HOW I SNUCK INTO LOS ALAMOS There are no armed guards to knock out. No sensors to deactivate. No surveillance cameras to cripple. To sneak into Los Alamos National Laboratory, the world's most important nuclear research facility, all you do is step over a few strands of rusted, calf-high barbed wire.I should know. On Saturday morning, I slipped into and out of a top-secret area of the lab while guards sat, unaware, less than a hundred yards away.Despite the nation's heightened terror alert status, despite looming congressional hearings into the lab's mismanagement and slack-jawed security, an untrained person -- armed with only the vaguest sense of the facility's layout and slowed by a torn Achilles tendon -- was able to repeatedly gain access to the birthplace of the atom bomb.For details -- and pictures -- click on over to my Wired News story here.THERE'S MORE: Los Alamos is separated from Bandelier National Mounment by New Mexico State Road 4. Hikers frequently pull off to the side of the Route 4 to admire the snow-touched Jemez mountains, or to take a walk through the desert's multicolored stones. A Bandelier park ranger tells nature-lovers that they can "go hike on Energy Department lands" if they don't want to pay Bandelier's $10 parking fee."You can even bring your dog," she adds.AND MORE: One reader e-mails in the following story about his experience with the Los Alamos security system:
Doesn't surprise me a bit. I had to work there for a joint project... One of the labs is on the property of the Los Alamos hotel. We were told to meet a few physicists up there after dinner one night to keep working. They assured us that getting in was impossible and we'd need to be escorted. During the day, this was true. We'd be stopped by a guard at the front desk.Well, the door was propped open by a lazy janitor who was taking out garbage so we marched right in. Right at the door, were several boxes of printed brochures of data. We laughed and took the elevator up ourselves. When we knocked on their door, they just about had a heart attack."How'd you get up here?" "Walked in. The door is propped open by your cleaning crew." They admitted to having issues with the cleaning dept.AND MORE: Los Alamos maintains an inventory of handguns, as well as "rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortars, cannon, etc., (that) are used in projectile and high-explosives research. The Laboratory also owns a small number of tranquilizer dart guns used in animal studies," according to lab press release.Until recently, however, Los Alamos couldn't "quickly confirm that all firearms owned by the Laboratory were accounted for." Now, in a statement issued today, Los Alamos said that problem has been fixed.AND MORE: Many people sent in comments saying that my story wasn't a big deal, because the area into which I went wasn't sufficiently top-secret. If I had walked out with, say, a wheelbarrow full of uranium, then they would have been impressed.Well, in 1997, during a security training simulation, soldiers were able to do just that. In 2000, during a similar exercise, feaux bad guys "gain(ed) access to the reactor fuel potentially causing a sizable nuclear detonation that would have taken out part of New Mexico and caused havoc downwind."I'm a scared, out-of-shape lummox without any military training whatsoever, and with no motivation to do anything harmful. Yet I got into an area that I was assured could not be accessed by any outsider e an area that no one will even say officially what it's purpose is.If I could do what I did and these simulated attackers could made such spectacular inroads A what could a more determined adversary accomplish? That's the question my story asks.Several readers of Slashdot said that TA-33 couldnt have been that important, if Bussolini and Alexander stored their allegedly fraudulently-purchased goods there, and if I was able to get in.To that, one Slashdot reader replied, "I'm not comfortable assuming that the buildings he managed to get into were useless just based on the fact that he was able to access them. It seems like that sort of head-in-the-sand circular logic does not good security practices make."I agree.