Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Security and Spin at LANL: Out of Control, Or Under?

Los Alamos steps up security
UC-co-managed nuclear research lab has a history of problems, including a data breach last October

-Wafiqah Basrai, The Daily Bruin, Monday, February 12, 2007

In light of a recent security breach at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as other security scares at the nation’s major nuclear research center, the facility is implementing various new security measures. In October 2006, police found confidential data from the lab on an employee’s personal computer. The lab is co-managed by the University of California.

Kevin Roark, a Los Alamos spokesman, said the laboratory is taking measures to ensure that confidential information will not leave the laboratory and that access to lab research will be limited to the people who are supposed to have it. “We’re taking a wide variety of physical and cyber security measures,” Roark said. “We underwent a thorough review of all processes and procedures.” In response to the breach, the lab now has limited and prohibited certain kinds of recording devices in classified-information areas of the facility. Los Alamos officials have also been more careful in monitoring who has access to what in the lab and for what reason, Roark said.

Charles Whitten, a UCLA physics professor, emphasized the importance of security measures at nuclear research labs. He also said security must be conducted in an appropriate manner because it can sometimes prohibit workers from doing their jobs in a timely and complete manner. “You don’t want the data to be hacked, but you don’t want regulations such that you can’t do your business right,” Whitten said.

Security issues, such as the recent incident, have been a problem for Los Alamos for several years. In 1999, former lab scientist Wen Ho Lee was accused of leaking nuclear secrets to China. Two years ago, it was reported that two classified computer disks were missing and an intern at the lab was injured in a laser accident. These two incidents combined resulted in Los Alamos being shut down for a year. It was later found that the missing disks had never existed. Their supposed disappearance was an inventory error. Due to such security issues as well as the security threats that Sept. 11 posed, the lab has been working on bigger security projects.

Los Alamos has completed construction on secret posts that screen vehicles that enter the property so it is known exactly who is going in and out of the buildings, Roark said. He also said lab officials have limited access to roadways that enter the most sensitive areas of their facility. Now only employees are granted access. Lab officials have started to better monitor hardware systems and are implementing new software controls.

But even with the measures the lab has been taking, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been dissatisfied with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s management of security issues. Last month, the committee introduced a measure to turn back Los Alamos’ security responsibilities to the Department of Energy. Representative Joe Barton, D-Texas, said that if the security problems are not solved at the Los Alamos lab, he will ask for it to be shut down again. “There is an absolute inability and unwillingness to address the most routine security issues at this laboratory,” Barton told The Associated Press.

But deputy energy secretary Clay Sell told The Associated Press that the lab most likely will continue running. Sell said it is the only facility where plutonium pits for weapons can be made and the lab is responsible for most of the strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.

Currently, Bush has proposed a $192 million cut to two of the country’s nuclear research labs: Sandia National Laboratory and the Los Alamos lab. “The budget request is only the first step,” Roark said. “It’s much too early to see how the budget request would impact the laboratory.” But if the proposal is put into action, it could have a negative effect for the country, said Whitten, who stressed the importance of the research laboratories. For one, he said, the United States needs to stay competitive with its research. He added that ideas from the laboratory are used not only for nuclear weapons, but also in many areas that help humans, such as medicine.

(With reports from Bruin wire services.)

PS. For you speed readers, here's the only paragraph that you need to pay attention to:

"But deputy energy secretary Clay Sell told The Associated Press that the lab most likely will continue running. Sell said it is the only facility where plutonium pits for weapons can be made and the lab is responsible for most of the strategic nuclear weapons stockpile."

-Pat, The Dog

CIA Ex-Officer, Contractor Indicted in Corruption Probe
By SCOT J. PALTROW, Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2007

A federal grand jury indicted a former senior official of the Central Intelligence Agency and a defense contractor, raising the stakes in the investigation of corrupt federal contracting for the Bush administration and several lawmakers.

