secure area with one.
Poster 3:01 pm, I could tell you tales of security screw-ups that happened in DOD/Intel that would scare the Be-Jesus out of you. Thing is, these stories never get out of the building. When LANL has a security infraction, it is broadcast throughout the world by NNSA/DOE.

I fully agree with some of the things you've seen over at DOD. It's because I've seen things like that elsewhere that I find it very painful to watch LANL being attack by Congress.

And, BTW, do all those classified computers in Congress have all their USB ports plugged with epoxy? That's one that the people over in the classified worlds at DOD/Intel laugh at when I tell them what NNSA is now forcing us to do. They DOD/Intel world also doesn't have to mark all their Secret level media with bar-codes and keep 24-hour track of them in a data base.

Somedays, I really wonder why I stay around this place any longer. It's becoming far too dangerous to be a LANL employee with a Q clearance. There are much safer places to do classified work that won't have you running to hire a lawyer if you mistakenly create a security infraction. Of course, what Jessica did was not a simple mistake, and can't be considered in any way acceptable. She'll probably end up being hit with charges by the DOJ.
You want systemic problems? How about whistleblower abuses? Remember Walp and Doran? They lost their jobs, didn't they? For what? For identifying procurement fraud? Remember the system coverup? Oh and there are others, but you have to be willing to see them. Covering your eyes doesn't change reality. How about the system problems that came to surface in the wake of the 1995 layoff? Remember that? You can't get more systemic than that! How about the more recent salary disaprity lawsuit? Wasn't that systemic? Or doesn't statistics matter when it comes to people being treated unfairly. How about recent employee surveys that show workers have virtually no faith in management's ability to resolve employee issues equitably? Doesn't this suggest a systemic problem. How can so damn many people feel there's something not right at the Lab, including the vast majority of its workforce, and we still pretend there's no "systemic" problems here? Only isolated incidents? Not likely!! Studies show that for every one customer that complains, there's over a 100 more who had similar gripes but just never complained. The same can said about problems in general. For every one that comes to surface, there are ton more waiting to be discovered. It's just a matter of time.
Thank you for providing additional evidence to prove my point. Every example you cited (and you went back over 12 years) was a non-security related issue.

My point was simple: no systemic security problems of the nature we're being pilloried for exist at LANL.

Stay on topic, this is about security.

Noone said LANL was perfect.
I must comment on the perspicacity of our Congressional leadership: Approximately 12,000 people work at LANL. Approximately 11,900 are careful about safety, security and keeping secrets as well as providing valuable research and services for the Nation. But Congressmen Black Barton and Dingell Ing would like to fire everyone. Collective punishment always makes good sense doesn't it?
Can we have the names of those 100 workers so we can fix things at LANL, once and for all? I'm growing weary of the distress their mistakes are causing for everyone else at LANL.
The number is not 100; it's more like 3 or 4, and most of those are at the top level. That's my bet!
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