Two indictments were returned by a federal grand jury in San Diego. One accused Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the CIA's former third-ranking official, and defense contractor Brent Wilkes, a close friend of his, of committing conspiracy and other charges stemming from CIA contracts that Mr. Foggo allegedly arranged for Mr. Wilkes. The other indictment charged Mr. Wilkes and another businessman with paying bribes to former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November 2005 to soliciting bribes from Mr. Wilkes and others and is serving a federal prison sentence.

The indictments indicate the prosecution of corruption in federal contracting is in full swing, despite the recent dismissal of at least one federal prosecutor involved in the inquiries.

The indictments also represent something of an embarrassment to the Bush White House, which helped put Mr. Foggo in his senior CIA position. President Bush chose former Rep. Porter Goss to be CIA director in 2004, and Mr. Goss, in turn, plucked Mr. Foggo from his position as a midlevel CIA manager to be the agency's executive director, in charge of day-to-day operations.

The indictment alleges that Mr. Foggo had secretly steered contracts to Mr. Wilkes, who used "shell companies" and "straw men" to profit from the contracts. Mr. Foggo allegedly failed to disclose the relationship and involvement with the contracts to the CIA, according to the indictments. Mr. Foggo is accused of accepting from Mr. Wilkes -- and not disclosing -- expensive gifts, including vacations in Hawaii and Scotland, meals and cigars. Mr. Wilkes also allegedly promised Mr. Foggo a high-paying job with one of his companies once Mr. Foggo left the CIA.

One of the main contracts involved providing water to CIA personnel in the Middle East. Mr. Foggo allegedly pressured a businessman, not named in the indictment, who already had CIA contracts, to take Mr. Wilkes's companies on as subcontractors.

Mr. Foggo's lawyer, Mark MacDougall, didn't return several phone calls seeking comment. In the past, Mr. MacDougall has said that Mr. Foggo "served his country well" and committed no crime.

The indictments come two days before U.S. attorney Carol Lam is to leave office in San Diego. Ms. Lam recently pressed for the indictments to be returned before she steps down. In an unusual move during the middle of a president's term, the Bush administration recently demanded her resignation and those of at least six other U.S. attorneys around the country. Congressional Democrats have charged that the changes were motivated by politics and may interfere with pending investigations, including the Cunningham-related inquiries in San Diego. The Justice Department has denied any intent to interfere with investigations.

Mr. Goss left the CIA in May, under pressure from the White House, and Mr. Foggo quickly followed. Federal agents last year searched Mr. Foggo's CIA office and home.

In a written statement, CIA Inspector General John Helgerson said his office had participated in the investigation. He said it "should reassure taxpayers and the CIA workforce that the Agency can and will investigate itself thoroughly and independently when appropriate."

The indictment of Mr. Wilkes for allegedly bribing Mr. Cunningham says he funneled $700,000 in bribes to the lawmaker in exchange for Mr. Cunningham's help in obtaining $100 million in government contracts. The indictment and its details would seem to heighten the risk of prosecution to other members of Congress still under investigation; Mr. Wilkes also had dealings with several of them. Mark Geragos, Mr. Wilkes's lawyer, said the indictment pins down publicly the charges he faces and means "we will finally be able to confront them head on in the courtroom."

A separate federal criminal investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who until January 2006 was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is continuing in Los Angeles. Prosecutors in that case are looking closely at Mr. Lewis's relationship with Mr. Wilkes, which included large campaign contributions from Mr. Wilkes and associates and the hiring by Mr. Wilkes of a lobbying firm founded by one of Mr. Lewis's closest friends, former Rep. Bill Lowery.

Messrs. Lewis and Lowery have denied wrongdoing. The indictment has only passing references to other lawmakers, none of whom it names, and doesn't make any allegations against them. Also, although Mr. Wilkes before the indictments had turned down offers to plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation, prosecutors still hope he may agree to cooperate, said people involved with the case.

Write to Scot J. Paltrow at scot.paltrow@wsj.com


[I almost snorted up my dog chow when I read the name "Dusty Foggo." But this is no laughing matter, the selling of the Executive Branch of the US Government. Of course, nothing like that happening at DOE HQ or ... here ... right? --Pat]
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